Importance of Batting Order Position in Fantasy Baseball

by Mark Strausberg
Importance of Batting Order Position

What is the importance of batting order position in Fantasy Baseball?

The answer is a lot, but not as much as you may think.

Just pulling some quick data from last year you can see some definite trends. I'll go through some key stats and what it means for fantasy.

What you should know is that I filtered out some of the extremely small sample sizes. So if say a player typically batted in the heart of the order but for two games and seven at-bats he batted at the back of the lineup, the latter was excluded. Assume for any of the data below, a player had to have at least 30 plate appearances in that batting lineup for his spots to be considered.

With that out of the way, let's look at the data.

Importance of Batting Order Position

I tried to simplify things a little, so here is the data for every other batting slot in the lineup.


All of the above are averages for each of the stats for those hitters who qualify with enough at-bats at each of those lineup positions.

I know that for many of you, not all the stat categories in your leagues are represented. I should have included SLG% and OBP% for example. But I didn't. My apologies. So we'll just have to go with some of the usual standards like Hits, HRs, RBIs, SBs, and AVG, plus a few other stats you can see above that are pretty standard.

Let's break it down a little bit, starting with the lack of surprises.


Yes, that's sarcasm. But it's worth noting where the data confirms universally held beliefs.

First off, it is of little surprise that as you go from the top of the lineup to the bottom of the lineup most of the cumulative stats get progressively less. Makes plenty of sense as we know that most of your "everyday hitters" typically hit out of the first six or seven holes, while your pitchers and part-time players typically hit out of the last two or three slots in the lineup.

Secondly, looking at the data above, we can clearly see that those batters who batted out of the third slot typically had the best stats, most notably the triple crown spots of  RBIs, HRs, and Average.

Next, the leadoff hitter, not surprisingly, excels in the "speed" categories of Runs and Stolen Bases.


Yep, I got Gomer Pyle in my head.

But there were some surprises.

First off, I was surprised to see that the batting average for leadoff hitters was better than the fifth batting slot by an extremely negligible amount. And even compared to the often weaker hitters in the seventh hole, the average of leadoff hitters was only just four points higher. Over the course of 500 ABs, that's not a lot.

I was also surprised to see how similar the stats were for those hitting out of the ninth hole versus those hitting out of the seventh hole. Also surprising was that despite often being close, there were a number of stats where the ninth slot outproduced the seventh slot, including more runs and 50% more stolen bases!

Also surprising, at least to me, was how much more likely it was for the first batter to be hit by a pitch than the other slots. For those who do use OBP in their leagues, you already know that leadoff hitters are key for OBP. But I was surprised to see that some of that was the preponderance of getting plunked!


Quick note. Anthony Volpe will not bat ninth in the lineup for very long.

So a few things worth mentioning when it comes to batting order position.

Let's start at the bottom. You don't want to see one of your fantasy hitters getting pushed from the top five spots into the bottom three spots. However, batting ninth is not quite the "death knoll" it once was.

Don't assume just because a player is hitting out of the leadoff, that he's there for this speed or his ability to get on base. Players batting leadoff are not much likelier to get a hit than those far deeper in the order.

Furthermore, they are just likely to be there for their ability to hit a round-tripper. However, if you are looking for triples for example in a non-standard league, I'd look at leadoff hitters first.

You are still better off having a hitter at the top of or in the meat of the lineup than you are at the back of the order. But if you have a hitter that seems to bounce all over the lineup, there is no need for concern.

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