Setting Your Batting Order

By Dan Hughes

I've read a lot of discussion on lineup theory, but I don't think I've seen anyone mention the difference in batting averages between baseball players and softball players, and how that should affect your strategy.

Think about this:

In major league baseball, many players reach base an average of 3 to 4 times per 10 at-bats (walks and errors included).

In slowpitch softball, many players reach base 7 to 8 times per 10 at-bats (again including walks and errors).

So the simple odds say that a baseball batter will probably make an out, and a softball batter will probably reach base.

Should this affect your lineup strategy? I think so.

I keep a record of my players' on-base percentage (OBP), and I bat them mostly highest to lowest. Since softball batters get on base twice as much as do baseball players, extra-base hits aren't as critical in softball as they are in baseball. (If that statement puzzles you, take the situation to the extreme: If your team got just one hit per inning, it would have to be a home run to matter. But if your team got seven hits per inning, the homer becomes less important.)

By batting players top to bottom according to their on-base percentage, it gives everyone an incentive to do their best. If a player goes 4 for 4, he will move up the ladder the very next game.

I'll put a faster guy in front of a slower guy, and I like power in 3 and 4, so I may switch a couple of guys a little bit, but I'll never move a guy more than two slots from what he's earned, and if I move him I'll explain my reasoning to him.

Have you played on a team where the manager set the lineup at the beginning of the season and never changed it? That is discouraging to players who bat at the bottom of the lineup, but are getting on base more than guys at the top of the lineup.

Here's the bottom line: the higher you are in the lineup, the more at-bats you will get over the course of the season. 

You want your best OBP guys batting more than your worst OBP guys, because if you play a 26-game season, your top guy will bat 20 to 25 times more than your bottom guy.

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    2008 Dan Hughes