lackey lester hit

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)).



But, reactions to that lineup were mixed.

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:

And that sentiment has been mirrored at the Chicago Tribune and Cubs.com.

Somewhere, Tony La Russa sheds a single tear.



Indeed, Maddon is considering reverting to a more traditional lineup, because of the development of Addison Russell, who he says is “a different animal,” in 2016. Not only was Russell hurt by his spot in the lineup last season for all the reasons we listed above, but he’s become a much better hitter and deserves to hit higher up in the order, according to Maddon. If the pitcher bats ninth, this season, Russell might even see time in the seventh spot, as his bat continues to improve (and depending on the handedness of the opposing pitcher).

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.”)




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