Written by Daniel Stevens
Sounds easy right? Speed at the top and the weak players at the bottom of the line-up right? By reading this you are on the first steps down the road to having a better line-up card. We dispel myths that have been widely used and accepted but are not evolving with the game, and back up long held principles that are used to get the best out of your players.
It’s a widely held assumption that the quickest set of wheels takes the lead. Not true! Not true at all. The leadoff spot is probably the toughest spot to put a hitter. Sure they don’t lead off every inning, probably just the first really. But they set the stage for the game. First, they have to see pitches. If you know the quickest runner on your team isn’t patient at the plate then you know they can’t work in the leadoff spot. We’ll discuss later where this player should go. Leadoff hitters have great eyes. They should give the bench and on deck batter the most opportunities to see the pitchers stuff. This means the most mature batter (who takes 2-0 and 3-1 pitches) should be your leadoff hitter.
This is where you can add the speed. The number 1 hitter may have gotten aboard but that’s not important. Your second batter should have a good OBP (on base percentage) and some wheels to make it over to second so the heart of your order can knock them in with a single. Put someone with speed at this position who can run out a dribbler and put you in a position to send them to second.
Power. Now we’re into our power hitters. Assuming you’re not John Gibbins than you probably only have 2 or 3 of these power hitters. The way you organize them in the 3,4, and 5 spot should be based on 2 things: how comfortable they are in their order or appearance, and how streaky they are. If a player is swinging a hot bat then set them up in the 3 or 4 spot. Some people like their familiarity in their order, but if it really isn’t working than break up the streaky players.
The “clean-up” spot should be reserved, again, for your power hitters. Again referring to No.3 this will be determined by who’s hot and who’s not. But make no mistake, this is the scary part of the order. If anything, put yourself in the mind of the opposing catcher, and make their life difficult: make them say “how am I going to get past these 3 hitters?” If you have a power hitter on your team that is unorthodox than put them in between 2 other power hitters. This way you may catch the other catcher napping and you can capitalize on their mistakes.
The tail end of the meat of the order. Obviously making a line-up card of your 1-4 is fairly easy, but the 5-7 slots are more difficult. This is the spot you put your worst power hitter. It’s a tough spot. You want someone to move base runners over in this spot because you just banked on your 3 and 4 spot getting aboard. Take a look at your numbers: slugging and RISP should be big for this spot. The worst thing in a line-up is a quick drop off in talent. Catchers pick it up quickly and conversely so do the pitchers. Get someone with good numbers with RISP here, your clutch player, put them in this spot to get your power hitters across the plate.
Here’s where we can work out the kinks. This is where you can rotate your lead off hitter in and out. Remember, pitchers and catchers know you’re putting strength at the top of the order and few players last all season long in that role. Put them back in the 6 or 7 slot for a few games and give them a rest from constant junk balls. If a player is suffering this is a great place to put them in the line-up. They get a chance to hit against so-so pitch calls and their confidence with raise.
This is the new no.9 slot. Odds are you already know who’s going in this spot, but if you are in the fortunate position of having a great hitting team then here are some position players to put here. Catchers: they have a hard time managing the pitchers, flow of the game, remembering the entire opposing batting order and much more. The last thing on a defensive minded player is offence. Not to mention the pads they have to put on and take off after every time they have to hit. Catchers are also known for having picky strike zones. They can take a lot of pitches which is a nice thing to have at the back end of the line-up. They frustrate pitchers with long at bats which can make them make mistakes entering the top of the order.
This used to be reserved for the right fielder but no more. The number 9 spot is great! Pitchers tend to ease up on this spot in the order so take advantage! Use someone with speed here. Since the pitcher and catcher are taking a nap maybe the third baseman is too. Tap a bunt down the line and see if you can get something cooking for the top of the line-up. Not to mention how disheartening it is for a defence to let the number 9 batter aboard. Don’t squander this opportunity to put someone with a good OBP and speed. If they get aboard then the pitcher also has to pay attention to a base runner from the stretch for the top of the line-up.
Hope this works out well for your team. We know it did for ours!
From our team at URstore.