I'd like to say creating a lineup is like a form of art. It's basically your masterpiece to the offensive strategy side of the game. Many players and coaches feel that the teams fastest guy belongs in the leadoff spot. Although, wheels in the leadoff spot is definitely beneficial, it's not the #1 criteria in my book. The hitters at the top of your lineup should be your toughest out. They are your strongest hitters. Those are the guys you want at the plate late in the game when the game is on the line. Ideally, you want to create your lineup beginning with your toughest out down to your weakest out. Of course there will be some flip flopping along the way, but that is the general rule of thumb. Let's take a look at designing a solid lineup...
Havock! The leadoff spot will generate the most at bats through the course of the season. This spot requires the teams toughest out. The leadoff batter is someone who knows the strike zone very well, and is willing to take the pitcher deep into the count. He must be patient but yet aggressive enough to lay down a bunt or drive the ball in the gap to produce RBI's. He does not have to be the fastest runner on the team, but he must be one of the smartest base runners on the team. The leadoff should be a player who puts pressure on the opposing team. He must be able to run from 1st to 3rd on a hit to RF, and is able to steal off of any pitcher. The leadoff hitter in any lineup should be able to beat a team with their power, base running knowledge, speed, bat control, and overall knowledge of the game. This guy is your dressing on your salad!
Crafty! Ideally, your two hole batter will be a lefty. I like left handed batters in the two hole, but they would need to fit a certain criteria. This spot requires an above average bunter, strong knowledge of strike zone, and the ability to pull a ball to RF as well as driving it the other way. A lefty batter hinders the catcher's view from the leadoff batter stealing second base. With a man on 1st and a lefty at the plate, it opens up the right side of the field for him to pull it to RF allowing the runner to go from 1st to 3rd on a single hit. A right handed two hole will work also, but he must be able to hit to the opposite field consistenly. No matter who you have in the two hole, they must be able to handle a fastball. With the leadoff man on first base, the pitcher will most likely want to throw more fastballs rather than off speed. In conclusion, the two hole will be patient at the plate, have power to hit doubles, speed, bat control, smart base running skills, and ability to steal a base at any given moment.
Power! This spot is reserved for the guy you want up to bat in the 1st inning. He is your best all around hitter. The three hole is for the guy who can hit both right and left handed pitching. He can hit any pitch, and doesn't get fooled on different pitches. He should have the lowest strike out ratio on the team. He will hit for power, and has the ability to drive the ball to all parts of the field. The three hole hitter loves to be in pressure situations. He will have excellent knowledge of the strike zone. He is "selectively aggressive" at the plate, and will always hit his pitch rather than the pitcher's pitch. He reads pitches well, and always knows what the pitch is before committing his hands. Ideally, he will have enough speed to stay out of a double play. This guy is one of your toughest outs, and he can beat a team with his power, intelligence of the game, bat control, and base running skills.
Cleanup! This hitter must be good enough to capitalize on the guy in front of him. The four hole will have power, and is one of the ultimate RBI producers on the team. He can read pitches well, and has the ability to drive fastballs and off-speed pitches to all parts of the field. He should have a higher walk to strike out ratio. He handles well under pressure, and must be disciplined to hit his pitch hard in the gaps or out of the park to score runners from second base. He should have speed to stay out of a double play. The cleanup batter will beat the other team with his power, base running skills, bat control, and knowledge of the strike zone.
Aggressive! The five hole batter must have enough power that the other team can't pitch around the four hole to face him. He is more of a free swinger than the hitters in front of him. The five hole should have one of the highest RBI totals on the team. He should be able to handle off-speed pitches. He will have decent base running skills, but will also have the mental discipline to hit a sacrifice fly for the team. The five hole wants RBI's. When he gets a fastball, he usually hits it hard somewhere.
Average! The six hole should have decent power. He is hitting behind the teams toughest outs, so he should be able to have solid bat control. As a result, he will need to move runners around and produce some RBI's when he makes contact. He will hit for average, and should be able to handle the fastball well.
Seven, Eight, and Nine Hole
Make or break! The seven, eight, and nine hole batters will make or break your lineup. These guys will ideally possess some of the skills that the top of your lineup does. They need to be decent base runners. Must be able to handle a fastball and get on base to help setup the top of the lineup. These hitters must be willing to do whatever it takes to get on base (Laces and Bases). These hitters cannot be automatic outs. If the bottom of the lineup can put pressure on the defense and get on base at all costs, then the team will have a much higher chance to win ball games. If they are dead outs, then the odds and probabilities of winning the majority of your games are slim. These guys need to be fundamentally sound bunters. They should be able to steal a base when needed, and/or have the ability to move runners around so the top of the lineup can do their job.
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