The San Francisco Giants made history last night by making a tweak to their starting lineup that is essentially unheard of - moving the pitcher up to the eighth spot in the order. And it worked wonders.
The official site of the San Francisco Giants states that the lineup the team started in their game on Friday against the San Diego Padres, will likely be their go-to lineup for the quickly approaching 2016 MLB season.The members of the San Francisco lineup were not unexpected. What was unexpected, though, was the order the batters were placed in. Namely, Giants starter Matt Cain did not fall into the number nine spot in the batting order.
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy's call to make such a change is huge news, as the MLB has a long-standing tradition of placing pitchers last due to pitchers' almost invariably weaker offensive performance compared to any position player.
"Batting ninth is an insult," it says, and most managers throughout baseball's history have seemed to agree. In fact, since 1900, says FOX Sports, the MLB has only seen 803 total games where the starting lineup did not put the pitcher at the bottom, and 423 of those games were managed by Arizona Diamondbacks Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa. Bruce Bochy and the Giants have never expressed interest in the strategy in the past.
But San Francisco's Angel Pagan was not insulted in the least by the Giants' lineup change. In fact, he found the unusual move to be exciting.
"I'm in," Pagan said. "When you have two leadoff hitters rolling and you've got Bumgarner who can hit the ball a long way — he's a great hitter, too — that makes the lineup even more dangerous.
"I can get on base, put pressure on the bases and Denard, we can get a hit-and-run going, first and third, and maybe nobody out or one out, and we have a great opportunity to score. That might be the difference in the game. I like it. I'm ready for anything."The San Francisco Giants management is also intent on breaking the traditional mold, with Bruce Bochy musing that it is smart to keep Pagan at number nine so that the top of the lineup is working with some momentum when its turn at the plate comes around.
Additionally, Bochy says, he does not want Pagan's speed and ability to round the bases to be squandered if the pitcher (as he almost always does) should fail to put the ball in play.
"Hitting at the bottom of the lineup in front of the pitcher, it's hard to let a guy take advantage of his speed there. If he's another leadoff hitter, talking about Angel going with Denard, that's where I always said that would make sense, with two speed guys there."
The San Francisco squad's first experiment with the unusual batting configuration was a tremendous success. The very first time Pagan stepped up, he hit a double, and then the leadoff hitter Denard Span homered. Admittedly, the scenario did not take advantage of Pagan's speed, but it was a big way to kick off the new lineup style nonetheless.By the time they had worked through their batting order twice, the Giants had already scored 10 runs.
So if the first use of the pitcher-batting-eighth gambit was Bochy's version of a test-run for the configuration, it was a complete success and the San Francisco Giants may have stumbled upon their newest winning strategy.
Giants fans can only hope that last night's game was not a fluke.
[Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images]