Sports teams, no matter the sport, consistently look for ways to develop a competitive advantage that separates them from the competition. When it comes to baseball, one way a team can find a competitive edge while being successful on the baseball diamond is by designing/developing a batting order strategy.
Every good coach must analyze their roster to determine what kind of players they have and identify their strengths and weaknesses.
Looking at strengths and weaknesses means locking down on player features and attributes that benefit the team. You need to identify which players are run-creators, which are run-producers, which players hit for average, which have power, which ones have shown a tendency to hit in high-pressure situations, which players on your team are fast, which players tend to get on base more than others, and also which players strikeout high.
Each of these things will play a key role in helping you create a batting order strategy that will help you become a successful coach and team that produces each night on the baseball diamond.
Batting Order Strategy – Batting Lineup Template
1. Leadoff Hitter – Number One Hitter
The number one spot in your baseball lineup sheet is the leadoff hitter. They will receive more at-bats than anyone in your lineup but may only lead off to start the game or your half of the first inning.
While speed is great to start the lineup, consider looking at a player who can get on base through base hits or walks.
Speed is a plus, but consider saving someone with speed for another spot in the lineup, as you want your hitter who will anchor the most at-bats in your batting order to be able to hit the baseball.
2. Number Two Hitter
Much like the leadoff hitter, the number two hitter might only be the second hitter to start an inning in the team’s first at-bat.
You want someone with a high chance of putting the ball in play, someone who can hit behind the runner and/or drop down a bunt in a situation where you know you need the number one hitter to move over.
While any baseball lineup template can slot in the best hitters in the first four spots, you also have to consider what happens at other points of the game when you may need a reliable hitter to get on base.
Another strategy to consider is having who you would typically slot in at number three at #2 instead, hoping that your leadoff hitter gets on, steals second base, and a base hit gets them home.
This strategy might allow you to get creative with the number three spot with either the guy you would have used for number two or another hitter who can get on base via a base hit or walk.
3. 3-Hole – Number Three Hitter
Now, this is where it gets really interesting as some say to go with someone who has power here, while others say to go with someone who can hit for average.
Most batting order strategy calls have the overall best hitter hitting in the number three spot just ahead of a player who might have the most power on the team.
In theory, you want your overall best hitter coming up in the 3-hole, as they have the potential to drive in the leadoff hitter and/or get on base to set up the cleanup hitter.
4. Cleanup Hitter – Number Four Hitter
In the end, most cleanup hitters are the most powerful hitter on the team and have the potential to hit the ball out of the ballpark on any pitch.
However, one consideration is to slide that player into the five-hole to help you in case of a quick 1-2-3 inning in front of him. This allows another hitter with a high on-base percentage to bat in the cleanup hole in front of him while opening up the opportunity to drive two runs in place of one if he hits a home run.
You could also consider just swapping your three and four-hitters for one another.
5. Contact Hitter – Number Five Hitter
You don’t necessarily need to have a big power bat in the five-hole slot, as a base hit or a double can get a runner across the plate, especially if your power hitter picks up a double to open up the inning.
That said, you must consider someone who makes contact more than strikes out while also being a player who can start off an inning in case your power hitter strikes out or fails to continue the inning.
6. Number Six Hitter
For the number 6-7-8-9 hitters in your baseball lineup, consider reevaluating which players you have to round out the lineup and which baseball lineup strategy may work best for your team.
However, one approach when building your baseball lineup is to consider going with your weakest hitter in the six-hole while saving the back of the lineup for guys who can help flip the lineup to the top of the order.
7. Number Seven Hitter
Depending on the approach you take with the six-hole slot, a strong recommendation is to slot in your next weakest hitter in the lineup in this slot while focusing that the end of the inning might happen.
If this is the case, then it would leave you a chance to start the next inning with two hitters who have better opportunities to get on base to allow your original leadoff hitter to move those runners over while getting back to the meat of the lineup.
One strong baseball lineup strategy here is to consider what happens if you get to the back of your lineup and need a runner to get on for the top of the lineup.
8. Number Eight Hitter
While you may consider this the bottom of the lineup, that is only really the case for the first three innings. After that, depending on how the hits are going, the eight-hole hitter may be leading off to start the next inning while also having the potential to extend the inning past the leadoff hitter.
Eight-hole hitters should have a great eye and work counts but ultimately find a way to get on base to extend an inning or start an inning.
Consider using someone fast who can avoid getting doubled up on a ground ball to open up the lineup.
9. Number Nine Hitter
Rounding out your baseball lineup template is the number nine hitter or the nine-hole hitter. In most cases, you will find a team’s weakest hitter in the nine-hole slot.
However, for others, this is a chance to find a hitter who can hit for average, has some speed, and can get on base to help flip the lineup back to the top of the lineup.
That said, consider a hitter that is an all-around good hitter that will not strike out or fail to get on base. A hit with the nine-hole hitter allows your leadoff hitter to make something happen with the offense.