FanPost

FC Lane on the Batting Order

The post below is the few pages from FC Lane's book called "Batting" that dealt with the batting order. Whether or not it matches up with some of the recent analysis on lineups I will leave up to readers. One expert mentioned that it was a good idea to bat Cy Williams 2nd. FC Lane was a great baseball writer and editor of Baseball Magazine in the early part of the 20th century. It comes to you through the miracle of scanning (well, it was a miracle that I figured out how to use the scanner-actually my wife who is a computer programmer showed me how-the miracle is that she stays married to me)

How the Batting Order "Colors" Batting

JOHN McGRAW once said, "Every ball team is capable of being arranged in a way to produce the maximum batting punch. You need a fast man who is a good waiter for lead off, another fast man good at the bunt and the hit and run in second place, then a massing of your heavy artillery in the next three or four positions so as to deliver the hardest blow with the least possible slowing down in speed. A slow footed runner, for example, will often cripple an attack. He must hit uncommonly well to be placed high on the list. Naturally your pitchers come last, for even if they are good hitters, they change too frequently for a settled batting order."

Jack Coombs said, "Every manager models his batting order on a scientific basis. He has so many batters at his disposal. He wishes to align those men so that their combined efforts will appear to the best advantage. How can he do this? Few managers agree on the precise details, but all agree on certain essential points. For example, number one should be a good hitter, but above all a good waiter. If he is short of stature so much the better for he will be harder to pitch to. All managers agree that the second man on the list must be a foxy hitter and fast on his feet. They agree also that third, fourth and fifth positions should be filled by good hitters who are preferably sluggers. I believe the three most important positions on the line-up are first, fourth and seventh place. First is obviously important. He is the entering wedge of your attack. Fourth is the logical clean-up man, the fellow who drives home that entering wedge. Seventh is a kind of clean-up man, but I cannot afford to put too good a hitter there. If I do, the opposing pitcher will pass him to take a chance at the tail of the batting order. Rather I must station a hitter at seventh who is not easily excited but is cool and always likely to come through with a hit."

Miller Huggins said, "An attack which is distributed through six or seven men rather than centered in one or two is much more effective. The team with a bunch of good hitters is usually consistent in its stick work. It is the steadiness of the pace which counts. On some clubs the batting punch is supplied by a renowned hitter like Hans Wagner or Nap Lajoie. On other clubs there is no such individual star but a better balanced attack of several men who are all good hitters. I prefer such a batting attack for your one or two stars may have an off day. The average work of six or seven men doesn't vary so widely. Besides, it is difficult for the pitcher to side step such an attack. In a pinch he can pass one or two men, but he can't pass half a dozen in succession. Furthermore, the strain of pitching to a number of men who are always dangerous is cumulative. The pitcher gets no breathing space as he would when he had retired one or two formidable stars and then faced mediocre batters."

Not all experts agree on the relative importance of the various positions on the line-up. Most of them would rate the lead-off man as important, and the clean-up sluggers as even more so. Hugh Jennings, however, thought differently. He said, "The neck moves the head and what the lead-off man accomplishes depends pretty much on the follow-up assistance he gets from the second man in the line-up. I believe it is a bigger job to locate a man who can play second properly than it is to find a good lead-off man. The talents which the lead-off man must possess are well understood and everybody realizes that the clean-up man must be a slugger. But the second place man hasn't been studied so thoroughly. This batter must be a good bunter. Good bunters ought to be common, but they are really less numerous than good hitters. The second place man must have a good batting eye and be a good waiter. Above all, he must use his head. In general he should hit to right field for his main object is to advance the lead-off man who has presumably reached first either through hit, pass or error. By driving the ball to right field he can send the runner to third base. I f he hit to left field, that runner would be held at second. Above all the second place man must have the peculiar knack of knowing whether the second baseman or short stop is going to cover the bag. Then he must be able to hit in a manner to break up their defensive play. This is very important. In fact I consider it the prime qualification for the man playing second position on the line-up. Moreover, the second place hitter should be fast. Then he won't get snarled up in
a double play. There are times when he will retire the base runner in spite of himself. Then his thoughts are bent on saving his own scalp. That's largely a matter of speed in getting to first base."

Arthur Fletcher once played Cy Williams, his heaviest slugger, in second place. He said, "Cy isn't much of a bunter, I will admit. But he has some qualifications that you can't overlook. First of all, he's a right field hitter. That's what you want, a man to advance the runner. Then Cy seldom strikes out. You can generally depend upon him to hit the ball and hit it hard. Thus he advances the runner even though he is thrown out himself. And that's as good as a sacrifice. Besides, Cy is always likely to come through with a hit which may be a homer. Placing him high in the batting order you get more of his work. He'll go to bat five times in many a game where he would appear but four times if he batted farther down the list."

Even the despised tail of the batting list may be a source of strength. Wilbur Cooper said, "I am convinced that a pitcher adds much to his effectivness by his own good hitting. I believe that my batting and fielding have won seven or eight games a season for me that would otherwise have been lost."

Bill McKechnie said, "In all my experience I have known just one batter who liked to play the lead-off position." Bill thought this an inexcusable attitude, but it's not difficult to fathom. Batters don't like the lead-off position because it interferes with their hitting. It cuts their batting average many points. For example, John Tobin said, "The man who bats number one on the list and hits for .280 is doing well. He must forget his own hase hits in an effort to get on and of course his average suffers. How much it suffers I couldn't say, but I believe it will drop twenty to thirty points. Of course, some one has to play that position, but I think the records ought to make some provision for lead-off man and not rate his batting on the same basis as that of the slugger who comes fourth or fifth on the list."

Max Carey said, "In fairness to myself, I shall claim special consideration for my batting. I would have done much better had I not been lead-off man for several seasons. It is well known that lead-off man can not expect to have as high an average as he could get lower down the list. There are two reasons for this. In the first place he often has to wait out the pitcher and try to work him for a pass. In the second place, the pitcher, when he faces the lead-off man, usually has no one on bases to bother him. He is able to take lis full wind up and concentrate on the batter."

Batting languishes at the tail of the list. The catcher is out of the game frequently while the pitcher appears only once in three or four days. As Babe Ruth says, "No man can get in the games twice a week and do himself justice at bat as he would do were he getting daily practice."

Some managers shift their batting lists infrequently, even though one or two positions are open to criticism. They prefer to suffer this disadvantage rather than the greater disadvantage of a general disorganization. Not a few managers, however, particularly on losing clubs, shake up their batting lists rather often in the effort to hit upon a better working combination. When they do, the batting of the various players on the list is apt to fluctuate widely, for there is a definite connection between a batting average and the particular position in the batting order which a player is called upon to fill. In general lead-off man is handicapped by orders to wait out the pitcher, second position is handicapped by orders to sacrifice. The tail of the batting order is handicapped by a variety of adverse conditions among which infrequency of batting practice ranks rather high. Only at the clean-up positions does batting flourish at its best, for those players are usually called upon to "hit it out." There is also a noticeable psychology in a batter's position on the list. Let the man, for example, who has hit seventh, be raised to fourth or fifth place and his new responsibilities often act as a tonic on his batting average.

To sum up, a batter's work is colored to a considerable degree by the particular position he is called upon to fill in the batting order.