I'm a little surprised at all of the press that John Russell's decision to bat the pitcher eighth has gotten early this season. On Opening Night, the Baseball Tonight guys spouted their usual uninformed invective (John Kruk: If my coach batted me ninth, I'd quit! Karl Ravech: Well, yeah, but weren't you a good hitter? I don't think you'd have had to worry about it. Kruk: Yeah, I was, but, uh, I'd still quit!) about why it's stupid and Tim McCarver made similar comments to Dan Patrick this week (He mentioned Bob Gibson! Surprise!).
I've already written about why I think it's a great idea and whenever John Kruk and Tim McCarver hold the opposite viewpoint from me on something like this I tend to think of it as validation. Still, I like to see other people that I generally think of as smarter than me with this kind of thing coming to the same conclusion. FanGraph's Dave Allen ran the opening day lineups through the same lineup optimizer that I did and found that the Pirates' lineup was the most optimal NL lineup by a wide margin because of the decision to bat the pitcher eighth (note that he changed his conclusion on how many runs it's worth over the course of the season because 25 is definitely a high estimate intuitively, but that doesn't necessarily change the conclusion that it's a good idea to put the pitcher eighth; read here for a bit more about that). Meanwhile, Sky Andrecheck at SI looks at the lineup and compares it to the lineup guidelies set out in Tom Tango's The Book and notes that both batting the pitcher eighth and putting your best overall hitter second are good decisions.
I'll reiterate what I said when the plan for this lineup first came out; lineup changes don't have a huge effect on a team's performance, but it's clear that the Pirates gain a small advantage from batting the pitcher eighth. The Pirates are a team that should be looking for every edge they can get and it's stupid to be bound by tradition when breaking tradition, even slightly here, gives the Pirates a real advantage, even if it's a small one. Being willing to do this sort of thing is a great indication that the Pirates are willing to look at things differently and I think that's hugely important. Now let's hope that JR can stick with it, even if he's taking some heat from the national media and the press.