Joe Maddon is leaning towards batting the pitcher ninth this season

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Cubs manager Joe Maddon went the first 122 games of the 2015 season batting his pitcher eighth and overall had the pitcher bat ninth only 12 times the whole year. Maddon is known for this, as he has long been one of the most Sabermetrics-friendly managers in the game. Lineup analyses have often shown that it’s inefficient to bat the pitcher ninth.

Maddon is leaning towards a return to orthodoxy, batting the pitcher ninth, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. This means that Addison Russell, who hit ninth 116 times last season, is likely to hit seventh or eighth.

It makes sense. While there is a solid argument to be made that, in a black-and-white world, batting the pitcher eighth is more optimal than ninth, the actual effect of doing so is rather small, as Mitchell Litchman — co-author of The Book — elaborated on last year. If a manager sticks to the plan for an entire season, it maybe adds two or three extra runs. Considering that teams score somewhere between 500-800 runs per season these days, it’s just not that big of a difference.

Pujols hits 701st career home run, connects for Cardinals

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ST. LOUIS — Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 701st home run, connecting Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pujols launched a slider from former teammate Johan Oviedo over the Big Mac Land sign in left field at Busch Stadium. The solo drive in the fourth inning made it 1-all.

Pujols faced Oviedo for the first time and made the 24-year-old righty the 456th different pitcher he’s homered against.

The St. Louis star hadn’t homered in a week since hitting No. 699 and 700 at Dodger Stadium last Friday. Pujols had gone 10 at-bats without a home run after two starts and one pinch-hit appearance.

The Busch Stadium crowd gave the 42-year-old Pujols a long standing ovation before he came out of the Cardinals dugout to tip his cap for a curtain call.

Pujols hit his 22nd home run this season for the NL Central champion Cardinals.

Pujols is fourth on the career home run list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).