Pirates plan to bat the pitcher eighth this season

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Pirates manager John Russell revealed today that he plans to bat the pitcher eighth in the lineup for most games this season, with shortstop Ronny Cedeno or his backup Bobby Crosby hitting ninth.
Some lineup simulations have shown that the pitcher batting eighth rather than ninth can indeed lead to more runs, as having a position player in the last spot gives the top of the batting order more runners to drive in.
The down side is that by hitting eighth the pitcher will come to the plate more often and closer to the lineup’s most potent threats, potentially halting more rallies in progress.
Russell follows in the footsteps of Tony La Russa and Ned Yost, both of whom batted the pitcher eighth frequently in recent years.
In this case the goal is to create more RBI chances for Andrew McCutchen, which is also why Russell announced that he’ll hit second in the lineup this season after exclusively leading off as a rookie last year. Akinori Iwamura will replace him atop the lineup.

Mets sign Jose Lobaton to minor league deal

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The Mets signed catcher Jose Lobaton to a minor league contract, the team announced Friday. The deal includes an invitation to spring training, where it’s assumed Lobaton will be in the mix for a backup role behind Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki.

Lobaton, 33, is coming off of a four-year stint with the Nationals. He put up his worst career numbers in 2017, producing -0.6 fWAR after slashing just .170/.248/.277 with four home runs in 158 plate appearances. While he’ll give the Mets little to work with at the plate, his near-decade of experience behind the dish should make him a decent emergency option, if nothing else.

In the meantime, the Mets are expected to roll with a d’Arnaud/Plawecki platoon to start the season. Both catchers saw slight upticks in value over the 2017 season: d’Arnaud turned in 0.8 fWAR after hitting a career-high 16 home runs, while Plawecki collected 0.6 fWAR and three homers after raising his batting line over the Mendoza Line for the first time since 2015.