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Alternatives to a Typical Batting Order

Not all batting orders are created equal. Depending on the goals a league has set out for itself, some youth baseball and softball coaches are choosing to bypass the traditional methods of setting a lineup in the pursuit of more equal opportunities for players.
Simply letting every player bat in order throughout the game, rather than using a nine-player lineup with substitutions, makes sure players wind up as equal as possible in plate appearances. Removing the restrictions of managing a batting order also makes it easier for coaches to even out playing time defensively.

The Archbald Little League in northeastern Pennsylvania uses a rule in which every player bats at its minor league (9-10-year-old) level. The league also gives a choice to its major league (11-12-year-old) coaches to use it, if they choose.

Chris Kucharski, who has five years of youth baseball coaching experience in Archbald, checks with each opponent to find those interested in playing by the alternative rules while coaching his major league team.             

“I ask everybody how many they want to bat,” Kucharski said. “I usually match what they want to do.”

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Kucharski brings up the idea for each game because he likes the concepts it promotes. He said the more successful teams, and those more serious about competition, tend to want to stick with the traditional nine-player batting order.         

After previously coaching under the everyone-bats-equally rules on the 9-10 level, Kucharski appreciates the games when he can still use the rules for 11-12-year-olds.   

“The one problem with coaching the older kids (under traditional rules) is that whoever one kid bats for, they can’t both be on the field at the same time,” he said. “If you have 11 kids, you have four that are playing half the game and seven who play the full game.”        

Batting everyone and using the rules that then free up defensive substitutions mean coaches can distribute playing time to almost completely equal amounts if they choose. It also makes it easier to move players to different positions, without them being tied to another player in the lineup.                

“You can substitute in and out and switch positions every inning if you want,” Kucharski said.            

Steve Skammer, president of the Back Mountain Little League in Dallas, Pennsylvania, said the rules that have one running batting order are “quite common in the minors” and that he knows some leagues that have gone that route for their major leagues as well.         

“It allows all the players to get at-bats and make it easier to coach,” Skammer said. “We also make sure that the same players do not bat last all the time.”       

In theory, a coach could pick up the running batting order where he left off from one game to the next to ensure he carries the equal at-bats concept to the greatest extent possible.        

Skammer said free substitution in the field is also part of that formula.    

“As long as you meet Little League minimums of one at-bat and six outs in the field, you can do whatever you want, as long as you are consistent,” he said.           

Leagues establishing the policies they want followed at various age levels can guide their coaches toward the points they want emphasized throughout a season.

From GameChanger and Tom Robinson.

Baseball, Baseball Player Development