Looking at pitcher batting slots yesterday got me on this topic...I now have a ton of data, so I thought I might as well go through it and find some trends. First, leadoff hitters in the NL by position:
So center fielders have always been the prototypical leadoff hitters, but teams were more flexible about using players at other positions. Four corners players (1B/3B/LF/RF) went from 40% of leadoff hitters to 18%. One effect we see here is that 3rd base changed from being more difficult defensively than 2nd base to easier. So 3rd basemen focused more on hitting, got bulkier, and moved down in the lineup.
What about the 2nd spot in the lineup?
We see a similar trend here - again, four corners players went from 45% to 28%, while middle infielders were vastly more likely to hit in this spot. I'm going to skip over the 3-6 spots until next time...Here's the 7-hole:
Interesting movements here: the number of outfielders hitting down the order increased significantly, while middle infielders hit here less often, along with first basemen, who've become much bigger hitters over the years. As for the 8th spot:
For decades, teams have batted the catcher and the shortstop ahead of the pitcher. We've also seen increases again in outfielders batting 8th. Interesting effects here - most players retain the same hitting 'roles' as they did 80 years ago, with 3rd basemen dropping down in the order, and outfielders dropping from the top of the lineup to the bottom. More next time...