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A baseball lineup is composed of nine players. Prior to the start of a game, each team’s manager sets the official batting order for that day. The batting order is the sequence in which the nine players in the lineup will hit.
Oftentimes, one of the best hitters on the team will bat third in the order. Because this position in the batting order is so important, it’s fair to wonder whether or not it has a special name.
The answer is that there is no special name for the third batter in a baseball lineup. While the third batter is considered part of the “top of the order” as well as the “heart of the order”, there is no term that specifically refers to the third batter in the lineup.
The third batter may also be called the three-hole hitter or the number three hitter, but this is not a unique nickname. The first batter in the lineup can be called the one-hole hitter or the number one hitter, the second batter can be called the two-hole hitter or the number two hitter, and so on and so forth.
Nevertheless, while it does not have a distinctive name, the third spot in the lineup may be the most consequential of all. Along with the first and second batters in the order, the third hitter is guaranteed to come up to bat in the first inning of every game. Furthermore, whichever player hits third has the opportunity to drive in the runners who hit first and second and the opportunity to be driven in by whoever hits fourth.
Babe Ruth hit third in the majority of his games, as did other all-time great hitters like Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, and Henry Aaron. Current players who often hit third in the order include Bryce Harper and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
What Is The Top Of The Order?
The top of the order generally refers to the first several hitters in the lineup, but there is no set definition for the top of the order. Sometimes, the top of the order includes just the first three batters, while other times it can include as many as the first six batters.
Ultimately, the top of the order is used to refer to the better hitters on a team, and so a team that has several talented hitters will have more hitters that are considered part of the top of the order. If a team has many good hitters, that team is said to have a deep lineup.
What Is The Heart Of The Order?
The heart of the order, sometimes also called the middle or the meat of the order, is similar in meaning to the top of the order. This term also refers to the most talented hitters in the lineup.
However, it does not include the first batter in the lineup and it rarely includes the second batter either. This is exactly why it is called the middle of the order and not the top.
The heart of the order is often used to describe the power hitters on a team. While the first two hitters in the batting order are tasked with getting on base, the next several hitters in the order are tasked with helping those runners score. Therefore, the first two hitters tend to be more skilled at getting hits and walks, while the next few hitters tend to be better at hitting for power.
The heart of the order most often refers to the third, fourth, and fifth hitters, but it can also include the sixth hitter if the lineup is particularly deep. Sometimes, the two-hole hitter will even be included as part of the top of the order, especially if the two-hole hitter is the best all-around hitter on the team.
Which Positions In The Lineup Have A Special Name?
Two of the nine spots in the batting order have their own unique name: the leadoff spot and the cleanup spot.
The leadoff spot belongs to the first batter in the lineup. This is the first hitter who will come to the plate for each team in any given game. Once all nine hitters have had their turn to bat, the leadoff hitter comes up again.
The cleanup spot is the fourth position in the batting order. Ideally, some or all of the first three batters in the lineup will get on base before the cleanup hitter comes to bat. The cleanup hitter is then in a position to “clean up” the bases – in other words, to drive in all the runners on base.
The ninth batter will also sometimes be called the last hitter in the order, but this is more of a descriptive term rather than a nickname per se.
Why Does The Best All-Around Hitter On A Baseball Team Bat Third?
While the best all-around hitter does not always bat in the three-hole, it is often where such a player hits. The rationale behind this is that all-around hitters have both power and on-base skills, and thus can both drive in the runners ahead of them and get on base in order to be driven in themselves.
In recent years, however, some managers have shown a preference for putting their best all-around hitter in the two-hole instead. This is because two-hole hitters get slightly more opportunities to bat than three-hole hitters, and managers want their best hitters to bat as often as possible.
Why Does The Third Batter In The Lineup Always Come To Bat In The First Inning?
In order to successfully finish an inning, the defensive team needs to record three outs. Therefore, three batters must always come to the plate before an inning can end.
For that reason, the number one, two, and three hitters will always come to bat in the first inning of a baseball game. While there is no limit to how many hitters may come to bat in an inning, the minimum is always three.