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Formulating a major league baseball lineup is 'not rocket science,' but there is an art to it

Managers such as Angels' Mike Scioscia and Dodgers' Don Mattingly have different approaches, and each of the two leagues dictates different priorities, but the goal is the same: maximizing productivity.

May 23, 2011|By Gary Klein

Lasorda, who guided the Dodgers to World Series victories in 1981 and 1988, cautioned against describing the No. 6 hitter as simply a bridge to the bottom of the lineup.

"You call him the second cleanup hitter," he said.

Bottoms up

The last third of the order is not necessarily where managers hide their lineup's weaknesses. But the No. 7 batter is more and more often someone like Crawford, who was struggling to regain his All-Star form in April and batted eighth Sunday against the Chicago Cubs.

The difference between the National and American leagues is most apparent in the Nos. 8 and 9 spots.

St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa has experimented by occasionally batting the pitcher eighth. But most National League managers still hit the pitcher last, making the No. 8 spot a place for experienced, unselfish hitters willing to do whatever it takes to get on base and prevent the pitcher from leading off an inning.

Bochy said Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz excelled at the role.

"He has a good understanding of how he's going to get pitched but has discipline and patience," Bochy said. "Some hitters don't like it, because in their mind they're not going to get pitched to, they're going to get pitched around and they're not going to get anything to hit."

The No. 9 spot in the National League, of course, is often the trigger for pitching changes, double switches and other strategic moves. In the American League, the Nos. 8 and 9 batters can be table-setters, leadoff types who provide run-producing opportunities for the top of the lineup.

Other factors also enter into managers' thinking, including recent and past performance, injuries and matchups. Spreading left-handers throughout the lineup, for example, can reduce an opposing manager's ability to make matchup-specific pitching moves.

Scioscia said he begins thinking about the lineup almost as soon as the previous night's game ends. The walk from the dugout to the clubhouse is prime time for formulating the start of a plan.

"It's just a lot of some common sense that goes into it," Scioscia said. "Knowing your offensive personnel and understanding what they can do."

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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