Tag Archives: batting order

Points of order

A little more than three months after Alex Ramirez told that he would not bat his pitchers eighth this year, as BayStars, he slipped lefty Haruhiro Hamaguchi into the No. 8 hole on Wednesday against Hiroshima’s Kris Johnson.

Ramirez told reporters before the game that the timing was right. Before the season, several journalists wrote that Ramirez’s policy of pitchers’ batting eighth had been severely criticized by Japan’s legion of former-player talking heads. Ironically, the move came in the wake of a move that still has the old farts reeling, moving Japan cleanup hitter Yoshitomo Tsutsugo into the No. 2 slot, a spot traditionally reserved in Japan for batters who could bunt and punch at the ball and rarely hit home runs.

On Tuesday night, former slugger Yoshiaki Kanemura, speaking on Fuji TV’s Pro Yakyu News, said, “Frankly, I think moving the Japan national team cleanup hitter into the No. 2 spot is a slap in the face.”

On Thursday, pitcher Shota Imanaga was in the eighth spot as DeNA began the day in second place, playing the third-place Chunichi Dragons.

From April 14, 2017 to Oct. 10, 2018, Ramirez had his starting pitcher bat eighth 252 times, starting with Joe Wieland, who had been a good-hitting infielder who chose pitching as a pro because he felt it would get him to the majors faster. After 15 more games with his pitchers batting ninth, Ramirez switched to the No. 8 spot until the end of the 2018 season.

Some speculate that finishing out of the playoffs for the first time since he took over the club in 2016 forced him to give up a very defensible choice. The choice is whether a position player can do more damage finishing off the heart of the order in the No. 8 spot or setting the table for the top of the order in the No. 9 spot.

Although Ramirez has been far and away the biggest recent user of pitchers in the eighth spot, he is far from a precedent setter. I have 29,811 digitized box scores in my data base in which the starting pitcher was in the batting order. Of those, roughly 95 percent batted ninth.

Shohei Ohtani, Japan’s most famous hitting pitcher, batted in the starting lineup 15 times, and never batted ninth. He is the only pitcher in my spotty records to bat first, cleanup or fifth — where he started five times. Ironically, the only spot, where I haven’t found a pitcher in the starting lineup is second.

Even with Ramirez’s eighth-place renaissance, neither 2017 nor 2018 stands as the season with the most starting pitchers batting out of the No. 9 spot. That honor goes to the first year I have records for. In 1958, NPB managers started their pitcher out of the No. 9 spot 248 times. The next year, that figure was down to 45. There were also 145 games started by a pitcher batting higher than ninth in 1970. I’ll know more if I ever get around to sorting through the digital records of the other eight or nine seasons I have floating around.

And just when it seemed that people would get tired of talking about Tsutsugo batting second, former BayStar Hitoshi Tamura discussed the issue during Thursday’s broadcast, saying that while it was OK for a DH league like the AL, putting a big hitter in the No. 2 spot when the pitcher is in the lineup is counter productive. Mind you, he didn’t mention that Ramirez is now using Maeda as a second leadoff man at the bottom of the BayStars lineup.