Ramichanalytics Part I

When it comes to making use of analytics, DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez may not be on the cutting edge, but he does his homework. He may not know lots of percentages but he does pay rigorous attention to his splits and other parts of the game, and that’s more than a lot of managers can say.

Although I missed out on asking him about his “Put the cleanup hitter in the No. 2 hole magic trick,” he is still using his pitchers to bat eighth again, and I was curious if he was aware of one rationale for putting your worst hitter eighth.

To cut to the chase, Tango, Lichtman, and Dolphin concluded that flipping a position player into the No. 9 spot and having the pitcher bat eighth can increase an average lineup’s production over a 162-game season by 2.47 runs per season. Not much, but not zero. The idea is that the No. 9 hitter does more than just create outs with runners on base ahead of him from the bottom of the order. He also gets on base for the 1-2-3 hitters, something most pitchers not named Shohei Ohtani are really, really bad at doing.

Nobody in professional baseball has used his pitchers to bat eighth as much as Ramirez. He originally started the practice in 2017 and used it throughout the 2018 season before abandoning it over the winter. On Wednesday in Yokohama, I asked Ramirez if he was familiar with the analytical advantage of batting the pitcher eighth.

He didn’t answer the question but did explain his rationale for using his pitcher’s in the No. 8 hole, and it has zero to do with the idea of using No. 9 as a “second leadoff hitter.” Instead, it has to do with what happens when the No. 8 hitter comes up with a runner on first base.

“The reason why it has been working, is when I use the pitcher as an eighth hitter and I bunt, I have a chance to score, a better chance to score in that situation (instead of having the No. 8 hitter swing away and leave the pitcher to clean up),” Ramirez said. “But that being said, you need to use somebody who is good batting with runners in scoring position as the ninth hitter. It cannot be just anybody.”

“Sometimes you have to think whether you want to go with a straight No. 8 hitter or have the pitcher in there and have him bunt for the ninth hitter. It depends on the situation.”

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