Are Batting Orders Irrelevant in Baseball?


I'm looking on in Dodger Stadium. (Credit: Steve Burns.)

I’m looking on in Dodger Stadium. (Credit: Steve Burns.)

Baseball is famous for adhering to tradition. And so it was noteworthy Monday (5/5/2014) when the Atlanta Braves had the pitcher (in this case, Aaron Harang) batting in the No. 8 spot against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The premise, of course, was to shake up the lineup and provide more offense. The Atlanta Braves had lost six straight going into the game, and were struggling for runs (a frequent malady for this team over the years).

The pitcher usually is the worst hitter on the team, and so is normally relegated to the lowest spot (No.  9) in the batting order — in the National League. (The American League has its own tradition with the designated hitter.) Moving the pitcher to No. 8 creates a virtual second “leadoff hitter,” who has a greater chance of reaching base when the top of the order comes around again.

But the reality is that there is a maximum of one time per game in which traditional batting-order functions are allowed to work. You know, the leadoff hitter gets on to begin the inning, the “cleanup” (No. 4) hitter comes up with the bases loaded, etc.

However, the tradition persists. And I wonder why.

Wikipedia has been chided for its potential for user-introduced inaccuracies, but it also yields some interesting information.

Under a post entitled “batting order,” Wikipedia notes that in 1957, Pittsburgh manager Bobby Bragan used a batting order that was notable for having the 2-9 hitters in descending order of batting average. Makes sense to me.

Such a strategy would reward performance rather than skills that might never be used. Hitting is perhaps the most difficult task in team sports, and you want the provably best practitioners at the plate ASAP, so you can get a jump on the other team. Baseball managers, put this on your to-do list.

— So what do you think? Should baseball managers scrap the traditional batting-order thinking? Your thoughts are welcome in the comments below.



About Steve Burns

I live in the Atlanta area. I also lived for many years in Southern California. I'm into mainstream media, social media, sports, business and politics. I worked for AOL's Patch, but this is my personal blog. I'm on Twitter (@bsteve76), Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. See ya 'round!
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