Order In The Sport: 2014 Braves

September 4, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez (33) walks off the field after talking to an umpire in the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

When you experiment with a batting order as much as Fredi Gonzalez does, it’s difficult at best to predict the order Fredi will go with come the regular 2014 season.  Typically, if things aren’t going as well as expected, Fredi will shuffle in a New York Mets minute!  Some defend that strategy, while others like myself have to grin and throw out a grrrr and just bear it – preferring Fredi to generally stick with a basic order, trust his players, and let them develop in that spot.  Oh I know, you’ll always need to shuffle the order some, but the Braves’ order doesn’t have to remind us of a juvenile game of musical chairs!

MLB reporter for the Braves, Mark Bowman, recently answered an Inbox Question about the leadoff hitter for the Braves in 2014, and said…

I think it’s safe to say they found the right guy when they moved Heyward into that role last year. His move to the top of the lineup was the key catalyst during the club’s 14-game winning streak. Injuries limited his stolen-base opportunities last year. But he swiped 21 bags the year before and owns a .352 career on-base percentage. Those credentials will suffice.

This is Bowman’s opinion, and nothing official from Fredi Gonzalez.  Nevertheless, Mark is probably correct that Jason Heyward is the best option for the leadoff spot this coming season.  They pretty much tried all their other options last season, and no other leadoff hitter really panned out for Atlanta.  Once Fredi experimented with Heyward in the leadoff spot, Jason proved stellar in that role!

 

Leadoff Role

The table below show some of the key stats for Jason when batting in different spots in the order, and while his performance was respectable batting 2nd in the order, his performance at the leadoff spot was phenomenal, hitting on a line of .322/.403/.551/.954, with a good BAbip helping those numbers.  No other player for the Braves performed nearly that well at leadoff!

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
Batting 1st 30 30 134 118 31 38 9 0 6 16 0 1 14 22 .322 .403 .551 .954 .356
Batting 2nd 62 62 277 239 34 54 12 1 8 20 2 2 32 45 .226 .330 .385 .715 .247
Batting 3rd 5 5 23 21 2 5 1 0 0 2 0 1 1 5 .238 .304 .286 .590 .313
Batting 5th 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Batting 6th 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Batting 9th 5 0 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .200 .000 .200 .000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/2/2014.

 

I don’t mean to sound like I’m picking on Mark Bowman either, but in his Inbox post we noted, he went on to give his projected batting order for 2014:

  1. Jason Heyward RF
  2. Justin Upton LF
  3. Freddie Freeman 1B
  4. Evan Gattis C
  5. Chris Johnson 3B
  6. Uggla 2B
  7. B.J. Upton CF
  8. Andrelton Simmons SS

That may well be the lineup we see, but I would take a different approach myself.  Bowman’s opinion is that Fredi may want to bat B.J. and Dan Uggla (both who struggled mightily in 2013) ahead of Andrelton to give them some confidence.  I can live with that to some extent, since it’s always good to have an able hitter hitting in the 8 hole.  Where I differ is that I would not have Chris Johnson in the five hole.

Personally, I’d be more apt to put CJ in the eight hole, and Simba in the six hole, and split up the struggling B.J. and Dan.  There are pros and cons for any order you can imagine, so I don’t want to get bogged down in that argument.  I would simply point out how well CJ has hit in the seven and eight holes last year.  As you can see from the table below, Chris felt more comfortable in those spots in the order.  Chris is a hitter, so he performed well in just about every spot short of the two hole, but his performance batting 5th was not as good as when he hit later in the lineup.

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
Batting 2nd 6 6 28 26 6 4 1 0 0 1 0 0 2 7 .154 .214 .192 .407 .211
Batting 3rd 2 2 9 9 0 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 .375
Batting 4th 14 14 59 56 3 16 3 0 2 6 0 0 3 16 .286 .322 .446 .768 .368
Batting 5th 35 35 143 137 11 39 10 0 3 21 0 0 5 31 .285 .308 .423 .731 .346
Batting 6th 27 27 107 100 10 35 8 0 2 16 0 0 5 20 .350 .383 .490 .873 .418
Batting 7th 22 20 80 74 13 30 5 0 1 5 0 0 5 14 .405 .450 .514 .964 .492
Batting 8th 30 29 114 105 11 36 7 0 4 17 0 0 9 25 .343 .395 .524 .919 .421
Batting 9th 6 0 7 7 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 .286 .286 .286 .571 .400
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/2/2014.

 

My Preferred Order

  1. Jason Heyward RF
  2. Justin Upton LF
  3. Freddie Freeman 1B
  4. Evan Gattis C
  5. B.J. Upton
  6. Andrelton Simmons
  7. Dan Uggla
  8. Chris Johnson

It may not matter, except from a confidence standpoint, where you put B.J. Upton or Dan Uggla since they struggled so much last season and need to prove themselves wherever they hit!  If I were Fredi Gonzalez, I would worry less about their confidence, and focus on imparting the message to them that wherever they hit, they had best show some initiative and start justifying their paycheck!  I’d be more inclined to put Simba in the six hole, because he did show that he’s comfortable in thta spot, although he had few ABs in that hole.  Simba in that spot breaks up Dan and B.J., which I feel is important.

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
Batting 6th 10 8 35 30 5 10 3 1 0 2 1 0 3 7 .333 .412 .500 .912 .435
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/2/2014.

 

Final Take

These are just some of my initial thoughts as we approach the 2014 season.  As I said, there’s pros and cons for any order you could imagine, and if history teaches us anything, Fredi will likely shuffle it again more than a deck of cards!  Anytime you talk about a batting order, you get LOTS of opinions, and ALL are noteworthy since there are in fact so many different strategies that a coach can employ.  I always find it amusing that so many argue orders, and I find it funny when someone implied their order is the only logical one.   There is no perfect order, but now that we’ve acknowledged that, what’s your Tomahawk Take on the best batting order Fredi could go with next season?

Topics: Atlanta Braves, FanSided

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  • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

    If Dan struggles again, replacing him with some other hitter (and potentially ANY other hitter) in the 7 hole in my preferred lineup would solve multiple issues and allow CJ’s potentially hot bat to be much more potentially effective! Love the way I used “potentially” 3 times? hehe.

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      You got a lot of potential there, no doubt about it.

  • Jeff Schafer

    Fredi’s job this spring training will be to develop a lineup that separates Uggla and BJ Upton. And it can’t be 7th and 8th with the pitcher next.

    Interesting thought, would pitchers be more willing to pitch to Uggla or Upton than to Kris Medlen?

    • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

      My thought is don’t bother to separate the two: if they are to be black holes in the lineup, then bite that bullet and put them together. No sense in screwing up a rally by putting a ‘producer’ (whether we’re talking about CJ or Simmons or whoever) in between them…. put that producer ahead of this pair so that he can prolong an inning more often. I don’t really care if they end up 6/7 or 7/8, but they’re gonna have to ‘earn’ their ways out of those spots.

      Of course given that scenario, if I’m the opposition and Johnson comes up as the #6 hitter with a base open, then he gets a pass so that I can face Uggla and BJ. There may be no way to win here… unless at least one of them starts hitting… for Baltimore.

      • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

        Yeah, however you spell it, if those two don’t produce, any lineup has issues.

    • fireboss

      Fredi’s job last spring was to pick a leadoff hitter. It took him until July to do that. Just sayin. . .

  • Lee Trocinski

    Remember when our lineup was too lefty heavy?

    Jason
    CJ
    Justin
    Freddie
    Gattis
    Simmons/BJ
    BJ/Simmons
    Uggla
    Pitcher

    I don’t think Heyward will run too much, so you don’t need the patient 2-hitter. I hate to move Freeman down the order, but no need to have our only two lefties in a span of 3 spots. I think Uggla is a perfect 8-hitter right now, patient enough to take the walks and powerful enough to clear the bases in front of the pitcher, and that’s it.

    It’s an odd-looking lineup, but I did also vouch for Heyward in the leadoff spot before the 2012 season, so who knows what will happen…

    • fireboss

      Moving Justin and Freddie down a notch takes an AB away from our best hitter and there’s a psychological component as well. I know the theory that where a person hits makes no difference to how he hits and perhaps in a vacuum that’s true however they don’t play in a vacuum. In the two spot JUP gets more fastballs to hit because Freddie is behind him; that’s even more likely with Jason. JUP’s OBP and average are better in the two hole that the 3rd spot as well. Part of that has to be mental; he feels pressure to drive in the run rather than just have a productive at bat.
      Freddie doesn’t seem to feel that difference anywhere but CJ does that’s why ideally I’d like him 6th if BJ or Uggs was hitting at all. Failing that 5th where he isn’t awful. I agree that Uggs in the 8 spot works and moves Simba up at least a notch.

      • Lee Trocinski

        The only difference between J-Up’s numbers in the 2-hole and 3-hole last year is BABIP. Unless you think his BABIP is always going to be 60 points higher in the 2-hole, it doesn’t matter where he hits. Plus, Freddie should be behind him wherever he hits, so getting fastballs won’t be a problem, but J-UP hit offspeed pitches better last year, so maybe we don’t want that. Unfortunately, I can’t find official batted ball profiles in this split, but he did have a 5% higher LD% in the 2nd half, just about when the change took place. Again, if you think last year is how he always hits, then he should hit 2nd, but I’ll take my chances that it’s just SSS and he hits the same no matter what spot he’s in.

        At least there was a decent sample size of 200 PA with him. This whole “CJ can’t hit 2nd” thing is ridiculous, basing it off of 6 games. He struck out 7 of 28 times, not far from his average. His BABIP was .211, which is nowhere near his baseline. He had similar 6-game stretches hitting at the bottom of the order too.

        • fireboss

          JUP has always hit FB better than off speed, last year wasn’t typical and I don;t expect that to repeat. I do expect his BAbip to be high in that slot because I think his approach is different there and that goes back to the mental side of this whole discussion.
          Freddie is a better hitter than CJ and should be given the chance to get more at bats. The three hole hitter gets more chances than the four hole guy. Freddie should hit third.
          I didnt; say he couldn;t hit second I simple implied I thought he was better off farther down the lineup. Discounting CJ 3 hole stats in 2013 as you did those for his 2 hole hitting (that I never mentioned), he has always hit better lower in the lineup. There’s a reason for that but it isn’t a number.

          Lineups should allow the best hitter the most at bats but it should also put them where they are most comfortable and most productive. Freddie best slot is the 3 hole Jason will lead off and the pitcher will bat 9th. Everything else fills in around that.

          • Lee Trocinski

            Sorry about the CJ comments. That was just from the original post. The only problem with Justin hitting 2nd is that your best power threat will have fewer runners on base for the homers. As I said, I don’t like dropping Freeman, but I also don’t want the other team to send a lefty to face Jason, pitch around Justin, then face Freddie. Maybe my lineup could be used against a LH starter and move CJ down vs RHP.