Atlanta Braves: Open Letter to Fredi Gonzalez on Less Than Ideal Batting Order

Shaun PayneContributor IIMarch 23, 2011

Jason Heyward should not be a number six hitter.
Jason Heyward should not be a number six hitter.Marc Serota/Getty Images

Dear Fredi Gonzalez,

We beg of you, please do not hit Jason Heyward sixth in the batting order. 

Heyward may be the Braves' best all-around hitter. 

He got on base at a historically high rate last season, for a 20-year-old rookie. His slugging percentage was right there with the best sluggers on the team. 

Please do not hide that kind of hitter low in the order.

We just want that kind of hitter to come to the plate as often as possible, while still having a chance to hit with a runner or two on base.

If he hits sixth in the order versus second, that will cost him a noticeable number of plate appearances. 

Last year, the Braves' No. 2 hitters came up 754 times, while No. 6 hitters came up 675 times. That's a difference of 79 plate appearances. 

Batting Heyward sixth versus second would cost him at least around 70 plate appearances over the course of a full season season. 

Let's say a player gets five plate appearances per game. Batting Heyward sixth, as opposed to second, is essentially like taking Heyward's bat out of the lineup, unnecessarily, for 14 games. 

So maybe it won't be 14 games, since we probably can't assume Heyward will play every single game; maybe it's more like removing him from 10 games unnecessarily or five games unnecessarily. 

The key word there is "unnecessarily."  If you can avoid it, why would you want to remove Heyward's bat from even one game, much less five, 10 or 14 games?

Please do not try to sell us on the fact that Heyward is a "run producer" and therefore should bat in the middle of the order instead of near the top of the order. 

First of all, batting him lower in the order will cost him perhaps as many as 14 games worth of plate appearances, likely canceling out any possible advantage of having him hit in the middle of the order versus near the top of the order. 

Second, it's more important to worry about setting the table than it is to worry about clearing the table. Given the opportunity, mediocre-or-worse hitters can pick up the RBI—see our old buddy Jeff Francoeur's seasons in Atlanta.

But giving the team a chance to score by accruing baserunners and avoiding outs is more of a necessity than worrying about whether there is great hitter low in the order who can drive in inferior hitters who might get on base ahead of the great hitter. 

Sure, you might not score as many runs as you like if you primarily worry about setting the table, but you certainly aren't going to score as many runs as you like if you sacrifice table-setting for table-clearing.

Most of us understand that batting Heyward sixth instead of second or third or somewhere closer to the top of the order isn't likely to make a huge difference. 

Over the course of the entire 162-game season, maybe it will cost the Braves a couple, maybe three, wins. 

But we also understand that a) it could be more and b) a couple, maybe three, wins could be the difference in making the playoffs and not. 

Therefore, we beg of you, don't ignore reason. We want you to succeed in Atlanta. We want you to be as beloved as Bobby Cox. We want you to give the Braves the best chance to win as many games as possible. 

Just do what makes sense. 

Hit Heyward second. 


Concerned Braves Fans

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