Maddon's unconventional batting order with rookie Russell has worked
Cubs manager Joe Maddon spent a lot of seasons filling out American League batting orders that don't require the pitcher to bat because of the designated hitter rule.
In the National League, which requires the pitcher to hit, managers have throughout time, put the pitcher, the worst hitter in the lineup, last in the batting order.
Maddon has strayed from that tradition this season by batting rookie Addison Russell in the nine-hole and the pitcher in the eight-hole.
Maddon explained his rationale in May: "If you put him seventh -- or put him eighth and put the pitcher ninth -- he's going to see (fewer quality pitches) Maddon told CSN Chicago. "The whole game plan by hitting him ninth, is twofold: To be the second leadoff hitter, in a sense, with a lot less pressure on you (and) the potential to see better pitches, because 1, 2 and 3 are hitting behind you.”
While Russell is only batting .239 on the season, it's a far higher average than your typical pitcher, who rarely sets up the top of the order. Consider this from the Chicago Tribune's Mark Gonzalez:
It's a tactic almost no manager has tried before, mostly because the theory goes that if the pitcher is your worst hitter, then batting him last means he'll get fewer at-bats than any other player.
Maddon has turned conventional thinking on its head, and it's working for him.
(h/t The Washington Post)