Cleanup hitter

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A cleanup hitter is a baseball term that refers to the fourth hitter in the lineup. They are the ones with the most power in the team and their most important job is to bring runs in. Although the batter before them is generally the best batter on the team which tends to have the highest batting average of the team, the cleanup hitter “cleans up the bases” meaning that if there are runners on the bases the cleanup hitter scores them in ergo the name. There is a whole theory on how a coach sets up his lineup card before the game so he gets the best outcome of his players during the game[1].


The theory behind the use of the cleanup hitter is that at least one of the batters before him should reach a base in a way possible, usually being a walk or a base hit. The batters in the beginning of the lineup has a variety of different traits but traditionally the lead off hitter which sits at the number one spot has speed, plate disciple, and high on base percentage. The second batter is usually a contact hitter, which basically means they must contact the ball and put the ball in play any means possible to move the runner up into scoring position, which can include up to a sacrifice bunt. It is very likely for the first or second batter to bunt their way on base because they both should have good speed. The third batter is the best all-around batter that tends to have the highest batting average and has the role of scoring runs himself but ultimately the job comes down to getting on base for the cleanup hitter to have a turn to bat in the same inning. Now with cleanup hitter coming up to hit if he has runners on base he has a chance to produce runs by getting a hit or by using their power they can hit a home run or an extra base hit. It is often found that the 3rd and 4th batter can switch roles in a game because of the ability of the 3rd batter to also produce runs. The 5th batter in the lineup also has a small responsibility of pushing in runs so he acts like a backup for the cleanup hitter in case he doesn’t get the job done. He shares multiple traits with the cleanup hitter therefor can also compete for the spot on the lineup to become a cleanup hitter. After that batters from 6 to 9 descend by their skill level meaning the 9th batter has a tendency of being the worst batter[2]


There are reoccurring trends each specific batter has which is what give them the position in the lineup card. A cleanup hitter has trends in their statistics which is how clean up hitters are determined from the rest of the team or even how good of a cleanup hitter they are. A cleanup hitter tends to hit a lot of home runs and extra base hits, have lower on base percentage (OBP), high number of runs batted in, have high slugging percentages, and can also tend to be the player with the most strikeouts. Since the cleanup hitter is more of a power hitter than a contact hitter so there are a good number of strikeouts which also explains the low (OBP). Clean up hitters are also the ones that attend home run derby’s because they lead in home runs[3]. Even though it is just an event the home run derby is where they get the chance to show case their power without the pressure of being in a game. Although there are athletes that break or don’t fit into these trends, either because they are missing a couple of the traits or is an all-round player that can’t be categorized to just the cleanup spot. An all-around player is good at most if not all aspects of the game and lead the leader boards in statistics.

American League Vs. National League[edit]

There are two leagues in baseball, the American league, and the National League. A key difference between the two is that the American league has something called a designated hitter (DH). The DH is basically a batter that hits for the pitcher so basically he never plays defense but is huge offensive source, meanwhile the National League demands that the pitcher hits in the lineup unless they are pinched hit for meaning they are taken out of the game so a good hitting player can replace them at their at bat[4]. Although this means that a new pitcher must be put into the game once the inning ends. The importance of the DH in the American league is high because it is usually one of the top hitters that acts as the DH. It is a trend that the DH is either in the cleanup spot or the 3rd  and 5th spot in the lineup. This is taken away when there are inter league games when the National League team has home field advantage, meaning the American abides by their rules including getting rid of the DH.



There are many examples of batters that have excelled in the cleanup spot of the lineup. These batters have left a mark on contemporary baseball and helped it evolve into the game it is now. One example of a cleanup hitter is Albert Pujols[5]. He is considered as a candidate for baseball’s hall of fame due to his immense contributions to his team as a cleanup hitter. Albert is also known as “The Machine” which originated due to his power and runs batted in (RBI) statistics. He has bounced around between the three spot and the four spot as a hitter in his career. He currently plays for the Los Angeles Angels and bats as the DH in the cleanup spot regularly


Another example of cleanup hitter is Barry Bonds. Barry Bonds became one of baseball’s intimidating batters due to his immense power. He has a career total of 762 home runs, 1,440 extra base hits and falls fourth in the all-time RBI leaders with 1,996 RBI’s[6]. although his career is very controversial due to the steroids scandal[7]. He has many awards in his career that fit the trends of a cleanup hitter.

Clean Up Batter Examples[edit]

Here is a small list of more Cleanup Batters that have made a name for themsleves due to their role as a clean up hitter and strong offensive force for their team[8].

Adrian Gonzalez

Reggie Jackson

David Ortiz (Big Papi)

Evan Longoria

Babe Ruth

Mark McGwire

Lou Gehrig

Evan Gattis

Mike Napoli

Adam Jones

Jed Lowrie

Yoenis Cespedes[9]


  1. ^ Kalkman, Sky. "Optimizing Your Lineup By The Book". 
  2. ^ Tango Dolphin Lichtman, Tom M Andrew E Mitchel G (2014). The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball (Playing the Percentages in Baseball). Createspace Independent. pp. 398 pages. ISBN 9781494260170. 
  3. ^ Keri Click, Jonah, James (2006). Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong. Basic Books. pp. 1–57. ISBN 9780465005963. 
  4. ^ Brinson, Linda. "Whats The Difference between the american and national leagues?". 
  5. ^ "Albert Pujols".  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  6. ^ "Career Leaders For Runs Batted In". Baseball Almanac. 
  7. ^ Morosi, Jon Paul. "New cleanup trend on display on Opening Day". 
  8. ^ Wood, Robert. "Top 10 Clean-Up Hitters In Baseball". 
  9. ^ Whitehead, Bill. "Mets Cleanup Hitter Cespedes Clears It Up: He Wants the Ring". USNews.