Having said that, the exact composition of a lineup is a source of much debate.
As Zev points out, having your best hitters up front just gives them more at-bats, always a good thing. However, most teams put their BEST hitter third or fourth in the lineup, because the best hitter is usually a power hitter and managers like to have other good hitters who specialize in getting on base in front of him, so the classic lineup is:
- Guy who gets on base a lot and can run but doesn’t have much power
- Guy who gets on base a lot and can run
- Guy who gets on base a lot and hits for power
- Guy who gets on base a lot and hits for a LOT of power
- Guy who gets on base a lot and hits for power, but isn’t as good as the #3 guy
- Guy who hits for power but isn’t as good as the #5 guy
- Guy who isn’t as good as the #6 guy
- Guy who isn’t very good
- The pitcher, or if you use a DH, a guy who isn’t very good but runs OK so he isn’t clogging things up when the top of the lineup comes around
However, many have claimed that you would be better off ignoring the conventions of lineup construction and just putting your very best hitter first no matter if he’s a power hitter or not. So the Cardinals should have been leading Mark McGwire off. There’s some logic to this.
As to Knighted Vorpal Sword’s question about staggering good/bad hitter sthrough the lineup, that DEFINITELY would not work. Remember, in baseball, successful offense is usually cumulative; Player A singles, Player B walks, Player C doubles, Player D singles… really big innings happen when a lot of hitters do something in a row. Having your bad hitters interspersed with your good ones makes it likelier that your good hitter’s hits and walks will be broken up by strikeouts and double play ground balls. Putting the good players together will tend to slightly magnify what they do and allow them to help each other score more runs.