Study the Batting Order Logic

In high school is where you should develop an appreciation for the logic that goes into the roster of the batting order. They are your main nemesis.

Why are some players first in the batting order, while others are placed last? The basic answer to that question is two fold. First, the top of the order is suppose to get-something-going and generate momentum for the rest of the batting order. In essence, these players should be the team’s best hitters. Second, that momentum should produce base runners, and base runners score runs.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. In fact, most people would be amazed at the jockeying that goes on when planning a batting order. For example, here are some of the things that a head coach will consider:

     -  Who’s  playing healthy today and who’s  not?
     -  How many days off has it been and who’s  affected?
     -  How’s  the field, and how deep is the outfield?
     -  Has the opposing club seen our players at bat?
     -  Who’s  pitching on the apposing team, what’s  their stuff?

However, we as pitchers take a different approach.

  • First, we consider the basic strategy of a batting order.
  • Second, we consider (assume) the batting speeds in that order.
  • Third, if we have little or no experience with the opposing team, we take what we know as the athletic requirements for each fielder, then match that against the batting order accordingly.

With respect to the third item just listed, suppose we see a player who fifth (5th) in the batting order, and we have no experience against this hitter. But, we do know that he/she is playing shortstop. Hence, our basic baseball knowledge tells us that the shortstop is supposed to be the team’s athlete - quick reflexes, good mobility and excellent hand-eye coordination. At this point, if nothing else, our pitching staff should give this batter a healthily dose of respect.

Order in the
Lineup Characteristic
1st … Lead off hitter, better than average bat skills, gets on base, skilled base runner.
2nd … Better than average bat skills, will advance the runner, skilled at avoiding the
double play, quick on the base path.
3rd … Better than average bat skills, will sacrifice bunt in addition to hitting to the opposite
field, quick on the base path.
4th … Better than average bat skills, usually a power hitter, very dependable, but can be
sluggish coming out of the batter box.
5th … Average bat skills, dependable hitting skills, will improve as the game goes on.
6th … Average bat skills, but, as a DH or substitute this player can alter the game
dramatically. # 3 or #4 type hitters make good DH .
7th . Average to below average bat skills, however - can produce surprise hits if under
estimated. Also, a good hitter can be placed in this spot deliberately so as to disrupt
the pitching and fielding efforts of an opposing team. Placing a #3 or #4 type hitter is
a typical move here.
8th … Average to below average bat skills, however - can produce surprise hits if under
estimated. Also, a good hitter can be placed in this spot deliberately so as to disrupt
the pitching and fielding efforts of an opposing team. Placing a #3 or #4 type hitter is
a typical move here.
9th … Average to below average bat skills, however - can produce surprise hits if under
estimated. Also, a good hitter can be placed in this spot deliberately so as to disrupt
the pitching and fielding efforts of an opposing team. Placing a #3 or #4 type hitter is
a typical move here.

Coach B.

I need to ask, why did you put the same descriptions for the 7,8,9, hitters?

Your observation of the last three (3) spots in the batting order just described is a very good one. It shows your willingness to think beyond the “given”.

I made that listing, which was in general terms, for amateur baseball only. The top college and professional game has a more complex makeup. But nevertheless, both the college and professional game do share some similarities - as far as we’re concerned as pitchers.

As pitchers and pitching coaches we take a slightly different approach to the game and the batting order. While the offensive side orchestrates a lineup that’ll hurt us, we on the other hand look at ways to pick that orchestration apart. Basically, first a coaching staff will consider the intended damage to our individuals in the rotation, and then a look will be given to the specific pitch inventory of each pitcher and add or subtract out defensive posture for both the pitching and the fielding units for any given day at the park.

But, let’s deal with your question directly. Remember, this is for the amateur game at high school level considering that you’ll probably play seven (7) innings tops. By the way, the response that I’m going to give you will also work for the nine(9) inning game also - a bit more tricky, but nevertheless the same considerations are taken into account.

Ok, lets go.

Batters 7,8, and 9 are usually in that spot because of a reason. First their ball recognition skills aren’t the best in the world, nor are their bat speeds quick enough in the order to warrant complimenting the initial showing during the two most important innings for a club - the first and second innings. Jumping ahead during the first and second innings does wonders for a club’s momentum and it’s “feel good” about the rest of the game. This feeling also translates itself onto the field with the club takes it’s place in a defensive posture.

So, our pitcher is going to be facing 1,2,3 - all ready to really start and hold a momentum at a bare minium, and even go deeper into the order with possibly 4 and 5. Now if the second inning finds our pitcher facing 4,5,6 and even 7, and the batting order up to that pont has made an impact - our boy is now facing 7,8,9 and possibly 1 again, in the third inning.

Lets stop right here and assume some things:

if 1,2, and 3 were put down in the first, that pretty well says a lot about the other clubs power and skills in the box.
if 3,4,5 and 6 were put down in the second, that pretty well says a lot about how deep the other club’s batting order goes, which isn’t good.

Now here we go into the third inning and nothing on the board for the other club - GREAT! Why? Because our man has held the best they got for 6 straight batters - strike outs or fielding outs, it’s good all around.

In the third inning, when a lot of clubs now have their “look see” at what’s what, our man is facing the 7,8,9 - which by most accounts shouldn’t be a problem.
However … Hold on !!! Suppose the other club puts a pretty good hitter in the 7,8, or 9th spot. Now we’re looking at an entirely different ball game! So let’s say any one of these batters turns up the heat, gets a hit and gets on base. No matter how you slice it, if our man can’t pitch and the fielding unit can’t turn a double play - the top of the order is ready to attempt to redeem itself with 1,or 2, or even 3 facing our man next. Kind-a puts a new wrinkle on things.

Also, what’s kind of interesting about the third inning for a lot of amateur pitchers is that they’ve shown all the gas and all the other stuff in their bag of tricks, so smart batting coach will start to tweak his/her lineup and adjust.

All in all, the 7th, 8th and 9th spot on most amateur clubs have striking similarities.

Another consideration is the tradeoff between outstanding fielding and batting skills for every club - amateur and pro alike. For example, a club may have a fielder that’s an absolute vacuum cleaner on the skins, a defensive talent that earns him/her a golden glove season after season - can’t hit a ball if it was served up on a platter – but fielding that position is key to the club’s defensive posture for that spot on the field. (Heaven knows I’ve been on clubs like this, season after season.)

Does this answer your question? I tried to address more than just a generalization.

Coach B.

I made a comment with respect to answering a question on the batting order logic, specifically about the spots 7th,8th, and 9th that prompted one reader to take issue with my assumptions.
To be more direct - I mentioned that the most important innings for a club are the first and second inning. I then went on to set the mind set in place that supports that statement from a coaching and team momentum perspective.

This drew a counter remark that stated …” then the following innings are less important, so why have a game with 5 more innings?
Point taken.

My remarks should have been a little clearer, I will agree.

The consideration for thinking of the first two innings as golden opportunities for both clubs has to do with the following:
> Prior to a game, both benches are pretty well aware of the other’s strength and weakness. And both clubs will usually place their strongest suit right out front. The starting pitcher is usually the “gun” for the club, and the batting order for 1,2,3, and 4 are usually the guys that are at the top of the heap as far as swinging the lumber is concerned.
> Now, we can experience a sprinkling of plus and minuses for any given game - who’s not healthy, who’s missing, and a ton of other variables that go hand-n-hand with amateur ball. But that’s not the norm in considering the basics of a club’s rotation nor is it normal to put so-so talent at the front of the batting order and then beef up the middle and tail-end.
> However, DH’s do add to the pot and that’s a dash of spice for tweaking by both sides of the baselines, but not for the foundation basics of considering each club’s game plan. Unless of course each club in question considers a DH to have the batting skills of a 1,2 or 3 guy.

Good point by bringing to my attention a statement without further detail.

Coach B.

Great Response, coach B.