I know, having Yunel Escobar at the top of the lineup sounds crazy, but the numbers seem to show a different story.
.197/.270/.335 (263 Plate Appearances)
.179/.281/.232 (64 Plate Appearances)
.411/.427/.616 (75 Plate Appearances)
What are these stat lines? They are the typical BA/OBP/SLG line when a player is leading off a game.
But who are those players? In order, they are Nate McLouth, Melky Cabrera, and Yunel Escobar.
The first thing that jumps out at you is the major difference in batting average (and more importantly, on-base percentage) between Escobar and the other two.
The second thing I found surprising was that Escobar actually has spent more time in the leadoff spot than Melky.
Judging by these stats, I want Escobar leading off for my team, not the other two.
Obviously, one of the biggest factors going against Escobar is that he has been great as the sixth hitter, and would lose some of his RBI potential hitting (essentially) behind the pitcher.
But would the Braves really lose anything by having McLouth at that point in the order? I don’t think so.
McLouth has a higher career slugging percentage than Escobar, and he has definitely shown more home run potential than Escobar in his career. When the Braves face a left-handed pitcher, McLouth would be out of the lineup, and Matt Diaz (.535 career slugging percentage against lefties) could bat sixth.
Obviously, the best solution would be for the Braves to find a true leadoff hitter, but at this point in the season, that isn’t really an option. I like the lineup the Braves have put together, but (especially after looking at their stats when leading off a game) I don’t think McLouth or Melky are helping the team much in the beginning of each game.
With that in mind, here is what I think the Braves ideal lineup is (at this point in time, Heyward will likely deserve to move up as the year progresses):
1. Yunel Escobar
2. Martin Prado
3. Chipper Jones
4. Brian McCann
5. Troy Glaus
6. Nate McLouth/Matt Diaz
7. Jason Heyward
8. Melky Cabrera
The Braves lineup has shown the potential to score plenty of runs, yet seems to struggle unexpectedly in certain games (often when Jurrjens or Hanson are pitching). If the leadoff hitter was more consistent, the Braves might improve their offensive efficiency, and begin to get more run support for their pitchers.