Power Shift: Homers and the Batting Order

So far in 2012, more major league homers have been hit from the third spot in the order (346 homers) than the fourth spot (337 homers).  It is quite rare over a full major league season for the cleanup spot not to be the place in the batting order with the most dingers.  Over the past seventy full seasons, only in 1955 and 2001 has any spot in the order other than cleanup been the source of the most homers in the majors.   But the percentage of homers that are hit from the fourth spot, as compared to the rest of lineup, has been headed generally downward for decades.    Some details after the jump.

During the 1930s, 22.2% o all major league homers were hit from the fourth spot in the lineup.  That percentage has never been so high in any decade since:

1940-1949: 21.9%
1950-1959: 19.1%
1960-1969: 19.8%
1970-1979: 19.5%
1980-1989: 19.2%
1990-1999: 19.1%
2000-2009: 17.5%
2010-2011: 16.8%
2012 through June 22: 16.2%

Except for the one jump up from the ’50s to the 60’s, the trend has been generally downward since the 1930s.

If fourth-spot hitters have been hitting a smaller percentage of homers, some other spot or spots must be gaining percentage.  In large part, the gainers seem to be hitters at the bottom of the order:

Percentage of Major League homers hit from the 7th, 8th and 9th spots in the lineup:
1930-1939: 17.6%
1940-1949: 18.2%
1950-1959: 20.2%
1960-1969: 19.4%
1970-1979: 20.1%
1980-1989: 21.6%
1990-1999: 21.1%
2000-2009: 22.5%
2010-2011: 23.3%
2012 through June 22: 24.2%

Before 1950, fewer than 1 in 5 homers were hit from the bottom three spots in the order. This season, MLB is close to 1 in 4 homers being hit from those bottom three spots. Although major league home run hitting generally has declined from its peak in the 1999-2001 period, the trend of home runs coming increasingly from all parts of the lineup continues. Equality in income and wealth in America may be declining, but egalitarianism continues to be the trend in major league home run hitting.

81 thoughts on “Power Shift: Homers and the Batting Order

  1. 1
    e pluribus munu says:

    Interesting stuff. With the coming of the DH, it would be natural to expect an increase at the tail of the order, since something approaching half of pitcher PAs would have been replaced. What surprises me most here is that the effect isn’t more profound.

    • 6
      birtelcom says:

      The relatively limited change from the ’60s to the ’70s/’80s after the adoption of the DH surprised me, too. One example: During the 1950s and 1960s, about 3.8% of homers were hit from the ninth spot in the order in the major leagues. That increased to 4.3% in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Then without the benefit of a rules change it bounced up again to around 4.9% since 2000. The mere effect of replacing (in just one of the two leagues) the pitcher in the ninth spot with a relatively limited-power guy in that spot had only a limited effect on the percentage of homers from there. Also keep in mind that DHs will often be slow sluggers who bat in the 4th spot and emphasize home run hitting. Perhaps that offsets to some extent (with respect to the % of homers hit from the #4 spot) the disappearance of pitcher PAs in the AL.

      • 9
        birtelcom says:

        DHs have appeared in each spot in the batting order the following percentages of the time (1973-2012):
        1st: 4.3%
        2nd: 4.5%
        3rd: 16.3%
        4th: 28.9%
        5th: 20.9%
        6th: 13.8%
        7th: 8.2%
        8th: 2.6%
        9th; 0.6%

      • 12
        e pluribus munu says:

        That makes good sense, birtelcom. I hadn’t thought through the implication of percentages vs. numbers. Adding a strong hitter further up in the order could on average balance out any net increase in HRs for 7-8-9.

  2. 2
    Hartvig says:

    I would guess that there’s a correlation between this and the increased number of strikeouts. There are always a few guys around in the Ichiro mold- Brett Gardner & Juan Pierre also come to mind but it does seem that there are more of the Jose Valentin/ Alex Gonzalez #1 middle infield types around than there used to be- low BA & OBP and a ton of K’s but generally in the 20+/- home run range. I can’t think of any Walt Weiss types- no power but decent OBP- playing now.

    • 16
      Timmy Pea says:

      Juan Pierre hit a home run yesterday, a three run bomb. He also stole 2 bases and has 16 for the season. He’s only been thrown out twice. I don’t know what else one man can do. Juan has only one error this year, he deserves his first all-star appearance. I’m going to send an email to the NL all-star manager requesting he pick JP for the team.

      • 21
        birtelcom says:

        Six or seven NL outfielders get to play in the All-Star Game each season. Which of the following ten NL outfielders would you drop to put Juan in the A-S Game?: Bourn, Braun, Cabrera, Prado, McCutcheon, Holliday, Beltran, Heyward, Ethier, Stanton.

      • 47
        John Autin says:

        The first-ever 3-run jack by Juan Pierre should be occasion for a national holiday! Maybe, because of his name, Congress isn’t sure that he’s “one of us.” Or maybe they’re waiting for when he finally gets that grand slam.

        ‘Course, I didn’t work today, anyway. 🙂

        There’s still a few spots to fill on his Bingo card: Out of 17 career HRs, there are only 3 scenarios in which he has ever gone deep:
        — Bases empty (13)
        — Man on 2nd only (3); and
        — Men on 2nd & 3rd (1).

        For the other situations — [1–], [12-], [1-3] and [123] — he has 1,850 PAs without a HR.

        Gives us all a reason to keep watching!

    • 20
      Paul E says:

      Have to agree with you, Hartvig, on the concept of middle infielders providing more punch. In the 1960’s most of them slapped the ball around, hit and run, take a pitch, sacrifice bunt, etc….

      Middle infielders eventually evolved into larger athletes and seem to be able to drive the ball much better nowadays

  3. 3
    MikeD says:

    I’m guessing it’s because more players hit for power, thus reducing the overall percentage of HRs from the traditional slugger’s spot. It’s not surprising nowadays to see players hitting 20+ HRs down in bottom third of the order, where that would have been more rare in decades past.

    • 60
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      In 1977 Butch Hobson, the 3Bman for the Red Sox, hit 30 HRs batting mostly 8th (89 G) or 7th (47 G). He batted higher than 6th only 5 games that season.

  4. 4
    Jimbo says:

    Teams want their best hitter getting more PA’s. I like it.

    I also like having my slugger bat in the 1st inning, everytime. As opposed to when he bats 4th, and often ends up leading off the 2nd inning.

    • 5
      bstar says:

      While that’s true, the problem, as stated in The Book, of batting your slugger third is he’s going to come to the plate too often with no one on base and two out in the first inning. The Book actually advocates batting your best hitters 1st, 2nd, and 4th for this reason.

      • 7
        Jimbo says:

        I have an unconventional theory I guess that the batter will be aided by knowing he is hitting in the first inning, as opposed to preparing to hit, then going out to field (often in the outfield), then jogging in and quickly preparing to hit again. I just think that batting third gives the batter a better rhythm/timing thing.

        I guess the point is moot though, because if one player benefits from this, another player suffers from it.

        I also like the idea of increasing your chances of scoring in the 1st inning, as it sort of sets the tone for the game. Anything you can do to lower the chances of the other team’s starter putting up a quick zero to start the game is something I like.

        • 8
          Jimbo says:

          This is the same as why I dislike the way closers never know which games they will pitch, and have all this uncertainty as to when or if they will come into a game.

        • 10
          no statistician but says:

          Question: other than the hypothetical “winning run,” which is the most important run of the game?

          Answer: The first run. It doesn’t just set a tone, it settles all shutouts and serves as a basis to keep the lead or shortens the gap when you fall behind. I don’t have any statistics to prove this, although I’ve seen them at various times. I think I’ve also seen stats that say the first score is more important in baseball than football.

          Can anyone substantiate or shoot down these assertions?

          • 13
            e pluribus munu says:

            Like, you, nsb, I’m ns but it seems logical that since a certain number of games end 1-0, any aggregate measure of this question would have to wind up with the answer you propose. (But if this reasoning is wrong, I’ll learn something about statistics when a statistician points out why.)

        • 11
          bstar says:

          RE: increasing your chances of scoring in the 1st inning

          Batting your best hitters in the 1-2-4 slots is all about the first inning. If you bat your best hitter third, you waste him too many times with two out and no one on in the first inning. Your run expectancy over the course of a season will be higher if you bat him 4th instead of 3rd.

          • 14
            Richard Chester says:

            Perhaps it makes sense to have the batter with the higher OBP hit third rather than fourth. Then when the two-out-no-one on situation arises there would be a lesser chance for both the number 3 and 4 hitters to bat with no one on.

          • 26
            Jim Bouldin says:

            Interesting question, that I’ll bet Bill James must have flogged to death.

            Seems to me that there’s some clear tradeoffs when it comes to the 3 vs 4 spot. While it’s true that sometimes neither of the first two guys will get on (an argument for batting fourth, to allow a chance for the 3rd hitter to get on), this is offset to an unknown degree by the fact that sometimes none of the first 3 will get on, which guarantees that he bats with the bases empty the next inning.

            The other argument against the 4 spot is that the further down in the batting order you bat, the fewer your PAs over the long haul, and those PAs are *always* the last one. That seems to me quite important.

            Overall, without crunching any numbers, (which bears an uncanny resemblance to work for me), I think the negatives outweigh the positives, and I would bat my slugger 3rd. Until I were fired that is.

          • 27
            Jim Bouldin says:

            that should be:
            “…and those PAs that are sacrificed are *always* the last one”

          • 28
            Richard Chester says:

            Just for the record in 2011 the number 3 batter had an average of 16.6 more PA than the number 4 hitter.

          • 29
            bstar says:

            That number seems about right where it should be. Batter #3 should get one more plate appearance than #4 once every nine games if you assume that games end at each batting position in an even distribution over time. But games are a little less likely to end at the 3 or 4 spot than 8 or 9 since your 3-4 hitters are better than 8-9 and less likely to end the game in their final at-bat.

            But if you do assume it’s evenly distributed, games should end at each position once every (162/9) = 18 games. So 16.6 for the #3 hitter makes sense to me. I would expect 7-8-9 to have higher numbers than 18.

          • 32
            Richard Chester says:

            That stat in my post 28 is for 2010.
            Here are the stats for the ML in 2011 for the various positions in the line-up (differences in PA over the course of a season):

            Between 1st and 2nd: 17.6
            Between 2nd and 3rd: 17.6
            Between 3rd and 4th: 16.4
            Between 4th and 5th: 17.3
            Between 5th and 6th: 17.6
            Between 6th and 7th: 18.3
            Between 7th and 8th: 19.9
            Between 8th and 9th: 18.6

            Between 1st and 9th: 17.9 (not 18 because there are extra innings which serve to increase that number and home team wins with no bottom of the ninth which serve to decrease that number).

          • 33
            Richard Chester says:

            In my post 32 that 17.9 figure between 1st and 9th is an overall average figure between adjacent positions in the line-up.

          • 34
            bstar says:

            Richard, thanks for the research. I am traveling back home tomorrow where my copy of The Book is and I will try and find some passages and numbers that detail why they came to the conclusion that 1-2-4 is where you want your best hitters in an optimal lineup.

          • 35
            Tristram12 says:

            Per The Book (and Bill James before it), the ideal type of batter for the 3-spot is a lower OBP, higher SLG type (think Kingman/Canseco). Since this batter comes up a significantly disproportionate number of times with 2 outs and no base runners, you really don’t want to waste a walk or a single in the situation. You want a batter who, if they do something, either hit a HR, or get themselves into scoring position. Two outs is not a good time to start a rally that needs 3 (or more) consecutive baserunners.

          • 36
            Tristram12 says:

            Looking at JAs favorite team, the ideal lineup for the Mets (just using their slash line for this year) would be; (1) Tejada (363/404) (2) Duda (353/442) (3) Hairston (307/542) (4) Wright (455/565) (5) Nieuwenhuis (339/424) (6) Murphy (316/343) (7) Thole (325/315) (8) Davis (275/375). This ignores speed, R/L/S, ego, history, etc. FWIW, the #8 spot is similar to #3 in that it also has a disproportionate amount of two out ABs, and therefore should utilize a low-OBP slugger (like Ike Davis).

          • 37
            Tristram12 says:

            As for the question about putting your second best hitter #2 or #5; While 16-18 ABs are not enough to overcome the number of two-out situations of the 3-slot (thereby justifying having your best hitter 4th instead of 3rd), the 50-55 ABs between #2 and #5 are significant enough that you want the better hitter #2 instead of #5.

          • 38
            Richard Chester says:

            I think that the statement in parentheses in my post 32 should be reversed or perhaps even ignored.

          • 44
            bstar says:

            Great stuff, Tristram, thanks!

          • 58
            Jim Bouldin says:

            Great topic, and clearly one lending itself to some combined simulation and real data analyses and general geekery and possibly even some mild name calling.
            bstar, I see your point now. If we take a hypothetical OBP of .333 for each of three hitters who potentially bat 1-2-3 in the order, assume no dependencies of those OBPs on the situation at hand, and all other things equal, then a power hitter:

            1. Put into the 3rd spot comes up with nobody on .444 of the time:
            1 – [p(one guy on) + p(2 guys on)] =
            1 – [2*(2/3*(1/3)^1) + (1/3)^2] = 0.444

            2. Put into the 4th spot does so only .296 of the time:
            1 – [p(one guy on) + p(2 guys on) + p(3 guys on)]
            1 – [3*(1/3*(2/3)^2) + 3*(2/3*(1/3)^2) + (1/3)^3)] = 0.296

            Furthermore, when batting fourth, the slugger hits with at least one guy guaranteed to be in scoring position, more often (.26 vs .11 of the time).

            So I think I was probably wrong and would have been fired quicker than Bobby Valentine will be.

          • 59
            Richard Chester says:

            Reply to #58:
            Jim: would you run those numbers again for these situations: Batters 1 and 2 have OBPs of .333. There are two sluggers being considered for the nos. 3 and 4 slots. One has an OBP of .333, as in step 1 of your post, and the other has an OBP of .400. Which slugger should hit 3rd?

          • 61
            Jim Bouldin says:

            Richard, I get the following:

            1. If the .333 obp slugger bats 3rd then the results are as before, that is, nobody gets on in the first inning .296 of the time.

            2 If the .400 obp slugger bats 3rd, then nobody gets on 0.267 of the time:

            a = 1/3 = obp of first two hitters
            b = 2/5 = obp of third hitter (slugger)

            then, p[at least one gets on] =
            p[one guy gets on]
            + p[two guys get on]
            + p[3 guys get on] =

            [2*(a*(1-a)*(1-b)) + (b*(1-a)^2)]
            + [2*(a*(1-a)*b) + ((1-b)*a^2)]
            + [(b*a^2)]
            = .733
            and 1 – .733 = .267

            Of course, this gain is offset by the fact that you now have a guy with a lower OBP trying to take advantage of this slight improvement.

          • 62
            Jim Bouldin says:

            I also forgot to mention in my 12:18 post, the offsetting fact I mentioned before. That is, although your slugger is coming up with the bases empty 15% less often if he bats 4th (.444 – .296 = .15), this only applies to the first AB of the game, so over the full season that’s 162 * .15 = about 24 ABs.

            So the gain of 24 ABs hitting with runners on in the first AB must be weighed against the loss of (162 * 1/9) = 18 total ABs over the full season, all of which are lost in the last inning of the game. This then gets to the question of whether you consider the first, versus last, AB to be more important.

          • 63
            Jim Bouldin says:

            Also, I’d have to disagree strongly with the idea from “The Book” of putting a poor OBP slugger in your #3 spot. I can’t see that at all. In fact, I’m pretty sure the opposite would be true: you want to bat your highest OBP guy right in front of your slugger at the #3 spot, because that guy is the one most likely to bat in the same inning as the slugger after the first time through the lineup.

          • 69
            e pluribus munu says:

            Given the scale of absolute numbers in play here, GIDP should probably be taken into account. If you’re putting Aaron or Yaz into the order at #3, it’s worthwhile thinking about how many times they’ll end a man-on-first one-out first inning before Mathews gets up or before . . . oh, I was going to say before Rice gets up . . .

  5. 15
    dannyc says:

    Most do not want to admit it but it was LaRussa who popularized
    moving the beat hitter from the 4 hole to third

    • 17
      AlbaNate says:

      Didn’t Babe Ruth bat third? 🙂

      • 18
        no statistician but says:

        Williams, Mathews, Musial, Mantle until 1960, Aaron after Mathews was gone, Schmidt quite frequently, Brett almost always—in the third spot.

      • 19
        birtelcom says:

        B-ref has splits for about 96% of the Babe’s career PAs. Of those, about 76% came while batting third and 23% batting fourth. By June of 1918 he’d become the everyday cleanup hitter for the Red Sox and stayed there in 1919. When he moved to the Yankees in 1920, New York also initially had him batting cleanup, with Wally Pipp batting third. By August, Ruth was moved to the third spot on an everyday basis and stayed there for the next few years. the Yankees had a terrible season in 1925 (among other problems, Ruth missed all of April and May with an illness). In 1926, with the 23-year-old Lou Gehrig a newly established star at first base, the Yankees went with Gehrig batting third and Ruth fourth most of the season. The last week of the season Ruth switched back to the third spot, which is where he hit throughout the World Series (4 homers, 11 BBs, an OPS of 1.448). Thereafter he hit mostly in the third spot the rest of his career, although he did bat fourth for stretches in the 1928 and 1929 seasons.

        • 22
          MikeD says:

          We know he batter third. The number on his back said so!

          Were the Yankees the only team that handed up numbers at first based on the batting order, or was that standard practice for most teams when they first introduced numbers?

          • 23
            Richard Chester says:

            I just made a check on BR. When the Indians first wore numbers in 1929, same year as the Yankees, the numbers for 6 starters matched their positions in the batting order. The exceptions were Earl Averill, #5, who batted 3rd, and Dick Porter, #3, who batted 5th. This is based on the opening day line-up.

          • 24
            MikeD says:

            Interesting, Richard, as it appears the Yankees and the Indians were the first MLB teams to permanently adopt uniform numbers, beginning in 1929. I would have guessed the Yankees would have been one of the last teams to adopt numbers.

            In a sport that has never embraced rapid change, I’m sure slapping numbers on the backs of players seemed a bit showy and even tacky. From what I can tell, the Cardinals attempted to put numbers on players a decade prior but were rapidly shamed into abandoning the idea. Seems odd now since numbers are such a part of the game where they are identified with the player, be it 42 and Jackie Robinson, 7 and Mantle, 3 and 4 for Ruth and Gehrig, 9 Ted Williams, 44 Hank Aaron, etc.

            Eventually one day some team will hand out triple-digit numbers. Maybe even the Yankees if they keep unnecessarily retiring the numbers of their very good and not just their greats. Some people seem slightly dismayed by players one day wearing triple digits, just some were unhappy with numbers period. It really doesn’t matter. As today, the number will be embraced warmly based on what the player does on the field.

          • 25
            birtelcom says:

            Averill did wear #3 most of his career. The Indians have retired #3 in his honor. He batted third for the Indians in every game Cleveland played in 1929, and for most of his career. 1929 was his first season in the majors — I wonder if he was issued the #5 before the season began when the team didn’t yet know where where he would be hitting, and then switched once it was realized where in the order he would be batting every day.

          • 50
            John Autin says:

            Spinning off from the discussion of when numbers were first put on players’ backs, I have a question for some historian about the old-time practice of leaving your glove on the field when your team came in to hit:

            How did that ever come to be the custom?

            The only, and I mean only, reason I can think of for leaving your glove on the field is if players on different sides are sharing gloves. That happened a lot in sandlot games when I was a kid, especially when one or more kids happened by the field without their gloves and were recruited to play. But we always handed gloves off to the other guys as we changed sides — we never just dropped the glove on the ground.

            I don’t know for a fact, but I can’t imagine that big-league players on opposite sides shared equipment at any point in the 20th century. So to think that the practice of leaving gloves on the field lasted, to some degree or other, well past WWII, is something I find both fascinating and bizarre.

          • 53
            Richard Chester says:

            Leaving gloves on the field was banned in 1954. Perhaps because by that time gloves had grown so large that they posed a hazard to fielders. The old-time gloves were so soft and small they could be stuffed into the back pockets of players.

          • 55
            Richard Chester says:

            Reply to post 24:

            According to the Charlton Chronology it was on this date in 1916 that the Indians wore numbers pinned to their sleeves making it the first time that payers were identified by numbers corresponding to those on the scoreboard. Obviously the idea did not catch on at the time.

          • 56
            MikeD says:

            @55, Richard, an impressive find. Happy 96th anniversary today to the first numbers appearing on a MLB uniform, June 26th, 1916.

            The Cardinals reference I made appears to have been 1923. Interesting in both cases the experiments were short-lived. Resistance appeared strong at the start.

          • 57
            Doug says:

            In reply to John Autin @50, one other reason for leaving your glove on the field is to avoid the embarrassment of taking the field for the next inning without a glove. Sort of like the custom of someone on the bench tossing a ball to the first baseman as he comes off the field after an inning – presumably so he won’t forget to bring a ball with him when taking the field for the next inning.

            Or, maybe it was just to give your offense a bit of an advantage, in that the opposing fielders might indeed trip over a glove and thus fail to make a play.

            Whatever the reason, I agree that it was a bizarre custom, and with its own rituals. Having watched some videos of it, it seemed an instinctive, automatic response to the last out being made, with the infielders, almost in unison, launching their gloves over their shoulders like frisbees and then rushing off the field before their gloves have even touched down somewhere in the outfield.

    • 67
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      As several others have pointed out downthread, the team’s best hitter has traditionally batted #3 going back 100+ years, at least to the early days of Cobb and Speaker. I recently read a history of the 1912 Red Sox where early in his career as a regular, Speaker threw a major fit because he had a bit of a slump and was removed from his customary #3 BOP slot.

      So batting #3 was kind of a “prestige thing” even back then.

      I don’t think the cleanup BOP was as clearly defined in early MLB history, since HRs were relatively scarce (except for the Babe and a few others) till the mid-20s. Any historians here with a better grasp on the role of #4 hitters?

  6. 30
    John Autin says:

    Apologies for the hijack, but nobody’s on chat and I have to get this off my chest.

    After the Yanks loaded the bases against Dickey for the second time this game, I checked — nobody had loaded the bases against Dickey all season.

    But now, the bubble has burst … 4-0 Yanks.

    • 31
      bstar says:

      JA, if you’re still lurking Evan and I are actually forming a conversation in chat. It’s 10:10 eastern.

  7. 39
    Tmckelv says:

    I was intrigued by the 1950’s on this list and why that decade was the only one against the trend. At first I wondered if it could be 1 player that hit a lot of home runs and batted 3rd (like aaron or mantle – williams and musial played too much in the 1940’s to have an effect, theoretically).

    So I checked the home run leaders for 1950 thru 1959, and I noticed something interesting (to me). The top 2 were Duke Snider and Gil Hodges. I thought I remembered that neither of them were the primary cleanup hitter for those great Brooklyn Dodgers 1950’s teams. So I checked out the batting order pages for the Dodgers for the 1950’s and it was true – the main Clean-up hitters were Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella…even Carl Furillo spent as much time in the 4-hole as Hodges. Snider was pretty much the 3rd hitter except for 1959. I wonder if something as simple as the way 1 particular team used their line-up for a decade could skew the numbers that much. Doubtful, but it was fun to research that part of it.

  8. 40
    birtelcom says:

    I think it was the ’60s that really went against the trend. But on your question of how much a single team’s tendencies can change the dial in this respect, your research on the Dodgers presents an interesting test case. The Dodgers in the 50’s, as you accurately observe, hit only 14.5% of their homers from the cleaanup spot, much lower than the 19.1% MLB average. If the Dodgers had instead relied on their cleanup spot at a more normal 19.1% rate, the league average (all other things being equal) would have been 19.5%, up some but not tremendously. Your post does remind us that we can’t take small tenths of a percent movement in this repsect all that seriously as evidence of meaningful trend. That’s a large part of the reason that I’ve used mostly 10-year, MLB-wide increments here — to minimize (though not eliiminate) the random fluctuations that arise from single team strategies in response to individual players.

  9. 41
    Jim Bouldin says:

    In thinking about this topic, I was surprised to discover that the minimum number of guaranteed PAs for the #8 and 9 hitting slots, over a full nine inning game is…

    I’ll bet it’s never happened though.

    • 42
      Richard Chester says:

      On 6-22-06 at Chicago the White Sox beat the Cardinals 1-0. Two Sox reached base, Jermaine Dye on an error and Jim Thome on a HR. There was no bottom of the ninth and SS Juan Uribe, the #9 hitter, had only 2 PA.

    • 43
      Richard Chester says:

      And on 7-25-1992 the Braves beat the Pirates at home 1-0 and #8 and #9 hitters Mark Lemke and Charlie Leibrandt had just 2 PA each. I should have bet you before I submitted these two posts.:-)

  10. 51
    John Autin says:

    Good post, by the way, birtelcom. An interesting topic. Have you thought of doing a similar look at, say, stolen bases?

  11. 52
    John Autin says:

    Also, I’m hoping there’s a way to collect this kind of data other than slogging through the MLB splits pages, one year at a time. Any tips?

    • 54
      birtelcom says:

      The easiest way to do batting order studies is if you can do them with the Event Finder. If you can grab 10 years of home runs, say, in one search, there in the results summary is one tidy little table that shows how many times the event occurred at each spot in the batting order. If the Event Finder won’t do for a particular search, the Game Finder will often work for batting order studies. But then you have to do one batting order position at a time.

  12. 64
    Jim Bouldin says:

    My optimal lineup when I get the managerial offer I know is coming, perhaps from the Red Sox:

    1 Base stealer, generally smart and aggressive baserunner and just flat out fast. Above average OBP.
    2 Good bat handler. Excellent bunter, hits to all fields, moves runners over. High OBP and pretty good speed.
    3 Best hitter on team, and with highest OBP. Great eye, draws walks; good hitter to all fields, switch hitter if possible.
    4 Your best power hitter, conditional on not striking out excessively (for a power hitter, i.e. no Adam Dunns)
    5 A poor man’s version of your #3 hitter, lower OBP in particular and maybe lacking any foot speed.
    6 Power hitter that strikes out a lot. Welcome Adam Dunn.
    7 Not sure, lots of possibilities here.
    8 Defensive specialist; catcher, shortstop or center fielder typically
    9 Another defensive player, but with good speed, possibly a young center fielder. Doesn’t hinder the leadoff hitter on the basepaths if both get on. Anything else is a bonus.

    • 65
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      I’d rather have the best four hitters on the team bat 1 to 4, and slot them as best I can to lead-off, clean-up etc…

      As Richard Chester breaks down in #32/#33 above, the average decrease in PA/year going down the batting order is about 18 PA, so I’d rather not give put my 6th/7th best hitter in the #2 slot and give him a bunch more PAs just because he’s a good bunter and can run well. Some power isn’t a bad thing in the #2 BOP (see Robin Yount, 1982).

      I do agree that speed in the #9 hitter is desirable.

      • 66
        Jim Bouldin says:

        My #1 and #2 guys are designed to harass the pitcher basically, the #1 on the basepaths, and the #2 at the plate, by fouling off lots of pitches, obstructing the catcher’s view during an SB attempt, successfully hitting and running, and then creating some of his own havoc on the basepaths when he gets on. But I don’t mind a little power either and would take a Robin Yount any day that’s for darn sure. Though I might bat him 3rd, not 2nd.

        And actually, that’s not really my ideal lineup, because I wouldn’t have an Adam Dunn type on any team I built, even in the AL.

      • 68
        Phil Gaskill says:

        > Some power isn’t a bad thing in the #2 BOP (see Robin Yount, 1982).

        Or see Curtis Granderson right now.

        • 70
          John Autin says:

          I’m just guessing, but this might be the best season ever by a full-time #2 guy:

          168 OPS+, .306 BA, 46 HRs, 114 RBI.

          • 71
            e pluribus munu says:

            But a lot of Mathews punch came when leading off an inning: 116 PAs: .400/.457/.743 (10 HRs, but somehow only 10 RBIs . . . oh, right) – his truer #2 stats would be .289/36HR/104 in 552 PA.

            In ’59 Haney batted Mathews/Aaron/Adcock in #2-4 (presumably because he lost Schoendienst suddenly at the start of the season). The previous two years, Haney generally batted Mathews and Aaron #3/#4 and won pennants (although in ’57 he had Aaron in #2 one-third of the season, and Aaron’s record was super there, 1.000+ OPS). In ’59, Haney wound up losing the pennant with his best sluggers #2-3, but the Braves’ run scoring was much stronger than the conventional line-up in ’58 (and also stronger in ’57 than in ’58, with Aaron often #2), so it’s hard to argue with the strategy.

            Meanwhile, the Dodgers won in ’59, scoring 20 fewer runs and allowing about 50 more – they were, however, 8% grittier and had 13% more intangibles.

          • 72
            birtelcom says:

            Mathews 1959 is probably right, JA, but Ryne Sandberg in 1984 or 1990 is competitive.

          • 73
            bstar says:

            birtelcom, you mentioned the other day using the Event Finder to find batting order stats. Is this what you used to find Sandberg also? For the uninitiated, could you go into a little more detail about exactly how one would search for #2 batting order stats?

          • 74
            Jim Bouldin says:

            “they were, however, 8% grittier and had 13% more intangibles.”


          • 75
            birtelcom says:

            Actually, even stronger a rival choice to Mathews 1959 as the best #2 slot performance ever may be A-Rod at age 20 (9.3 WAR) and 22 (8.3 WAR).

            To find A-Rod, Sandberg and other standout #2-spot performances, I used the Game Finder. In the Game Finder, at the top I hit the button for Find Players With Most Matching Games in a Season. Then at the bottom right, in Select Additional Criteria Games Must Match, I selected Home Runs and greater than or equal to 1. And then in the bottom center there is a place to select Batting Order Position, where I selected 2nd. Now you just need to click Get Report and you get a list of the seasons in which guys had the most games in which they had a home run while batting second. This will give you some very good candidates for strongest season in the #2 slot. I also repeated the same thing except instead of Home Runs greater than or equal to 1 I used Extra-Base Hits greater than or equal to 1, and then I ran it with Hits greater than or equal to 1.

            Now this is not a perfect system for identifying best overall seasons, because the stat results you get are limited to those exact games in which, for example, the hitter hit home runs from the number #2 slot. You are not seeing anybody’s overall season stats this way. Once you find some good nominees this way, you still have to go look at their actual full season numbers on their individual player pages. But you are likely to get some top potential candidates for JA’s “best season as a full-time #2 batter” this way.

          • 76
            no statistician but says:

            Red Rolfe’s 1939 season is also outstanding: 139 R, 213 H, 46 2B—all leading the league, with .329 BA, .404 OBP, .495 SLG. Rolfe wasn’t a power hitter, so he didn’t get the HR boost to his slugging.

          • 77
            Ed says:

            Here’s an old post by Raphy showing most games from the #2 spot. Not sure how he did the search.


          • 78
            Richard Chester says:

            Reply to post 77:

            My search shows Eddie Yost with 1728 games from the lead off spot which does not show up on Raphy’s list.

          • 79
            Richard Chester says:

            Reply to post 77: Here’s a current list of most games for a #2 batter.

            1 Nellie Fox 1711 Ind. Games

            2 Omar Vizquel 1569 Ind. Games

            3 Ozzie Smith 1529 Ind. Games

            4 Jay Bell 1319 Ind. Games

            5 Derek Jeter 1304 Ind. Games

          • 80
            bstar says:

            @75 bitelcom, thanks for the details of that. I am going to bookmark this page to refer to some of those tricks you suggested. Thanks.

          • 81
            bstar says:

            make that “birtelcom” above

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