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!

Batting 1st3030134118313890616011422.322.403.551.954.356
Batting 2nd62622772393454121820223245.226.330.385.715.247
Batting 3rd5523212510020115.238.304.286.590.313
Batting 5th10000000000000
Batting 6th10000000000000
Batting 9th50640000000011.

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.

Batting 2nd6628266410010027.
Batting 3rd22990300010001.333.333.333.667.375
Batting 4th14145956316302600316.286.322.446.768.368
Batting 5th3535143137113910032100531.285.308.423.731.346
Batting 6th272710710010358021600520.350.383.490.873.418
Batting 7th222080741330501500514.405.450.514.964.492
Batting 8th302911410511367041700925.343.395.524.919.421
Batting 9th60770200010002.

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.

Batting 6th108353051031021037.333.412.500.912.435

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?