Choosing Your Batting Order

Depending on your coaching philosophy, you may have different ways of choosing your batting order. At the lowest t-ball and coach-pitch levels, it might be completely random. To keep it completely fair, you should keep track of the last batter and rotate to the next batter in the next game. Not much to think about here.

Eventually, as players get older, there is more competition in the game and the pressure to win grows. Putting some thought in to your batting order can definitely increase your chances of winning. When coaching young teams, you need to keep a balance between winning and keeping all your players motivated. And don’t forget the parents! Like it or not, there is pressure from parents going both ways, toward being more competitive and keeping it “fair”.

I’ll just make one point about “fairness”. Let’s say you have a rotating batting order and try to bat everyone the same amount. That may sound “fair” but it is not really fair to the players who are putting forth more effort and building better hitting skills, and it’s not really fair to the team or to the parents who enjoy getting a win more than losing. Like I said, at the lowest levels of baseball that is the norm, but as players get older, everyone deserves to have the coach put some more thought into the process.

There is a tradition in baseball that the best power hitter bats fourth, when you are trying to be competitive with the batting order. Many times in youth baseball, your best power hitter has one of the better batting averages on the team. Statistically, my position is that you begin with the best batting average (or on base percentage perhaps) and work your way down. If you look at the math, players at the top of the batting order get more at-bats than players at the bottom, because rarely does a game end with the last player in the batting order. So, if the game is close in the final inning and you have 3 hitters coming up, you want those hitters to have the highest betting average possible. I’ve coached many games where the third or fourth batter in the lineup never gets a chance to swing the bat because the game ends with the final out while they are on deck.

Another coaching philosophy is to “spread out” your hitting talent so you don’t have a bad inning with 3 poor hitters in a row. Statistically, this does not work, because you end up with good hitters not batting more often than poor hitters. You end up with more runners (your good hitters) stranded on base. The bottom line is, to win more games you want your better hitters getting more at-bats.

Now it gets pretty depressing to always bat at the bottom of the order, both for the player and the parents of that player. In the middle levels of competition where winning is not everything, I may rotate the first batter (or you can do this with the third batter, let’s say, to keep it in the first inning). For example, let’s say everyone on the team gets a chance to bat first, no matter the skill level. So my worst hitter may bat first now and then. That is a pretty good compromise between winning and keeping all your players happy.

OK, let’s say as a coach you want to carefully pick your batting order based on performance. Without statistics, you are really just guessing. Players may improve steadily throughout the season, some players may get on a hitting streak, and some may enter a slump. It’s constantly changing. Having the batting numbers handy is the only intelligent way to go. You will also find your players more motivated when they know the batting order is based on results, and not “favorites”.

Baseball Pocket Coach makes it really, really easy to record batting results, and to keep those numbers handy when planning a lineup. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a parent asked to keep the scorebook, and they look back and say “I don’t know how”. Even worse, they gladly accept the assignment, but when you try to decipher the results after the game, you can’t make any sense out of it so you don’t get any valuable stats. For youth baseball batting stats, you don’t really need to track every pitch and throw and use a special codes like “6-3”. A simple “Single” or “Popout” is all you need to help you with batting results. One or two taps per hitter and you are done. I designed the Baseball Pocket Coach app to be so easy you can coach a base and record batting results at the same time, or to hand it to a random parent with no training. If I’m coaching and using the app, I can quickly tap in the previous batting result while the next batter is walking up to the plate.

When you use this app to plan your lineup, it will show you the batting average next to each player’s name, and you can drag the names in to the batting order that makes sense. You can look at pure batting average, or the last two weeks batting average, or on-base percentage. No more guessing. I know that I have been surprised to see a not-so-good hitter have a high on-base percentage, usually because that player draws alot of walks. If you only rely on your gut feel, you will miss some things. If you have solid numbers, you can make more intelligent decisions, and tweak the lineup according to your gut feel. More tools = better results.

Baseball Pocket Coach app on iTunes app store

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