What? Kendall in the nine hole for a National League team?
Is manager Ned Yost joking?
Nope, that's the plan that Yost has in mind. Listening to the logic of it, Yost's strategy makes sense. He said Saturday that he's taking advantage of Kendall's versatility and his propensity for hitting ground balls.
"We've done studies on this," Yost said. "It's not just that we come up one day and say, 'You know, Jason Kendall's gonna hit ninth.'
"You've had a lot of smart people looking at it and crunching numbers and seeing if, numbers-wise, it made sense."
Those smart people decided that batting Kendall ninth, a departure from the conventional baseball wisdom of batting the pitcher in the final spot, did make sense. They thought it gave the Brewers an edge, which should translate into an opportunity to score more runs.
"More runs means more wins," Yost said. "Sometimes, you've gotta get outside the box a little bit."
In explaining the reasoning behind this decidedly outside the box move, Yost said the Brewers thought hard about what would make their lineup the strongest in terms of production from the day they signed Kendall in the offseason.
Their number crunching kept suggesting that Kendall at No. 9 wasn't a bad idea. It would give Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder a chance to knock in more runs, Yost said.
Was it a tough move to sell? For how does a manager go to a veteran ballplayer like Kendall and ask him to bat in what, throughout baseball's history, has been the pitcher's spot in the order?
Kendall said Yost didn't have to do a bit of selling.
Sure, batting an everyday player ninth was an unconventional move, Kendall said. But baseball wisdom isn't the same as it was when his father, Fred Kendall, caught in the Majors in the 1970s and early '80s.
Since then, the baseball book has been rewritten. Or if not rewritten, it's been tinkered with here and there.
So with Kendall batting ninth, the Brewers will end up with two leadoff hitters as the lineup turns over. That's the thinking behind the move.
And how does the 34-year-old Kendall feel about it?
"Shoot, if it works, I'm all for it," said Kendall, who split the '07 season with the Athletics and the Cubs.
He's not bothered by any of it. He knows that baseball has evolved, and he also knows that Yost and the Brewers put plenty of thought into this move, a point that Yost stressed as well.
"But it doesn't bother me, really," Kendall said. "I'm not just saying that. Whatever it takes to win. I mean, I'm at a point in my career -- I always want to win -- that if that's what they want, that's fine.
"I have no problem with it."
Yost stressed that the move works only because of Kendall and the type of player he is.
"You've gotta have a special player in order to do it," Yost said. "You've gotta have a high on-base guy that puts the ball in play and takes a lot of pitches."
That 'guy' is Jason Kendall.
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less