Japanese baseball has generally moved on from the 1970s’ and 1980s’ notion that a team’s worst hitter, if he’s a speedy middle infielder or center fielder and can bunt, is most valuable making outs – intentional or otherwise – in the No. 2 spot.
If one actually studies lineup construction, one should come away with two conclusions:
- The difference between the absolute best batting order and the absolute worst is minimal in terms of the runs it will gain a team over the course of a season, because every spot bats.
- The best order is one in which a team’s most productive hitters are packed together without easy outs diluting their impact. The worst order would be where none of the best hitters follow each other, with poorer offensive players sandwiched between them. This would be worse than batting your top-four hitters sixth to ninth.
Once a manager figures that out, then the next step is how to arrange the best hitters to give them the most plate appearances.
For decades, Japanese baseball people believed the value of using an out to advance the best on-base non-power hitter in the leadoff spot into scoring position ahead of the middle of the order outweighed having an offensive zero bat second.
Most Japanese managers still sacrifice in the early innings after the leadoff man reaches base, but few still give the No. 2 spot in the order to an offensive zeroe. One manager, however, has not gotten that memo, and Chunichi Dragons fans know who I’m talking about.Continue reading Not getting the memo