One of the characterizing oddities of the 2015 season for the Chicago Cubs was the pitcher batting eighth.
The spot most often reserved a team’s weakest hitter was transitioned into something of a secondary leadoff role, while starting pitchers filled the 8th spot 133 times last year.
The new lineup strategy allowed Maddon to pinch hit for the (non-Jake Arrieta/Jon Lester) starters with greater frequency earlier in the game, and would theoretically provide some lineup protection for Addison Russell, with the top of the order due up behind him (although we know that wasn’t really the case (more on that in a bit)).
For the most part, fans paid it no mind (especially when the Cubs were winning), but the arrangement did ruffle some feathers when a pitcher came up short in a key offensive moment. Moreover, it seemed to negatively affect a 21-year-old Addison Russell more than anyone else, as he had the fewest looks at a pitcher the third time through the order (when offensive statistics spike) and far more appearances against late-inning, hard-throwing relievers.
So, if you were not a fan of that lineup, you may be in luck:
Maddon leaning toward batting pitcher ninth this season, Russell 7th or 8th
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) March 16, 2016
Maddon sounds like he's mostly leaning towards pitcher batting ninth but still open for discussion
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) March 16, 2016
Somewhere, Tony La Russa sheds a single tear.
You can see Joe Maddon discuss the ninth spot in the lineup and much much more, in the interview below. (I love that he still calls the stat guys “nerds.”)