It’s game day. You’ve made it to the best part of the week - the day when you get to relive your glory days with your buddies out on the field while simultaneously trying not to throw out your back bending over to pick up a bat. You’ve filtered out teammates who can’t make it due to traveling, work, or a pulled hammy and you’ve confirmed the opposition has enough players to get a game in. Now, you must begin the task of creating your lineup.
If you’re on a highly competitive team playing in a top-tier league or tournament, each player probably already has an idea of where they like to hit, and the various personalities will more than likely make the lineup a no-brainer for you. If you’re out there to have fun while still trying to win a game or two, a well thought out lineup can make a big difference.
To be honest, most semi-competitive leadoff hitters happen to be the guy with a slow pitch softball bat trying to “loosen up” who gets told to “go ahead and lead us off,” and the rest of the lineup is based on who is standing nearest to the bat rack. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t factors to consider that can help make your team successful. If you’re playing on a big field or are not limited by the number of home runs you can hit, writing a lineup is fairly straightforward - put your best hitters and athletes at the top to give them the most opportunities to mash. Most leagues and tournaments limit your home runs in some way though, so you’ll want to set up your lineup strategically to maximize your team’s “talents.”
If you’d like to try and create an advantageous and opportunistic lineup, here’s how we’d do it:
The leadoff hitter in slow pitch is very similar to a leadoff baseball or fastpitch hitter. You want your best bat handler with above average speed in this spot. This is someone who can hit it pretty much wherever he or she wants and won’t lead the game off by “wasting” a homerun on a solo shot.
We’d suggest another good bat handler here but definitely not one of the power guys. Ideally, a righty who can hit it hard on a line or on the ground the opposite way or a lefty pull hitter who will hit it hard, but keep it in the park. A lot of casual or somewhat competitive teams will try to hide players on the right side. Hopefully your leadoff hitter is on first or second, so a well-placed ball to the right side can score that run, or at the very least, move the runner up.
The 3 hole is where I’d put my first raw power guy or gal but they don’t have to be great at handling the bat. This should be someone who rarely rolls over, but typically hits long fly balls. If they go yard, fine. Should be a two- or three-run home run. If it gets caught, it should move a runner up or even score a run if all goes according to plan.
This is where I find the first real difference between a slow pitch lineup and a baseball or fastpitch lineup. Your cleanup hitter in slow pitch can’t really be a raw power, no control hitter. This needs to be someone who won’t “accidentally” hit a homerun, but someone who certainly can, if needed. This is because if your 3 hole hitter just cleared the bases with a long ball, you don’t want to waste a homerun on a solo shot, if you are even allowed another home run. If you’re playing in a one-up league, meaning you can only go up one home run more than the opponent, a home run by your cleanup hitter following your 3 hole hitter would result in an out. However, if your inconsistent 3 hole hitter popped up or flew out, you want your cleanup hitter to be able to go deep, almost at will.
In the 5 hole, you’d want to go back to a contact hitter. Again someone who won’t, or can’t, hit an accidental homerun. This hitter should just be trying to make solid contact and get on base.
SPOTS 6 & 7
More contact and spray hitters here. If you have a decent amount of left handed hitters, I’d mix one in here but rarely hit lefties back-to-back to keep the defense moving.
Ideally, you’d have a couple base-runners in this spot again, so you can insert an inconsistent power guy here. At this point, you’re just trying to turn the lineup back over and get to the top. A long fly ball could find a gap and a bloop shot over second could give you an easy single. Not a ton of pressure on this spot. You’ll live with a home run here, even for an out. Anything in-play is gravy!
9 and 10 PLAYER
Similar to the 8 hole, you’re just trying to get back to the top of the lineup. Most slow pitch leagues and tournaments allow 10 to play the field, so you’ll usually have 10+ hitters. Sprinkle in a solid hitter at 9 or 10 knowing you need to turn the lineup over.
BATTING THROUGH YOUR LINEUP
As mentioned before, most slow pitch leagues and tournaments allow 10 players to play the field. As well, they allow you to bat through your entire lineup. What this means is that if you have 12 players on your roster for a game, all 12 get to bat, even though only 10 will be in the field on defense. From the 9th hitter to the end of your lineup, I’d suggest putting them in order of most to least consistent to get the most out of the bottom of your lineup.
Bottom line...don’t overthink your slow pitch lineup. Nobody (hopefully) is going to strike out, especially not often, so the ball will be in-play a lot, which will result in runners moving and runs being scored, even for the players who might not be at the same level they were once upon a time. If you’re playing a less competitive team, switch up your lineup for a challenge. Hit all your power players back-to-back and see if they can keep it in the park. Let everyone hit where they want to. Mix it up, and keep it fresh and fun for everyone.
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