Glove and Bat

The History Rules and Debates of Which Team Bats First in Baseball

Baseball is often called Americas favorite pastime. The sport has been around since the mid-1800s, and over the years, it has undergone several changes.

However, one thing that has remained constant over time is the question of which team bats first. In this article, we will explore the history of this age-old debate, the rules governing it, as well as the merits and demerits of batting first.

Early Baseball and Team Choice

When baseball was still in its early stages, the home team would often decide which team got to bat first. However, this approach led to some controversies, and it was later abandoned in favor of a different approach.

In many ways, this decision was influenced by the National League.

Coin Flip Determines First Batter

In the National League, a coin flip was used to determine which team would bat first. The visiting team would call the coin flip, and if they won, they were given the option to decide which team would bat first.

This was codified in the Official Rules of Baseball, and the rule has remained unchanged over the years. Essentially, the visiting team always bats first.

Home Team Given Option to Bat First

In the American Association, the home team was given the option to decide which team would bat first. This rule was codified in the leagues rule book in 1882.

It was also adopted by the National League in 1894. However, the rule was abandoned shortly after, and the right to decide which team would bat first was no longer given to the home team.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Batting First

There are merits and demerits to batting first. The most obvious benefit of batting first is that it gives the team an early chance to score some runs and establish momentum.

This early advantage can give a team a psychological boost and set the tone for the remainder of the game. On the other hand, batting first can also be disadvantageous.

If a team fails to score any runs in the first inning, it can affect their mindset and make them feel like they are playing catch-up. Additionally, batting first can be challenging in a hostile environment.

This is where the crowd becomes a factor, because they can affect the umpire’s decisions, and this can impact the outcome of the game.

History of Which Team Bats First in Baseball

The question of which team bats first in baseball has sparked debates for over a century. However, there have been several changes over the years in how this decision is made.

In the early days of baseball, the home team decided which team would bat first. However, this practice led to controversies, and it was later abandoned in favor of a coin flip approach used by the National League.

Under this system, the visiting team had the option to call the coin flip, and if they won, they were given the option to decide which team would bat first. In 1882, the American Association adopted a different approach, in which the home team was given the right to decide which team would bat first.

This approach was also later adopted by the National League in 1894. However, this rule was abandoned shortly after in favor of a return to the coin flip approach.

Home Team Can Bat First in Rare Circumstances

While the standard practice is to have the visiting team bat first, there are some rare circumstances where the home team can bat first. This is usually only the case in tournaments played at neutral locations, or in the case of canceled games that are replayed from the beginning.

This is not a common occurrence and is only implemented under special circumstances.


The debate over which team bats first in baseball has been raging for over a century. While there have been changes to the rule over the years, the core principle remains the same: the visiting team always bats first.

There are advantages and disadvantages to batting first, and ultimately, it’s up to each team to determine what works best for them.

Leadoff Hitter and Batting Order

The leadoff hitter has been a key position in baseball for decades. Traditionally, this role was given to a player who could make contact, had a high on-base percentage, and had the ability to see a lot of pitches and draw walks.

The goal of the leadoff hitter was to get on base and advance to scoring position to give the rest of the lineup the opportunity to knock in runs. However, in recent years, modern strategies have emerged, and trends are changing.

With the rise of power hitters, there is now an increasing trend to place these types of players in the leadoff spot. Case in point, George Springer, a powerful and effective player with the Toronto Blue Jays, now serves as their leadoff hitter.

Similarly, Kyle Schwarber, a slugger with an impressive on-base percentage, served as the leadoff hitter for the Washington Nationals. There is a current debate in baseball regarding the relevancy of batting order, specifically, whether it is preferable to bat first or second.

While the traditional view is to have a skilled player bat first, research studies have shown that the difference between batting first or second is not substantial. At the end of it all, the batting order should be determined by a player’s specific skill set.

For example, a player who is fast and has good base running skills may be better suited as a leadoff hitter. Conversely, a player with power but less speed may be better suited to bat third or fourth in the lineup.

Last Ups and Home Team Advantage

The idea that the home team has an advantage because they bat last is a common myth in baseball. In fact, it is not a rule set in stone, but rather a result of the Official Rules of Baseball that regulate the defensive positions of the visiting team.

At the start of each game, the home team gets to decide which dugout to use. The visiting team is then assigned the dugout on the other side of the field.

This means that the visiting team bats first, and the home team bats last. Despite this commonly held notion, statistically, there is little evidence that the home team has an advantage.

A team’s mindset or emotional state, rather than batting order, plays a more significant role in determining a team’s success. For instance, a team with a never say die attitude will be more motivated and have a better chance of making a comeback than a team with a defeatist attitude.

One commonly cited benefit of batting last is the possibility of walk-off hits. Walk-off hits occur when the home team wins the game in the bottom of the last inning, and it fuels the belief that batting last is a significant advantage.

However, data shows that walk-off hits are relatively rare, and they do not happen frequently enough to give the home team an advantage. Ultimately, the debate over whether the home team has an advantage or not is a topic of interest in the game of baseball.

However, the data shows that the difference between batting first or second is minor, and the margin of winning for the home team is relatively narrow. In fact, across Major League Baseball, the home team’s win percentage range from only 55-60%, a small margin that can be attributed more to the team’s capacity to hit and pitch and not on the order of batting.


In conclusion, the decision of which player to bat first or second, or the impact of batting last on the home team, raises crucial questions in baseball that deserve a deeper analysis. Research has shown that while the role of the leadoff hitter is still essential, the trend in modern baseball places more emphasis on power hitters rather than contact hitters, which can affect the optimal choice for the leadoff role.

Similarly, the perception of the home team’s advantage due to batting last is an old myth that, despite its allure, is not supported by statistical evidence. All this notwithstanding, the game remains as entertaining and as thrilling, and the excitement of hitting and fielding on the diamond remains a favorite among baseball aficionados.

Baseball is a sport that has sparked debates about the batting order and which team bats first or last. The role of a leadoff hitter has evolved, with modern strategies now accommodating power hitters in the lineup.

The myth surrounding the home team advantage as a result of batting last has also been debunked. Ultimately, making the decision about which player bats first or second, or which team bats last, depends on a player’s specific skill set.

Baseball is a game that continues to captivate audiences, and the inherent factors of hitting and fielding remain a source of endless entertainment for fans worldwide. FAQs:


What determines which team bats first in baseball? Answer: In baseball, the visiting team always bats first, and this decision is determined by a coin flip.

2. Who usually bats in the leadoff position in baseball?

Answer: Traditionally, a contact hitter with a high on-base percentage would bat leadoff but modern strategies have accommodated power hitters in this position. 3.

Does the home team have an advantage in baseball? Answer: Despite the popular perception that the home team has an advantage due to batting last, statistical evidence shows that this is not the case since the margin of winning at home is relatively narrow.

4. What criteria is used to determine the batting order in baseball?

Answer: A player’s specific skill set informs the decision to place them higher or lower in the batting order. For instance, a faster runner may bat higher up, while a power hitter with less speed may bat lower.

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