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.

Report: Astros, Alex Bregman agree to five-year, $100 million extension

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Fox 26’s Mark Berman reports that the Astros and third baseman Alex Bregman have agreed to $100 million contract extension. MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart confirms a deal has been reached and adds that the deal is actually for five years, beginning after the 2019 season. The contract will cover all three of Bregman’s arbitration years and two years of would-be free agency.

Bregman, who turns 25 years old later this month, has quickly become one of the best third basemen in baseball. Across parts of three seasons, he has hit .282/.366/.500 with 58 home runs, 208 RBI, 224 runs scored, and 29 stolen bases. FanGraphs credited him with 7.6 Wins Above Replacement, tied with Francisco Lindor and Christian Yelich for the fourth-best mark among position players in baseball, trailing only Mookie Betts (10.4), Mike Trout (9.8), and José Ramírez (8.0).

This is obviously a smart move for the Astros, as this contract extension will secure Bregman’s age 25-30 seasons. With second baseman José Altuve also locked up through 2024, and presumed extensions to come for Carlos Correa and possibly Gerrit Cole and George Springer, the Astros have a core that they can build around for years to come.