What In the World Are The Braves Doing?
April 15, 2011 in Uncategorized
There is a debate raging in Atlanta of late and that is where should Jason Heyward bat. Since the start of the season, last year's rookie of the year winner has hit 6th, despite the fact that Heyward has a .961 OPS (which leads the team) to start the season. What's even more impressive is that Heyward's OPS is that high despite just hitting .237. Heyward who has just 9 hits in 38 at bats, is crushing the ball as he has 5 extra base hits (including 3 home runs). In addition to his power display, Heyward has now drawn 11 walks which has him tied for 5th in the league. Teams are simply pitching around Heyward, because they have no feared bats behind him. While Heyward is taking the free bases, it isn't working out in Atlanta's favor as he has yet to come around to score a single time that he has walked.
For me and most Atlanta fans, I think the solution is pretty simple, move Jason Heyward up to the 2 spot in the order, and move Nate McLouth down in the lineup. Not only will this give Heyward the protection of Chipper Jones and Brian McCann, but he will get an extra 70+ at bats by hitting that much higher in the order. This should in turn lead to more runs and wins for the Braves.
Now Braves Manager Freddi Gonzalez states that he doesn't want to leave 2B Dan Uggla exposed in the 5 hole, but that argument doesn't hold any water. Pitchers now are more afraid of Heyward than Uggla, and if they are giving Uggla more pitches to hit he sure isn't making the most of his opportunity, as evidenced by his .160 BA. Also, both Heyward and McLouth are lefties so it doesn't really change the balance of the lineup any by making the switch (and against lefty pitching I'd much rather have Heyward there than McLouth). Finally, while Gonzalez makes a point “I think the way the lineup is constructed is more important,” Gonzalez said. “Then why don’t we lead off [Albert] Pujols? Or [Barry] Bonds?”, he ignores the fact that you never saw them in the 6th hole either (side note: Barry Bonds actually led off a lot early in his career but he is a different type of player). Gonzalez also fails to acknowledge that there is a distinct difference between leading off and the 2-hole that people want to see Heyward in. If McLouth was hitting .280+, drawing walks and scoring runs no one would be making this argument. Instead as it stands Gonzalez is simply putting a weaker product on the field.
By putting Heyward in the two spot, he should see a lot better pitches than he is right now when he is sandwiched between two weaker batters. If Prado gets on, I don't see how teams can try to pitch around Heyward, given that you are only putting a runner in scoring position for Chipper Jones. Moving Heyward up won't solve all of the Braves problems, but it makes a lot of sense and could jump start the offense.