Who Bats First in Baseball: Home Team or the Visiting Team
30 mins read

Who Bats First in Baseball: Home Team or the Visiting Team

Significant Rule Changes Over the Years

Baseball, much like any other sport with a rich history, has seen its share of rule changes over the years. Some of these modifications have directly impacted how the game is played, especially concerning the batting order, which in turn, has influenced game strategies significantly. A review of these changes not only highlights the game’s evolution but also sheds light on how managers and players adapt to maintain competitiveness.

One of the most impactful changes came with the introduction of the designated hitter (DH) rule in the American League in 1973. This rule allows teams to use another player to bat in place of the pitcher, essentially removing the pitcher’s obligation to take at-bats. This significant shift in the rules changed how teams in the American League constructed their batting orders and game strategies, providing a tactical advantage by having a potentially more proficient hitter in the lineup. The National League, however, did not adopt this rule for regular-season play until 2022, leading to strategic variances between the leagues for nearly five decades.

Furthermore, in recent years, Major League Baseball has experimented with rule changes in the minor leagues, such as requiring hitters to face a minimum of three batters or end the inning before being replaced, and introducing an automatic runner on second base in extra innings. These changes, aimed at speeding up the game and increasing the action, have strategic implications for the batting order and how managers approach late-game and extra-inning situations.

The impact of these rule changes on game strategies is profound. With the DH rule, American League teams can stack their lineup with more offensive power, often leading to higher-scoring games and influencing how National League teams approach interleague play. The strategy around pitching changes and managing the bullpen has also evolved, with managers needing to be more judicious in their use of relief pitchers due to the three-batter minimum rule.

Moreover, the automatic runner on second base in extra innings introduces a new layer of strategic depth. Teams must decide whether to bunt to move the runner to third base with one out, or attempt to score the runner with a hit right away, fundamentally changing the dynamics of the extra innings.
Each rule change in baseball’s history has prompted a shift in strategies, leading teams to adapt to maintain or gain a competitive edge. These adaptations have often led to innovative approaches to the game, challenging traditional baseball strategies and enriching the sport’s strategic complexity. As baseball continues to evolve, so too will the strategies employed by those who play it, ensuring the game remains fresh and engaging for fans and participants alike.

Strategy Behind Batting Order 

The strategy behind setting the batting order in baseball is a chess match that managers play before the first pitch is even thrown. This pre-game decision-making process is critical in establishing the pace of the game and, ultimately, determining the outcome. The construction of the batting lineup is guided by a combination of historical data, player tendencies, and situational tactics, emphasizing the leadoff hitter’s role and the setup for the team’s power hitters.

The leadoff hitter, often taking the first at-bat for the team, plays a pivotal role. This player must possess a blend of speed, batting discipline, and the ability to get on base. The primary job of the leadoff hitter is not necessarily to hit home runs but to serve as a catalyst for the offense by reaching base and creating scoring opportunities. The effectiveness of a leadoff hitter is frequently measured by on-base percentage (OBP) rather than batting average alone, signaling the importance of patience at the plate and the skill to draw walks. A player excelling in these areas sets the stage for the heart of the lineup, where the power hitters lie in wait.

Following the leadoff hitter, the second spot in the batting order has historically gone to a player with a strong bat control and the ability to sacrifice, bunt, or hit behind the runner, essentially moving the leadoff hitter into scoring position. However, recent years have seen a shift in this strategy, with some teams opting to place one of their best hitters in the second spot to maximize the number of at-bats over the course of a season.

The third through fifth spots are typically reserved for the team’s power hitters, the sluggers capable of driving in runs and changing the complexion of the game with a single swing. The third spot is often given to a team’s most well-rounded hitter, someone who combines average with power, while the fourth and fifth spots (the cleanup hitter and the following batter) are where the heavy hitters are placed, tasked with “cleaning the bases” and racking up RBI (runs batted in).

Placing power hitters in these crucial slots is strategic, aiming to ensure that when these batters come to the plate, there are runners on base, thereby increasing the chance of scoring runs through extra-base hits or home runs. This setup places a significant emphasis on the preceding hitters’ ability to get on base, creating a direct link between the success of the leadoff hitter and the power hitters’ potential impact.
The back end of the batting order, spots six through nine, often features a mix of batting attributes, from speed to occasionally sacrifice bunt specialists, depending on the league (with the pitcher typically batting ninth in the National League, though this has been affected by rule changes incorporating designated hitters). This tail end of the order is not without strategic importance, providing opportunities for setting the table for the lineup to turn over back to the leadoff spot.

The intricate balance of speed, on-base ability, and power within a lineup demonstrates the multifaceted strategy behind setting a batting order. Each decision reflects a calculated attempt to maximize offensive output, with the understanding that the dynamics of the game may necessitate adjustments. This approach underscores the chess-like nature of baseball, where the initial positioning of pieces—or in this case, players—can heavily influence the game’s outcome.


Within the realm of baseball, certain questions frequently arise, particularly regarding the rules and traditions that govern the game. One such area of curiosity centers around who bats first and under what circumstances the standard practice might change. Here are some of the most common questions addressed:

Can the home team choose to bat first?

Under the traditional rules of baseball, the home team cannot choose to bat first. The structure of the game is such that the visiting team always bats at the top of the inning, while the home team bats in the bottom half. This rule is designed to give the home team the “last at-bat” advantage, allowing them the final opportunity to score in the game. It’s a deeply entrenched tradition that underscores the strategic aspect of baseball, granting the home side a slight tactical advantage by knowing what they need to do in their last turn at bat to win or tie the game.

How do playoffs and special games affect who bats first?

In playoffs and special games, the same fundamental rules apply for who bats first in baseball—the visiting team bats first. However, the designation of which team is “home” and which is “visiting” can depend on several factors, such as regular-season records, coin tosses in certain tie-breaking scenarios, or a pre-determined schedule in tournament play. For example, in the World Series, home-field advantage—and thus, the benefit of batting last—used to be alternated between the American and National League or decided by the outcome of the All-Star Game but now is generally awarded to the team with the better regular-season record.

What happens if a game is suspended and resumed on another day?

If a baseball game is suspended due to weather, darkness (in stadiums without lights), or other unforeseeable circumstances, and cannot be completed the same day, it is resumed at a later date, picking up exactly where it left off. The batting order, the count on the current hitter, the runners on base, and the inning will all remain as they were at the moment of suspension. The team that was at bat before the suspension will continue to bat, adhering to the original batting order. This ensures consistency and fairness, as it does not alter the flow and strategy of the game beyond the control of weather or other interruptions. Essentially, the game continues as if there had been a very long pause in action, with all previous strategic decisions and game states preserved.

Addressing these FAQs enriches the understanding of baseball’s intricacies, highlighting the blend of tradition, strategy, and fairness that shapes the game.


The batting order in baseball, with its specific arrangement of hitters, serves as a linchpin for the game’s strategic underpinnings. This lineup is not simply a list but a carefully considered plan, crafted to exploit every tactical advantage possible. Throughout the evolution of the game, the importance of the batting order has only grown, nuanced by rule changes and the increasing depth of statistical analysis in Major League Baseball. Whether it’s the speed and on-base prowess of the leadoff hitter or the raw power of the middle-order sluggers, each spot in the batting lineup carries with it specific expectations and responsibilities.

For both the home team and the visiting team, the construction of the batting order is a meticulously strategized aspect. The roles defined within the team—such as the second baseman, the first baseman, and other defensive players—complement the strategies employed at bat. Historical figures like John Hillerich, who was instrumental in the development of the modern wooden bat, have contributed to the arsenal available to the offensive player. Meanwhile, the defensive player, poised near bases and along the third and first base lines, stands ready to turn hits into outs, whether through catching a foul ball or executing a double play. The dynamics of the game, from the early days of baseball’s professional leagues to the major leagues of the twenty-first century, illustrate a constant evolution, guided by both tradition and innovation. The visiting team, batting first, aims to apply early pressure, seeking to disrupt the home team’s pitcher and put runs on the board from the outset. The designated leadoff hitter, with their critical role, is at the forefront of this effort, tasked with setting the table for the heart of the order. On the flip side, the home team bats with the potential advantage of having the final at-bat in the game, a strategic boon that can influence the entire approach to how they organize their hitters and manage their lineup throughout the contest.

In major league baseball, the strategic intricacies encompassing the batting order underscore the blend of tradition, analytics, and game-day decisions that define the sport. The considerations that go into crafting a batting order—such as player matchups, historical data, and situational tactics—speak to the depth of strategy inherent in baseball. As teams navigate through the regular season, playoffs, and special games, the batting order remains a critical tool in their arsenal, capable of shaping the outcome of a game or an entire series.

The dynamics of the batting order, including the roles of the home team bats and visiting team bats, have evolved over the years under the influence of rule changes and strategic innovations. Yet, the core objective remains the same: to maximize offensive production and capitalize on scoring opportunities. Whether it’s a leadoff hitter sparking a rally, a cleanup hitter driving home crucial runs, or a pinch hitter stepping up in a high-leverage moment, the batting order is a reflection of the team’s strategic intent and its pursuit of victory.

Understanding the strategy behind the batting order is akin to decoding a complex puzzle central to the game of baseball. Both the home and visiting teams leverage their batting order, aiming to outmaneuver their opponents in a contest that extends beyond just the physical feats on the field. As baseball continues to evolve, so too will the strategies surrounding the batting order, ensuring that this aspect of the game remains at the heart of baseball’s tactical battleground.

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