Consistency makes or breaks a baseball team.
And for the Michigan baseball team, it has become more of the latter — its inconsistent hitting has resulted in a lack of offense. But while performance at the plate is largely out of the coach’s control, there is one thing that Michigan coach Erik Bakich is doing that could be contributing to the recent struggles of the team.
In the Nebraska series last weekend, Bakich submitted his lineup card with junior outfielder Clark Elliott batting first, followed by grad transfer outfielder Joe Stewart. When the Wolverines hosted both Oakland and Iowa, however, Stewart found himself hitting sixth, with junior infielder Ted Burton elevated to the two-hole.
While this change doesn’t seem glaring at first, it had a drastic effect on the offense.
Against the Cornhuskers, Elliott and Stewart each tallied three hits, and Elliott scored four runs in the series. Their individual success didn’t stop there. Through the next four games against the Grizzlies and the Hawkeyes, Elliott supplied six more hits while Stewart had four of his own.
The problem with moving Stewart down the lineup, though, was that there became fewer scoring opportunities for the team as a whole. Most notably, Elliott scored just twice in the four games, failing to score even once against Iowa.
Meanwhile, Burton saw a downside in production — contrasting the successes of Elliott and Stewart.
After going 4-14 and scoring four times in the Nebraska series, Burton slumped to 2-16 in the next four games.
So while a team’s batting order may not seem that important, the runs show that it has a big impact on Michigan’s production at the plate. Against Nebraska, the Wolverines won two of three games and scored nine, eight and six runs respectively. Against Oakland and Iowa, the offense sputtered, scoring less than three runs in all three of their sizeable weekend defeats.
As Bakich looks to find his offense once again, this pattern should not go unnoticed. Batting lineups are about building off of the guy in front of you. If you stack productive hitters, they will move around the bases. Once a hitter stops hitting, the runs tend to stop as well. While Burton is a solid hitter, the team appeared to be more productive with Stewart in the second spot and Burton manning the middle. Keeping this as a permanent lineup could help give Michigan the consistent offense its looking for.