Posted: 6:02 am Monday, June 9th, 2014
By Mark Bradley
As threatened, I submitted my Atlanta Braves’ lineup card in Sunday’s AJC. Full details of my thinking, such at it was, can be found on myajc.com, but for readers of this site I’ll offer the names and numerical slots. Given that I solicited your help in this space last week, it would unsporting if I didn’t. So here goes:
1. Jason Heyward, RF
2. Tommy La Stella, 2B
3. Justin Upton, LF
4. Evan Gattis, C
5. Freddie Freeman, 1B
6. Chris Johnson, 3B
7. Andrelton Simmons, SS
9. B.J. Upton, CF
I can’t tell you I’m crazy about this batting order, either. I don’t like dropping Freeman to the No. 5 spot, but I really wanted Heyward and La Stella — the Braves’ other two lefty swingers — at Nos. 1 and 2, which meant that Freeman had to move for the sake of some lefty/righty balance in what remains an imbalanced lineup.
I actually have B.J. Upton batting ninth for semi-legitimate (at least to me) reasons. First, he’s a terrible hitter. Second, if he does happen to reach base, that yields an RBI opportunity for Heyward, who has seen too few. (He drove in five runs over the weekend to lift his season total to 22.) Third, Upton would be wasted at No. 8, where nobody would ever throw him a strike, which isn’t to say he wouldn’t still swing and miss.
Even in the unlikely event that Fredi Gonzalez would adopt my batting order as his, I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest it would actually work much if at all. But I do think the Braves have to try something. They’re no longer in first place by themselves, having seen both Washington and Miami draw even as the Braves were losing a series to the last-place Diamondbacks.
To be fair, the Braves actually scored more runs than usual over the weekend — they mustered 13 in 29 innings — but some of that must surely be laid at the feet of Arizona’s awful pitchers, who as of Sunday morning had compiled the second-highest ERA in baseball, ahead only of the Colorado Rockies, who play 81 games at Coors Field. Which just happens to be where the Braves are bound.
The next four games could prove fascinating — the resistible force against the movable object. As we wait to watch those titanic struggles, I’ll leave you with this appraisal from Russell Carleton, the Baseball Prospectus writer who lives in Atlanta: “The Braves’ problem isn’t lineup construction — it’s lousy hitters.”