Writing down a batting order and feeling comfortable tacking it to the dugout wall can take as much or little time as a coach wants to invest. One way to streamline the process and save time for other game-day duties is to keep updated statistics throughout the season.
From the first inning of the first game, maintain a running log of stats. As the sample size grows, those fractions and decimals can help identify hitters who show the most proficiency in such key areas as getting on base, making contact, or driving in runs — or the number might just confirm what coaches already know.
Ultimately, maintaining and organizing stats can make it easier for coaches to optimize their batting order and make decisions quickly in substitution situations.
Of course, batting averages, on-base percentages, and strikeout ratios can help a coach build a lineup, but the more detailed the stats, the more a coach can learn about each hitter’s tendencies.
For example, a coach might take the total number of batted balls that result in a hit, out, or error, and divide that number by the total number of plate appearances to form a contact percentage. In that case, the player with the highest contact percentage might serve as a good No. 2 hitter, especially behind a speedy leadoff batter with a high on-base percentage.
More experienced coaches learn to be even more detailed with their statistics, noting two-out RBI hits, productive outs that advance runners, or even strikeouts that came at the end of a long at-bat and inched up a pitcher’s count.
Eric Lutz prefers to take his statistics one step further, noting such details as where the ball was hit and how hard. In his opinion, a steaming line drive out to the shortstop counts the same as an end-the-bat bloop single.
“Ugly contact, that’s one category,” Lutz said in all seriousness.
Lutz, who coaches a 10U travel ball team in Kensington, Maryland, also makes sure to score hits and errors appropriately for the age and level of play. He still chuckles that Alcides Escobar of the Kansas City Royals was awarded an inside-the-park home run in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series.
Escobar hit the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning to left-center, where New York Mets center fielder Yoenis Cespedes and left fielder Michael Conforto converged. Conforto appeared to give way, but Cespedes became hesitant at the last second and the ball hit his ankle before rolling alongside the wall as Escobar circled the bases.
“I look at that as a four-base error,” Lutz said. “I don’t care how you want to divide that up. Maybe two bases of it is a mental error, two bases of it is a physical error. I don’t classify that as a home run.”
Detailed game logs can also come in handy when facing a team again, especially if the opposing pitcher is noted. Many players, even as young as 7 or 8, hit better off some pitchers than others. Looking back on past games can help identify that trend, and maybe earn a player another spot or two up the batting order the next time around.
Lutz has built his own spreadsheets to keep his statistics, but he uses GameChanger for much of the data. When it’s game time, he simply prints off the stats and brings them to the field, leaving plenty of time to fill out the batting order.
“It ultimately makes the decision for me,” Lutz said.
From GameChanger and Dan Arritt, a freelance writer from Southern California. As the father of three sons, Arritt has spent countless hours working with his boys on the diamond and recently completed a 10-year run as a manager in Orange Little League.