In baseball, batting is the act of facing the opposing pitcher and trying to produce offense for one's team. A batter or hitter is a person whose turn it is to face the pitcher. The goals of batters are to produce runs, but the techniques and strategies they use to do so vary. The main three goals of batters are to become a baserunner, drive runners home, or advance runners along the bases for others to drive home.
In general, batters try to get hits. They may also draw a walk if they do not receive a pitch they can hit properly. In cases when there is a runner on third and less than two outs, they can attempt to hit a sacrifice fly to drive the runner in. When there are less than two outs and runners on base, they can try to sacrifice bunt. They might even be hit by a pitch, reach on an error or—if first is empty or there are two outs—on a dropped third strike.
The opposition attempts to get the batter out. The pitcher's main role in this is to throw the ball in such a way that he either strikes out or cannot hit it cleanly so that the defense can get him out.
Success in batting
Batting is often cited as one of the most difficult feats in sports as it works down to hitting a small round ball with a thin round bat. In fact, if a batter can get a hit in three out of ten at bats, giving him a batting average of .300, pronounced three-hundred, he is considered a good hitter. In Major League Baseball, no batter has hit over .400 in a season since Ted Williams in 1941, and no batter has ever hit over .367 in a lifetime—Ty Cobb hit .3664.
The lineup or batting order is a list of the nine baseball players for a team in the order they will bat during the game. During the game the only way to change the lineup is via substition, as batting out of turn is not allowed. Once the ninth person in the lineup finishes batting, the first person bats again, that is the top of the order. Lineups are designed to facilitate manufacturing runs. Depending on the skills of a batter, they might be placed in a different part of the lineup. Of course, when it comes down to it, all batters are attempting to create runs for the team.
Positions in the lineup
The leadoff batter is the first person in the lineup. Generally the leadoff batter is the fastest baserunner on the team; because he bats more than anyone else in the lineup, his need for a high on_base percentage exceeds even that of the other lineup spots. Once on base his goal is to get into scoring position, and then score.
The second batter, most often just referred to as in the two_hole, is usually a contact_hitter with the ability to bunt or get a hit, his main goal is to move the leadoff man into scoring position.
The third batter, in the three_hole is generally one of the best hitters for batting average on the team, but not necessarily very fast. Part of his job is to help set the table for the cleanup hitter, and part of it is to help drive baserunners himself.
The fourth batter, or the clean-up hitter, is always one of the best hitters on the team, often the one with the most power. His main goal is to drive in runs, although he is expected to score runs as well. In fact, the fourth spot in the order has the luxory of being somewhat "protected" from bad situations early in the game: the batter only rarely faces a spot with two outs and no baserunners in the first time through the order (it's possible if the leadoff batter hits a home run and the next two batters make outs, though unlikely).
The fifth and sixth batters have traditionally been RBI men, with the main goal of driving runners home, especially with sacrifice flies. Modern sabermetric baseball theory suggests that even these batters should have high on_base percentages, though this approach has not been universally adopted.
The seventh and eighth batters are often not as powerful as the earlier batters, and don't have as good average. They are still expected to produce, but have less pressure in those spots. The main piece of pressure the eight hitter has is when there are two outs, in this case he must battle the pitcher to get on base so that the ninth hitter can come up. That way, even if the ninth hitter gets out, the top of the order will come up next. In leagues without designated hitters, the catcher will often bat eight as the second weakest hitter in the order. However this is by no means always the case.
The ninth batter is almost always the weakest hitter on the team. In leagues without DHs, it is usually the pitcher. If there is someone on first or second base with less than two outs when the ninth hitter is up, he will almost always sacrifice bunt.