Since we have been on the theme of St. Louis Cardinals pitchers with the bat over the last few days here at TheCardinalNationblog.com, I decided to take a quick run back through an interesting sideline to the 2009 season – the pitcher hitting eighth experiment.
Todd Wellemeyer had been the first guinea pig in 2009, batting eighth on April 8, in game three of the season. Perhaps because his team was playing what turned out to be their best baseball of the year during the first month, manager Tony La Russa did not return to having his pitcher hitting eighth until May 6.
It took until mid-season for La Russa to completely convert; then he went whole hog. Pitches hit eighth in 26 consecutive games from June 22. In 29 other games prior, La Russa had inked his pitcher into the number eight spot. In other words, pitchers were in the eighth place in 54 of the first 96 lineups of the season.
Then it all changed again. Game 96 marked the final time during this past campaign in which La Russa batted his pitcher eighth. It was the fifth game post-All Star break, an 11-6 loss to Houston at Minute Maid Park. Ironically, it was a Wellemeyer start, who served as the pitcher hitting eighth bookends of 2009.
Coming into game 97, the club had not been playing particularly inspired ball. Still a few days away from the arrival of Matt Holliday, the Cardinals were sitting at 51-45 (.531), holding a precarious two game lead in the NL Central Division on July 21.
Certainly more due the presence of Holliday, Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright than to a change in the batting placement of the pitcher, the Cardinals went 40-26 (.606) the rest of the way.
This is not a pure, in-depth analysis. It is more quick and dirty view of how the pitchers performed as hitters before July 22 and after. As such, the pre-July 22 stats include all pitchers hitting eighth numbers along with 38 games of hitting ninth numbers.
Other than offering a better slugging mark in the later period, the hitting of the pitchers did not seem to contribute much more to the club’s final push than they did before the pitcher hitting eighth experiment ended for 2009.