Gonzalez Left Right Left Right Lineup Obsession


Yesterday Braves Skipper Fredi Gonzalez’ lineup omitted Tommy La Stella , not because he needed a rest but because he had Jason Heyward leading off and didn’t want three consecutive left handers his lineup. That’s not unusual but it is just plain silly. Successful managers put their hitters in the best position to succeed  and leave them alone.  Gonzalez first priority seems to be creating a lineup that would please my old drill sergeant.

Lineup by drill sergeant

Left, right, left, right is a great cadence for marching but can’t be the prime consideration is building a lineup. Today Gonzalez shuffled the lineup again for no reason other than the illusive and unsubstantiated benefit of alternating the side of the plate a batter hits from. Let’s examine the lineup numerically

PlayerHitsVs RHPvs LHP
Jason HeywardL.301/.389/.436/.825.165/.233/.239/.472
Emilio BonifacioB.238/.279/.294/.573.395/.432/.566/.988
Freddie FreemanL.298/.387/.491/.878.269/.351/ .454/.805
Justin UptonR.272/.336/.475/.811.313/.424/.614/1.039
Chris JohnsonR.238/.255/.332/.587.434/.476/.592/1.068
Tommy La StellaL.266/.344/.324/.669.346/.433/.481/.914
Andrelton SimmonsR.242 /.293 /.322 /.615.242/.293/.322 /.615
Gerald LairdR.226/.308/.280/.587.219/.286/.313/.598

Today’s opposing pitcher is Roberto Hernandez, a RHP.  The Dodger bullpen has one left handed reliever J.P. Howell. Here’s the way this breaks down.

  • The batters will face Hernandez at least twice.
  • Howell has appeared in 54 games but only thrown 39 innings there fore he’s a LOOGY.
  • Bonifacio’s numbers against lefties are marginally better than La Stella’s
  • La Stella’s numbers against righties are significantly better than Bonifacio
  • Because he’s at the top of the order Bonifacio will probably bat at least one more time that La Stella
  • Bonifacio’s extra at bat will probably be against a RHP
  • La Stella will have a greater chance of success in such an at bat that Bonifacio
  • Bonifacio is 0- 2 against Howell
  • La Stella has never faced Howell

The facts indicate the r/l advantage is all in Gonzalez mind. There is no significant statistical advantage to moving La Stella out of the two spot in favor of Bonifacio.

On Another Note

This morning the Braves swapped a wild right handed relief pitcher for an ineffective left handed relief pitcher when they sent Juan Jaime down in favor of Luis Avilan. The move comes after James Russell came over and pitched exactly like James Russell much to the surprise of everyone not looking at his statistics this season.

Gonzalez told the press that Avilan had been pitching better lately. I’m not sure where they’re getting this information. In Avilan’s last 4 appearances hes thrown 6 1/3 innings allowed  4 earned runs,  9 hits and walked 5 for a 2.222 WHIP and a 5.71 ERA.   Tthat’s an improvement?

That’s A Wrap

Managers have their quirks and Fredi’s is the idea he picked up somewhere that regardless who the hitter is the lineup should alternate left-right-left-right. There’s some logic in that of course, all things and hitters being equally capable such a lineup would keep the opposing manager from picking off three same handed hitters with one relief pitcher. So when Gonzalez decided after a couple of games that Heyward had to lead off to save the season (and Fredi’s job?) that posed a problem. La Stella has been superb in the two spot hitting right and left handed pitcher’s alike but in Gonzalez mind he had to  get a left right left right lineup or at least as much of one as he could and so had to move La Stella. Except of course that’s not right.

There’s no significant difference between Boni and TLS when facing lefties and TLS has a real advantage against the pitchers they’ll see most today; righties. The idea that Heyward whose bat has come alive in the five hole (.292/.385/.396/.782 ) while coincidentally giving the Braves lineup a left-right-left-right power core, is going to ignite the offense batting first (.254/.333/.382/.715) as it did last year is a pure Hail Mary by a manager out of ideas and options.

Reality tells us that the Braves roster doesn’t support the left-right left-right lineup option; his backup outfield choices are B.J. Upton and Ryan Doumit tying his hands further. In a futile attempt to salvage a season Gonzalez is weakening the very thing he’s trying to make stronger by moving the best number two bat from the spot where he’s been doing damage against everyone.

Bonifacio needs a few games to settle in as leadoff man on a new team but he hasn’t been given that chance because they continue to trot B.J. out there to start when his best position is pinch runner.  If Heyward is to lead off that’s fine but forcing a left-right-left at the top of the order that’s actually likely to weaken it against right hand pitchers is simply overthinking the situation.

Lineup experiments should be over by the end of April. In August the routine barring injury or slump is to simply put your best hitters on the field in the lineup spot they’re most comfortable in and get on with it.  If you haven’t figured it out by now Skip, you aren’t going to.