Jackie Robinson in 1956 Batting Order
I was watching a tape of MLB Network's replay of the original telecast of Don Larsen's perfect game, and was surprised to see Jackie Robinson batting clean-up. I checked the box scores of the other games of the series and did a random check of some regular-season boxes at Baseball Reference.com, and found that he batted clean-up in all of the Series games and many regular-season games. This seems odd for a player who was clearly near the end of his career, with 12 homers and a .275 average. Even in his prime Jackie had only middling power (he never hit 20 homers) although obviously he was a great player in other respects. In his prime he did frequently bat clean-up, although at least by today's philosophy one would expect more powerful hitters like Snider, Campanella, or Hodges in that spot. In 1955, though, he usually batted around seventh. It's true that Campanella had a bad year in 1956 and it's not surprising that he dropped from the clean-up spot, but Robinson at that stage in his career seems an odd choice to replace him in that slot. Does anyone know why he batted fourth through much of 1956?
Jackie batted fourth in 37 regular season games in 1956. In the WS he batted 4th in all seven games. You can see him in game 3 of the 1956 WS....see my post for details...
Robinson batted cleanup (4th) in the Dodger batting order 683 games out of 1382 games lifetime.
Last edited by penncentralpete; 08-29-2011 at 03:04 PM.
I didn't start following baseball and the Dodgers until 1955, but it's well known that Robinson was held in very high esteem by his managers as a clutch hitter. As Pete mentioned, Robinson batted cleanup in over half of his career games. By 55-56 Robinson was clearly declining, but old habits die hard. The Dodgers preferred to have Snider batting 3rd- high average, lots of power, and plenty of walks created terrific opportunities for guys lower in the order. Robinson had always run well, so that helped him stay out of a lot of double play situations. Campanella was a greater DP risk, and in 56, as in 54 he as having a miserable season due to hand injuries. Hodges was a good hitter, but my guess is that Robinson's speed- although diminishing- and his reputation- kept him in the 4 spot much of the time.
But Ron, speed and staying out of DPs really aren't all that relevant for a cleanup batter (unless it's been a 1-2-3 first inning). I think it rested largely on rep and old-school managing beliefs.
Thank you to those who responded to my question. Keith
Another factor may have been where others were batting in the order. One of the knocks on Duke Snider in terms of his greatness (and I don't agree with it) is that Brooklyn had such a great right-handed-hitting lineup, he had easier pickings than others. So I don't know whether that had an effect.
I would note that Robinson could not stand Walter Alston, who was still batting him in a spot in the order that attested to his greatness.
Actually Jackie batting cleanup when he did is defensible.
In Robinson's prime his average OPS was consistently in the .900 range and his OPS+ hovered around 150. That's cleanup hitter caliber batting ability. Modern sabermetrics would have, if anything, affirmed the move to the middle of the order, especially given his extremely strong hitting discipline in those years. He didn't drive a lot of balls out, but he was a good gap hitter, a good average hitter, and an extremely tough out. And in his heyday, he definitely hit the ball with a certain authority as well.
Prototypically he's more an ideal #2 hitter in the way we modern fans think of such things, but since he was a 15 HR guy with a lot of sharp contact and great hitting discipline, you can definitely justify a decision to hit him in the middle of the order, and even cleanup.
I might have swapped him and Hodges in an ideal lineup, get Hodges' RBI ability behind such a good on base hitter and baserunner, but ultimately that's just lineup theory, and you can go a lot of different ways when discussing lineup theory.
Last edited by Imgran; 11-03-2011 at 01:58 PM.
Rumors were that Jackie demanded to hit 4th. Have no idea is this is true, and would be difficult to prove.