Secrets to More Runs – Batting Order Strategy in Baseball Explained

John Means

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Batting Order Strategy in Baseball

Baseball coaches enjoy the freedom to optimize the batting order strategy in baseball differently. Team lineups vary depending on several factors. For example, you will have different lineups for players under the age of 25 and with players over 25. 

Strong players are queued on top of the lineups while others with less batting experience such as pitchers take place on the bottom of the lineup.  Thus, a strategic lineup is always fruitful and delivers predictable results.

However, whether the lineup will work for your team or not depends mainly on the strategic planner behind it; including the players’ consistent skill, strength, and fragility.  

In the following, we will discover different baseball lineups and how they can help you improve your overall batting order strategy in baseball. 

Different Batting Order Strategy in Baseball 

There are two different methods to go with batting order strategy in baseball. 1) The Traditional Approach 2) Sabermetrics.

To tell you everything about following a strategic batting order, we will start with the traditional approach. Thus, you will learn to differentiate which one works best for your team (from a coach’s perspective) and determine the overall team’s capacity and opposing strategies.  

Traditional Batting Lineup Approach

Often mentioned as the balanced lineup, Traditional Batting Lineup Approach maintains a steady flow of energy throughout the game. 

The traditional approach follows a lineup where players with high on-base percentages, batting average, and good situational hitting skills take place at the top of the lineup, while power hitters are slotted in the middle and bottom.

Take a look at how this lineup is placed on the field. 

Leadoff Position

Players who are the fastest runners among the rest are designated for the leadoff position. This has been happening throughout baseball history. The Leadoff Hitters have the ultimate goal to steal the base by hook or by crook. Thus, it is important to focus on their on-base percentage, hitting capacity, and speed.  

Contact Hitters 

In baseball, contact hitters don’t strike out often. They occupy the second and third slots in the lineup. However, they are called contact hitters because they use their bats to establish contact with the ball. Thus, the name contact hitters. 

Contact hitters are expected to have solid contact skills, and are efficient in putting the ball in play. They should also be able to run fast to the base. And, also have excellent bat control so that they can perform hit-and-run plays smoothly. 

Power Hitters

The fourth, fifth, and sixth slots are allocated for Power Hitters. They are generally the heart or meat of the lineup in baseball and excel in batting and physical strength. Players with high hitting capability usually aim for Power Hitters; Plus they intend to throw the ball far into the outfield mostly. In baseball, we expect them to drive frequent home runs, doubles, and triples. 

Major League Baseball player Ted Williams, is known to be an iconic power hitter in history. He is reputed for 0.400 hits in a season. Meanwhile, his highest on-base percentage was  0.482 which hasn’t been recorded twice in history.

Support Hitters 

Here come the bottom lineups as we are moving toward the bottom of the lineup. Bottom-lineup batters are more specialized in defensive strategies. They are also ready for situational hitting. 
In baseball, the seventh, eighth, and ninth batters are regarded as the bottom of the lineup. This is due to their hitting position and lack of offensive power. 

Batting Order Strategy in Baseball

Usually, baseball managers put someone with a defensive specialty (such as the 2nd baseman or catcher) in the 7th slot. They are slow baserunners and tend to deliver large numbers of double plays such as Bill Freehan

For, the 8th slot in Baseball, we assign players who are generally used as backups for #2 hitters. They are often good contact hitters. Players will low batting averages are referred to in this position. They have higher defensive skills; thus making them fit for this position.  

Traditionally, the ninth spot is reserved for the pitcher in the National League. However, the American League prefers comparatively less efficient hitters for the ninth slot. In baseball, the ninth position offers a transition to the top of the order, allowing the lineup to cycle back to the leadoff hitter. 

Traditional Batting Order Strategy in Baseball ends here. This genuine lineup approach focuses more on distributing power equally throughout the series. In the next section, we will focus on a more data-driven approach to determine the baseball lineup. 

Sabermetrics Approach: A Data-Driven Batting Order Strategy in Baseball

Sabermetrics, the first part to honor the acronym of the Society for American Baseball Research, the second part to indicate measurement. Sabermetrics is the mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball records.” – Bill James; Baseball historian and statistician. 

The Sabermetrics Approach in Baseball measures the performance of players with statistical analysis. It quantifies players’ efficiency based on established statistics such as OBP, Platoon Advantage, Runs Batted, Matchups, Scouting Prospects, and other factors. 

It is a modern approach to batting order strategy and has proven to be more successful. Managers now leverage this method to drive out ideal players for ideal positions. The Sabermetrics Approach helps us to reach an informed conclusion and build a baseball lineup that’s best for the team. 

With Sabermetrics, you can also forecast players’ near future performance for any season by evaluating their records. 

Keep a few things in mind. The Sabermetrics Model delivers: 

  • Predictions based on previously available data. 
  • Analysis of on-field performance with proper evaluation. 
  • Helps to decide with objective insights of the game.  
  • A useful function of a player’s contributions to his team.
  • What the average future performance of a player can be. 

So, based on what factors Sabermetrics Approach works the best? Check out the list below: 

On-Base Percentage (OBP): 

We discussed the On-Base Percentage while talking about Baseball Batting Rules. OBP is an ability measure for players. It determines how often a hitter can reach the base per plate appearance; through hits, walks (BB), and hit-by-pitches. 

However, it doesn’t include errors. Hitters/ Batters will not be awarded the base when there is an error or fielder’s choice. Plus, they will also be deprived of the opportunity if they are charged with a sacrifice bunt. 

OBP is believed to be a better indicator of a player’s offensive value than the traditional batting average (BA). It accounts for different ways a player can reach base and helps gauge their overall plate discipline.

You can easily calculate a player’s On-Base Percentage with a simple formula. OBP is usually equal to Times on Base/Plate appearances. Here’s the main formula for you: 

OBP = (Hits + Walks (BB) + Hit by Pitch) / (At Bats + Walks (BB) + Hit by Pitch + Sacrifice Flies)  

Slugging Percentage (SLG): 

In baseball, Slugging Percentage is an effective statistic to back up the Sabermetrics Approach. It is applied to measure the batting productivity of a batter. Many baseball experts believe that Slugging Percentage offers more contribution to home runs, doubles, and even triples.

Additionally, singles follow the package too.

The slugging Percentage (SLG) defines the total number of bases a batter makes per at-bat. It develops a simple equation that includes hit only; and not walks or hit-by-pitches. Players with increased SLG are proven to be fit to deserve at the top batting lineup. 

Babe Ruth is the all-time popular baseball player with a slugging percentage of .6897; followed by Ted Williams who had a slugging percentage of .6338. 

The slugging percentage is considered to be one of the effective measures of policy for power. Because experts say that it contributes to more than just home runs. It is also essential for pitchers; alternatively called slugging percentage against.  

The formula to determine the slugging percentage is as followed:
SLG = (1B + 2Bx2 + 3Bx3 + HRx4)/AB


1B = Single 

2B = Double 

3B = Triple 

HR = Home Run 

AB = At Bat 

On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS)

This sabermetric combines both on-base percentage (OBS) and slugging percentage (SLG) to deliver a more comprehensive measure of the overall offensive performance of a player. It also determines how well-furnished the player’s hitting capabilities are.  

To put it simply, On-Base Plus Slugging represents the ability of a player to get the base including his ability to strike for power. 

In Major League, players with an OPS of 0.800 or higher are usually placed in the upper slot of the lineup. However, league majors are recorded to have more OPS; above the 1.000 mark. 

To measure OPS for a single player, you only have to add up their On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage. That is, 


Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA): 

It is another version of On-Base Percentage (OBS); genuinely used to determine how a player has reached the base; rather than being affirmative on reaching the base. wOBA offers a precise presentation of a player’s offensive contributions.  Because it considers the variables of different outcomes.

How each outcome is measured depends on how much the incident contributes to the projected runs scored. To measure wOBA, you have to determine the weight of the year you want to calculate. Then multiply each weight by the player’s relative statistics. The formula is as followed: 

wOBA = (unintentional BB factor x unintentional BB + HBP factor x HBP + 1B factor x 1B + 2B factor x 2B + 3B factor x 3B + HR factor x HR)/(AB + unintentional BB + SF + HBP) 

In 2013, Mike Trout completed 100 walks (BB) – unintentional, 9 HBP, 115 singles (1B), 39 doubles (2B), 9 triples (3B), and 27 home runs (HR). To measure his wOBA, multiply each of them by their relative weight and divide by the total of at-bats, unintentional walks, sacrifice flies, and hit-by-pitches. 

Here are some of the major factors sabermetrics evaluates to determine the players’ roles. However, there is more! In this analytical method of baseball lineup, more information derives a more accurate forecast,

For measuring defense strategies, this modern data-driven method utilizes parameters like Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). To bring out the pitch performance of a player, sabermetrics has Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) to determine walks or strikeouts. 

Sabermetrics Baseball Lineup

Based on the different parameters mentioned above, the outcome is determined for each spot. The sabermetrics method defines the potential of every slot and assigns players who fit ideally for the position. 

The batting order strategy in baseball comes in different models – OBS Focused, Power Early, Platoon Advantage, or Second Cleanup Approach. 

OBS Focused: Players with higher OBS are distributed on the top lineup in baseball order. 

Power Early: In this lineup, power hitters are placed at the top of the lineup. 

Platoon Advantage: It involves alternating players based on their performance against left- or right-handed pitchers. 

Second Cleanup Approach: Usually, the power hitters take place in the fourth spot. But with a second cleanup approach, you will place a power hitter in the second spot, following the leadoff hitter.

However,  whatever models you follow, the most genuine sabermetrics lineup is as followed: 

  • Leadoff
  • 4 – Cleanup
  • 2nd batter
  • 5th batter
  • 3rd batter
  • 6th batter
  • 7th batter
  • 8th batter
  • 9th batter

The Sabermetrics Batting Order introduces a flexible lineup approach in modern baseball. Many leagues still prefer the traditional lineup approach. On the other hand, sabermetrics ensures players can play to their full potential from the slots assigned to them. 

Need More Tips on Batting Order Strategy in Baseball? 

When you are a part of Baseball, you will start to enjoy all the statistics and measurements, this game considers before passing a judgment. 

Remember, the batting order strategy in baseball is not just a list of names on a lineup card. A carefully measured batting order can bring out the offensive potential of players, and ultimately determine the triumph of the game. 

Whether you follow the traditional batting order or a data-driven model like the Sabermetrics that exploit matchups, you must always develop the lineups keeping the competitive edge in mind. The ultimate goal of a strategic batting order is to drive out the best from the players and gain the upper hand in the play. 

So, sit back, savor the strategic battles between the two teams, and enjoy the day! 

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John Means

John Means is a professional baseball player who has played in the major leagues for the Kansas City Royals and the Oakland Athletics. He made his major league debut with the Royals in 2009. He was traded to the Athletics in 2012. Baseball is his favorite sport. His passion about the game is evident in his play. Now he write blogs about baseball and other things whenever he has some free time. LinkedIn

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