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Maths improves baseball batting line-up

Maths improves baseball batting line-up

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Maths improves baseball batting line-up

Baseball teams would play better if coaches did away with the traditional batting line-up, suggest mathematicians. They say that putting the best batter second, rather than the customary fourth, can substantially improve team performance. Surprisingly, the weakest hitter should not bat last.

Baseball managers have known for years that not all batting orders are created equal. If there are already players on base, a strong hitter has a better chance of getting them back to home base to score several runs – “a clean-up” in baseball parlance. For that reason, managers tend to put the strongest players together in the line-up.

But it is a subtler decision whether the two best hitters should bat second and third, or third and fourth, for instance. In all there are more than 360,000 possible ways to line up the nine players.

To find the best line-up, mathematician Bruce Bukiet of the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark took data from the 1989 US baseball season and used it to calculate the likely number of runs each potential line-up would earn.

Optimal line-up
The difference between a team’s best and worst batting order could change the outcome of as many as 10 games in a season, he found. For the majority of National League teams that season, the optimal line-up would have been to use the best batter in the second spot.

“Managers traditionally put the team slugger in the fourth spot, on the rationale that several players might get on base before he comes to bat, and he can clean up,” he says.

But it is more important to get the top hitter batting earlier, so he may get more chances to bat over the course of a game, Bukiet reported last week at the annual meeting of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The study also found that the worst batter, usually the pitcher, should bat seventh or eighth, not last, where he is almost always placed. “The pitcher should be far away from the slugger in the line-up,” says Bukiet. That lessens the chance that he will be the clean-up hitter responsible for getting the strongest batter back to home base.

Re: Maths improves baseball batting lin

Interesting. Wonder why he only used 1989 as a test case. I would be curious to see some other years before jumping on this bandwagon.
I am still partial to best all around hitter batting 3rd. Best on base/speed guy 1st, and best power hitter 4th.

Re: Re: Maths improves baseball batting

when the Cardinals had that great lineup in the 2000s, Tony LaRussa would put a strong guy like Jim Edmonds at 2 so he could have extra power up top. he also started hitting the pitcher 8th, and got a lot of hate for that. he said he wanted another batter to have a chance to be on base for Pujols who always hit 3rd. the lead off batter is only really the lead off one time for sure anyway.

he just wanted to get the most opportunities for the big bats like Edmonds, Pujols, Rolen etc.

i had a coach who said that was garbage because over the year, the pitcher spot would be getting significantly more at bats than the last position player, which means more outs added or something.

idk. i always want the very best at top and dont really care about the bottom lol

Re: Maths improves baseball batting

The difference in plate appearances between the 8 and 9 hole is around 20. I play in a lot of SOM leagues and the stat compiler has what is called a "Team Detail" that has the batting totals for each position in the lineup. One of my teams had 742 AB/BB for the leadoff man , the 8th hitter had 621 and the 9th 600. So you wouldn't want to lead off the pitcher, but batting him 8th is rather insignificant.

- The Sheik

Re: Re: Maths improves baseball batting

If you're bottom hitter is a fast on base guy, sure it makes sense to have him 9th in front of top of order. But if he can hit a bit, I dont see why anyone would want the pitcher up to drive in the 5-6-7 guys on base rather than the actual hitter. For the most part I think pitcher should be 9th, bunt guys into scoring position for top of order to single them in.

Re: Maths improves baseball batting

In 2015, Josh Donaldson won the mvp hitting in the 2nd spot all year. He benifited from Bautista and Encarnacion hitting right behind him, getting is share of pitchers challenging him a lot more than if he would of been hitting 5th, since the big guns were behind him instead.

Re: Re: Maths improves baseball batting

this spring Paul Goldschmidt has been hitting second a lot recently. but, DeJong and Osuna are not exactly tearing things up behind him, still it will be nice to get him up more often even if it is only 20-30 more times a year.

i would rather have 20 more Goldy at bats then watching the others ugh