Atlanta Braves: Fredi Gonzalez's Defense of His Batting Order Simply Falls Short

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Atlanta Braves: Fredi Gonzalez's Defense of His Batting Order Simply Falls Short
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
We know Fredi Gonzalez is dealing with humans. But does that mean Heyward has to bat so low in the order?

Before Wednesday's Braves-Marlins game, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked Fredi Gonzalez about the Braves' batting order, specifically about batting Jason Heyward sixth in the order. 

Gonzalez's statements just brought up more questions:

“Yeah.  When you make out the lineup, the lineup is a function of the entire lineup—eight guys, not just one guy. Statisticians, numbers crunchers and my SABR [Society for American Baseball Research] people—I’m a member—they shoot holes in that stuff. But you’re dealing with humans in the way the lineup is constructed.”

How does the fact that he’s dealing with humans negate the fact that Heyward is a better on-base guy than all but maybe one of his teammates, that he is as good a slugger as all but maybe one or two of his teammates and that hitting him sixth versus second could cost him over 50 plate appearances?

“Yeah, you put this guy in the No. 2 hole, but what are you going to do to the six-hole? What are you going to do to [No. 5 hitter Dan] Uggla when he’s hitting good?”

What’s wrong with Uggla staying where he is and McLouth hitting sixth? I’m not sure what he’s implying here.

What are you doing to the No. 2-hole? The No. 2 hitter comes up a lot more often and ahead of better hitters than the No. 6 hitter.

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So why would you put one of your four weakest hitters in the No. 2 spot just so that you have a good hitter behind your No. 5 hitter?

“Like the situation [Tuesday], when McLouth bunts [Martin] Prado over to third,” he said. “Now are you are going to play the infield in? Are you going to pitch to Chipper or pitch to [No. 4 hitter Brian] McCann? That kind of stuff.”

What about the possibility in that situation of having Prado on second with no outs and Heyward, Chipper, McCann and Uggla due up?

“When everybody doing things like we did yesterday, hitting gappers, hitting some balls out of the ballpark, it makes [the lineup] good.”

Yes, when everyone gets a lot of extra-base hits, that’s a good thing. Over the course of the season, hitting one of your best hitters, if not your best, higher than sixth would lead to more extra-base hits.

“I think the way the lineup is constructed is more important [than getting your best hitters more plate appearances].  Then why don’t we lead off [Albert] Pujols? Or [Barry] Bonds? Lead ‘em off.”

The additional plate appearances isn’t the only consideration. That’s just one piece.

It's also about giving your best hitter a chance to hit with a runner on base in the first inning and about putting your best or second-best on-base guy in a spot where he can be both a table-setter and have a shot at a fair number of chances to advance the leadoff hitter (and possibly hitters at the bottom of the order who get on base).

One reason (namely additional plate appearances) alone is not enough to hit Heyward higher in the order. But that one reason combined with others is reason enough.

“Believe me, when a guy’s going good in a certain spot — he likes it; he’s comfortable – his whole game is [going well], let ‘em play. Let ‘em do it….

“When you’re going bad, you come up with the bases loaded every time. I mean, you can be hitting 11th and it’ll happen. When you’re going good, it doesn’t matter.

“Everybody [in the lineup] has got a function.”

It doesn’t seem very likely at all that McLouth’s successful spring was due to him hitting second. He’s facing major league pitchers. They are going to throw whatever it takes to get a hitter out, no matter where he’s hitting.

In fact, if anything, I would guess that pitchers are tougher on No. 2 hitters because they know they need to get an out before the middle of the order comes up.

Plus there is the fact that McLouth’s performance in the sixth and seventh spots in the order are better than his overall career performance.

I don’t see any reason to believe McLouth has to hit second in order to get “going well.” If there were an inferior hitter who seems to have a need to hit third in order to get going well, would he consider moving Chipper from third? I doubt it.

So why move Heyward for an inferior hitter?

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