Constanza has been nothing short of fiery since his promotion to Atlanta, hitting .400 with 3 runs scored in 20 at bats.
As you may or may not have already noticed, Jason Heyward is out of the lineup for the second consecutive game.
Other than missing games due to injury, this is the first time he will miss consecutive games in 2011.
What, exactly, is the problem then? A closer look reveals why Heyward has been absent.
- Heyward's slash line of .167/.263/.319 against LHP is anemic.
- Newly promoted guy with the extra "n", Jose Constanza, is on fire.
While Heyward is certainly the more talented player here, I can understand playing the "hot hand." At the same time, Heyward himself is turning things around lately, batting .300 with four walks (plus one intentional walk) and zero strikeouts since July 26.
Consider also that Eric Hinske is 13/30 with five doubles and two homers in his career against Nationals starter, Chien-Ming Wang and it seems even more obvious. He also has the most experience against Wang on the team—other than Lugo, which doesn't count. So that makes things a little clearer.
I'm certainly not in love with sitting Heyward, especially against RHP, but I am okay with it today. At least let Hinske grab a few at bats against Wang, and perhaps the Braves can give him an early exit—allowing Heyward to enter the game.
I don't agree with Constanza player over Heyward, however, if it's between Hinske and Constanza I tend to prefer the latter. I love the speed and energy he brings to the lineup, and he actually gets on base. Novel idea. When you get a situation like today (where Hinske hits the opposing starter very well), then you have to worry about leaving your bench void of a power bat late in the game.
The effects on the game's outcome might be minimal, but if Heyward and Hinske were both in the lineup today it would leave a bench of J.C Boscan, Julio Lugo, Brooks Conrad, Constanza, and Chipper Jones. Conrad has proven to be clutch, but doesn't really possess the power that Heyward or Hinske do.
With the day-to-day availability of Chipper Jones uncertain, it seems reasonable to keep Heyward on the bench today.
Perhaps it won't matter. Wang hasn't pitched regularly in the majors since 2009, and he's 0-1 this season with a 9.00 ERA and 2.25 WHIP. I think the Braves will be okay here, but the Nationals have long been a thorn in the Braves side. They are swinging the bats well, too, and the Braves could really use a solid pitching performance from starter Brandon Beachy today.
One interesting note about Beachy is his ERA with catcher, David Ross. When Ross catches for Beachy, his ERA is 1.40, while it's 3.82 with Brian McCann. It's a smaller sample size, but encouraging at the very least.
Before I go, I'll remind you where the Braves stand in the pennant race.