Everyone can rattle off the criteria needed to build a good baseball line-up, but what about single sex slow-pitch softball line-ups? What you are looking for in a softball line-up is a lot different than in a baseball line-up.
In a traditional baseball line-up, your leadoff hitter is a guy with speed, who takes pitches and can get on base regularly and shake the pitcher up. Generally you have a contact guy batting second, trying to get the leadoff hitter into scoring position… and then the meat of your order. You try and have the guys with the lowest batting averages down in the lineup, so they hit the least number of times per games.
It is pretty straight forward and, besides Tony LaRussa in St Louis, all major league managers stick to the same basic guidelines.
But slow-pitch softball is different and this article will help you create a line-up that will give you the best chance to win, so that when you check your league schedules on your online league management website, your team will be hovering near the top.
The first thing to understand is that, unlike baseball, in single sex (not coed) slow-pitch softball everyone generally has a puncher’s chance of getting a hit. Even the worst guy on your team should be apt enough to have his/her bat meet the ball. Even if it is a slow roller up the line, every once and again they should be able to get a hit. (In traditional fast pitch baseball, these guys would be strikeout victims every time).
You should also have guys on your team that seemingly get a hit every at-bat. These guys can smoke the ball up the middle with ease and grace and their skills should be utilized to the fullest. And if your team is even moderately good, you should have a couple guys you will be able to rely on in key situations.
So, what you should do first is jot down the names of all your players, in no particular order. Next what you should do is put an asterisk next to each guy who is like the first described, the puncher. Next underline the guys who fit the second bill, namely, those who routinely get on base. Last you will want to circle guys who have the power to hit the ball over the fence, or if your league does not allow homeruns, then circle the guys who can usually find a gap and can hit inside the park HRs. Not everyone on your team needs to have a marking.
If you end up with an equal number of each you are fine, if you have more of one than the other, still fine. (However, if you have more than five with asterisks you may want to find another team to play on.)
The next thing you will want to do is break all the like-marked players up. In traditional fast pitch baseball you want your two worst hitters at the bottom of the order, but not so in slow-pitch softball. This is not to say you should bat your less skilled players lead-off or in the cleanup spot, but they shouldn’t always bat back to back. In softball it is all about getting guys on base and scoring runs. Back to back lousy hitters will ruin any inning.
Now that you have separated all your players out, you can start making your lineup.
The assumption, for the sake of this article, will be that you are batting 10 and you have 2 with asterisks, 3 with HR power, 3 that consistently get hits and 2 that didn’t have any designation. If your numbers vary any, adjust this accordingly. Also, it really does not matter which players you select, and in fact you can vary it up game by game, it only matters that they fall into the category you assigned them.
The first thing you will want to do is spread out your power hitters. Unlike baseball, it is actually detrimental to bat them consecutively. Take your 3 with power and put them into the 3, 5 and 7 holes. This will break up the power and give you a shot at hitting one over the fence at virtually any part of your game. This will also keep them close enough that if one doesn’t hit it over the fence on cue, that right around the corner you will have another guy with power.
Second, take your two worst hitters, those with asterisks, and put them in the 8th and 10th spots. This puts them far enough down that they won’t get as many at-bats as the top of the order, but not having them back to back will stop any rally killers.
Next take an underlined name and put it at the top of the order, and, why not, make it the fastest guy on your squad. They may end up at second off an infield grounder, which will help you later.
You should have 2 consistent hitters and 2 without designation left.
Put one of the consistent hitters in the vacant 9 spot. This way, you shouldn’t go 1-2-3 when the bottom of your line-up is due to lead off an inning.
You should have the 2, 4 and 6 holes left. As a confidence booster, you may want to put one of the non-designated guys in the 4 spot, just make it clear that they are not there to smack HRs, as clean-up hitters of the past were assigned to do. The boost in confidence may take their game to that next level and get them a base hit they may not have otherwise gotten.
The 2 spot should go to your last underlined guy and the 6 hole can be filled with your last non-designated player.
Your lineup should now look something like this:
1- Consistent Hitter
2- Consistent Hitter
3- Power Hitter
4- Average Hitter
5- Power Hitter
6- Average Hitter
7- Power Hitter
8- Lower Ability Hitter
9- Consistent Hitter
10- Lower Ability Hitter
Looking over this the weakest part of the lineup may be your 3-6 hitters, if your power guys are not also good hitters. If that is the case, take your biggest power guy, the one who either hits it a mile or not at all, and make him the 7 hitter.
Besides that one adjustment, this should result in a winning line-up, and you should see your team atop your league standings next time you check out your online league management system.