Tony LaGenius and His Wacky Lineup Chicanery

Let's get something straight: I disagree with Tony LaRussa (pictured at left -- in the bunny outfit) a large percentage of the time. His hair is stupid. He likes Styx in a non-ironic way. And perhaps worst of all, he has taken and passed the bar exam.

Aside from championing the use of LOOGYs, ROOGYs, and the modern closer paradigm, though, TLR might go down in history as the guy who was crazy enough to bat the pitcher eighth.* I definitely have a way I think lineups should be organized (in my perfect world, Albert would bat leadoff), but I don't get worked up about the eighth and ninth spots in the lineup. Over the course of the season, moving a guy up or down one spot equals roughly 20 additional or fewer at-bats. When you're talking about the dregs of the lineup, big whoops.

But the goal of batting the pitcher is not to get him more at-bats (even though, in theory, it does -- before he's replaced for a pinch-hitter at least). Rather, the goal is to put Albert in a position to bat with runners on more often. But has this actually happened?

During the Cardinals' thrashing of the Braves on Friday night, I had some time to do some quick calculations. I asked a very simple question -- how often does Albert come up with runners on now, and how often did it happen in seasons past? 

Keep in mind that the Cards started batting the pitcher eighth sometime during the second half of '07 and have done so pretty much all season in '08. Albert primarily (like, 99.5% of the time) batted in the three hole during the seasons in question. I estimated his plate appearances based on ABs, BBs, and HBPs. I was too lazy to go look up his sac splits. The results:

2008: 241 PAs with runners on/498 PAs = 48%
2007: 317/671 = 47%
2006: 298/631 = 47%
2005: 332/697 = 48%

So, uh, yeah. Maybe I'm not asking the right question, but I can't see a whole lot of difference, can you? The bottom line, as far as I can tell, is that batting the pitcher eighth isn't that big a deal one way or the other with regard to Albert's mashing opportunities.

And maybe Tony knows this, but does it anyway just to annoy Cardinals fans, writers, bloggers, et al. I could almost respect that.

*He also might go down as the second-winningest manager of all time, but that's neither here nor there.

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