The batting order
, or batting lineup
, in baseball
is the sequence in which the nine members of the offense take their turns in batting
against the pitcher
. The batting order is set by the manager
before the game begins (although substitutions
may subsequently take place). If a team bats out of order
, it is a violation of baseball's rules and subject to penalty. When the whole batting order makes plate appearances in a single inning, it is called "batting around."
In modern American baseball, some batting positions have nicknames: "leadoff" for first, "cleanup" for fourth, and "last" for ninth. Others are known only by the ordinal numbers.
Positions in the lineup
The first player in the batting order is known as the leadoff hitter
. Generally the leadoff batter is the fastest baserunner
on the team because he bats more often than anyone else in the lineup, and in order to have baserunners when the later hitters with more power come to bat, his need for a high on base percentage
(OBP) exceeds that of the other lineup spots. Once on base, his main goal is to advance around the bases as quickly as possible and then to score
. Because leadoff hitters are selected primarily for their ability to reach base and for their speed, they are not typically power hitters. Another important role for the leadoff man is to reveal the pitcher's ability and to "wear him out" by forcing him to throw as many pitches as possible.
The second batter, most often just referred to as in the two-hole
, is usually a contact hitter
with the ability to bunt
or get a hit, although the art of bunting is becoming increasingly rare nowadays. His main goal is to move the leadoff man into scoring position. Often, these hitters are fairly quick, competent baserunners and tend to avoid grounding into double plays
. Managers often like to have a left-handed hitter bat second, due to the envisioned, likely scenario of a gap in the infield defense caused by the first baseman holding the leadoff batter.
The third batter, in the three-hole
, is generally the best all-around hitter on the team, often hitting for a high batting average
but not necessarily very fast. Part of his job is to help set the table for the cleanup hitter, and part of it is to help drive in baserunners himself. Third-place hitters are best known for "keeping the inning alive". However in recent years, some managers have tended to put their best slugger in this position.
The fourth player in the batting order is known as the cleanup hitter
, and is almost always one of the best hitters on the team, often the one with the most power. Baseball managers tend to place hitters who are most likely to reach base ahead of the clean-up man, so that the fourth batter can "clean" the bases by driving these baserunners home to score runs. His main goal is to drive in runs, although he is expected to score runs as well. In fact, the fourth spot in the order has the luxury of being somewhat "protected" from bad situations early in the game: the batter only rarely faces a spot with two outs and no baserunners in the first time through the order—possible if, for example, one of the first three batters hits a home run
and the other two make outs. If nobody gets on base, the cleanup hitter will have a chance to start a rally in the second inning by being the first batter, with zero outs. However, hitting cleanup also requires an exceptional level of talent, and the ability to deliver big hits in important situations (bases loaded, two out).
The fifth and sixth (and sometimes seventh) batters have traditionally been RBI
men, with the main goal of driving runners home, especially with sacrifice flies
. Modern sabermetric
baseball theory suggests that even these batters should have high on-base percentages, though this approach has not been universally adopted. The fifth batter is usually a team's second-best power hitter, and his purpose is often to "protect" the clean-up hitter in the batting order; he is expected to pose enough of a threat to opposing teams that they will refrain from intentionally walking
the clean-up hitter in potential scoring situations.
The seventh and eighth batters are often not as powerful as the earlier batters, and do not have as high a batting average. They are still expected to produce (as is the case for any
regular starter), but they have less pressure in those spots. The main pressure on the eighth hitter comes when there are two outs: in this case, he must battle the pitcher to get on base so that the ninth hitter can come up. That way, even if the ninth hitter gets out, the top of the order will come up next. The eighth batter is often a good contact hitter, and can be used as a back-up #2 hitter. In leagues without designated hitters
(DHs), the catcher
will often bat eighth, as they are often employed for their defensive skills and handling of the pitching staff, and tend to have a relatively low batting average. However, this is by no means always the case. #8 hitters are sometimes intentionally walked to get to the pitcher's spot in the #9 hole.
In leagues where the designated hitter rule
is in effect, the ninth batter is often the weakest hitter on the team, although some managers like to put a "leadoff" type there. Nine-hitters tend to be fast, but not to have as good batting or on-base average as the leadoff hitter.
In leagues where the DH rule is not in effect, the starting pitcher almost always fills the ninth spot, although relief pitchers may occupy a different spot due to a double switch. If there is a man on first or second base with fewer than two outs when the ninth hitter is up, he will almost always bunt. However, a notable alternative exists to this, in which the pitcher or weakest hitter actually bats in the 8th slot, and another player with decent OBP and speed bats in the 9th slot, thus creating a kind of second leadoff hitter, at the bottom of the lineup, that loops to the top of the order afterwards. This has been used sparingly in the major leagues, but was notably employed by St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa in the second half of the 1998 baseball season, and again in August 2007 and in 2008, and by Milwaukee Brewers manager Ned Yost in 2008
Batting position skills
Batting skills are not strictly one-dimensional and batting merely shares with baserunning the responsibility for scoring in baseball. Multi-dimensional differences among players in batting and baserunning skills underly some specialization by batting position, as a secondary factor behind the sheer greater number of appearances for lower-number batters.