Posted: 9:55 am Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

B.J. bats leadoff. Braves win. Problem solved? 

By Mark Bradley

B.J. Upton, the new Rickey Henderson? Er, no. (David J. Phillip/AP)

B.J. Upton, the new Rickey Henderson? Er, no. (David J. Phillip/AP)

To recap: B.J. Upton batted leadoff for the Atlanta Braves in Houston on Tuesday and didn’t go 0-for-4 but got an actual hit, and not just any hit but the go-ahead home run. (Although the homer wasn’t struck when Upton led off an inning, just for the record.) The Braves won 3-2. For one night, everybody was happy. Does this mean B.J. Upton should remain in the No. 1 slot?

No. No. No. And, just for effect, I say again: No.

The primary job of a leadoff man is to get on base. Upton’s on-base percentage is .272. The average OBP for all major-league hitters is .316. There’s your reason why Tuesday’s lineup should be a one-off.

I understand Fredi Gonzalez’s rationale. (Don’t agree with it, but I understand.) The experiment of having the rookie Tommy La Stella bat leadoff didn’t work. La Stella was hitting lower in the order but stopped when moved to No. 1. Gonzalez was afraid that might happen; indeed, it’s the reason he didn’t try it sooner.

So Fredi G. now wanted TLS to hit second, which meant somebody else had to hit first. As noted, the Braves don’t have a surfeit of candidates. Fredi G. also doesn’t like bunching his left-handed-hitting starters, of which he has only three, so that meant he preferred a righty batting ahead of lefties La Stella and Freddie Freeman. That meant, almost by default but not quite, B.J. Upton.

The Brave most suited to batting leadoff is still Jason Heyward (OBP of .341), but he’s a lefty, too, and you can’t really have all three lefties at the top of the order. I struggled with this a few weeks back before deciding I’d rather have Heyward bat first — with La Stella No. 2 — and bump Freeman to No. 5, but that’s just me and what do I know?

This part I do know: Having the owner of a .272 OBP leading off will not work in the long or short term. This is, as also noted, a flawed lineup. But there are better alternatives than B.J.

66 comments
Wilbo
Wilbo

Do the Nats and Marlins just not want to be in 1st place?

Wilbo
Wilbo

So the goofball Braves finally drop out of first place. Well deserved drop from grace! What do the Bobsy Twiins Clown teams Washington and Miami do? Lose combined 5 straight games. I think this is hilarious, I really do. So the pathetic Braves won't look like such incompetent fools this particular October, they want to just give it away, but there are no takers...

BaseballBuff
BaseballBuff

Big Joke's homerun to left field in that bandbox would have been an out in most (all?) other MLB ballparks. This guy sucks, and has a bad attitude to boot, hustling only when he feels like it. Man, are we stuck with a loser! He and Struggla with their high salaries are a couple of huge boat anchors. What to do?

Pistol66
Pistol66

BJ works at lead off only if he is willing to bunt or hit to the opposite field to get on!  His primary issue has been not playing in that band box of a stadium in Tampa!  A good percentage of the outs he makes would be home runs there and in other American League parks!  He has the only real speed on the team so batting him leadoff makes sense but only if he is willing to listen! 90% of the players in baseball believe they are paid to hit home runs! I would also move Simmons or Johnson(good bunters) to the #2 spot and Heyward to 3rd. Jason Upton is 4th and Freeman is 5th with Gattis next.  Simmons or Johnson next with La Stella eighth. If Laird is catching, then everyone moves up one and Laird hits eighth. The line up is balanced and everyone except La Stella has a good bat behind them protecting them and Heyward could be the next Clemente in the 3rd spot! Freddie needs to figure out how to manage a National League team, not like his mentor Mr Cox who was constantly waiting for the three run home run! 

tmc
tmc

the man is hitting......... wait for it.......... .203 !

we are already the laughing stock of the league for giving him $15 mil a year for 5 years...

The only news on BJ Upton should be when he's released and nothing more.


The guy has one hit, a hr, and all of a sudden he's a leadoff hitter and his problems solved?

aaaaahhhhhhh NO! he still sucks.

FrediStupid
FrediStupid

Once again, the dumbest manager I have ever seen.  F#$%ing Gonz.

FrediStupid
FrediStupid

BJ needs to hit leadoff.. in AAA Gwinnett.

Calel
Calel

I used to get so upset with Andruw Jones.....man, do I owe him an apology.

The last flop we had out there in the outfield was Reggie Sanders. And even HE wasn't as bad as BJ.

kindergartenmath
kindergartenmath

Here is a radical lineup suggestion, based on 2 assumptions. First, Fredi is just not going to sit BJ. The organization is OK with sitting Ugs, but will not allow both of them to sit, considering how much money they threw away on them. Secondly, Fredi wants to alternate righty/lefty batters as much as possible. Here  is what should happen. J Up goes to Fredi and tells him how much he appreciates his  continuing to keep his brother in the starting line-up, although he knows that he clearly sucks and is hurting the club. J Up volunteers, for the good of the team, to bat lead off. He bats right handed, has a.343 OBP and has stolen 6 bases. Yes,  he will miss rbi opportunities on his first at bat (assuming that he does not hit a home run), but as someone else mentioned in the blog, he only leads off once a game and will have a greater number of bats over the rest of the season. What he loses in rbis in the first inning  could be more than made up by runs scored ,considering the bats behind him.  I realize that today's multi-millionaire stars are not accustomed to doing things selflessly, but is it not enough motivation to help his brother and his teammates ? He already owns the bank, why not try to help his brother and the team ?  He is then followed in the batting order by J Hey (L), CJ ( R) ( whose batting average is only  two thousands of a point lower that FF's and where he will see better pitches to help return his batting average more to last year's levels, assuming that he can can control his temper and play professional ball), FF (L), Gattis(R),  AS (R),  BJ( L) and TLS(R) hitting 8th, where he flourished.  The Braves have been desperate for runs. Why not try it ?

Calel
Calel

@Mark Bradley

Maybe you've addressed this in another story that I've missed, but why do you give the impression that the "lefty lineup" thing is something of Fredi? I saw Bobby Cox do the same exact thing for years--seperate the left hand hitters. As far as I rememeber, He was doing that after it was a Justice-McGriff-Klesko middle-of-the-order. I don't really have a problem with FG doing that.

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

The positive here is not that BJ hit a home run ( have he and his brother ever hit home runs in the same game since they came to Atlanta? Just wondering). The good news is that the Braves managed to win a low scoring game (albeit with home runs) by one run against a last place American league team - and  also that a quality pitching start was turned into a win. Rare things these days. 


It is hard not to laugh at how Fredi swallows elephants and strains at gnats.  He has far greater things to worry about than putting his lefties together in the batting order.  And as surreal as it sounds, that is why BJ went from batting second to first?  Also to help La Stella?  Old school here, but if you can hit, you can hit, and if you can't hit, you can't hit. Batting first or second should not matter. 


Granted, the problem is how to deal with  BJ, who the top brass says will play no matter what, and who should not be out there starting at all. And don't tell me that doesn't grate the other players and hurt the chemistry. But  that comes from Wren, and possibly Aaron too. Who knows? Aaron might have persuaded Wren to make this dumb deal with BJ, so they may both be hoping and praying he bounces back to at least the mid .200's and a higher OBP so they can save face. 


Fredi is not completely hopeless, and bad manager, he is just managing the wrong team at the wrong time. He could do better with a different bunch in a less political situation with a team that has some some on the field leadership and good chemistry. The Braves need a strong hand at the helm. A crusty old school guy who will stand up the the top brass about who makes playing and team management decisions and who is not out there trying to be everyone's best pal. Don't know who that is though. 



dynesh
dynesh

That homerun he hit was his standard uppercut swing that results in a popup. He got lucky last night that the left field wall is so close. But now that he got a hit, I'm sure Fredi will put him there for another two weeks.  I've never been one to bash the skipper, but seeing BJ in leadoff last night really made me question what in the world he is doing. Right now, BJ should bat 7th or 8th, and to hell with his pride. Figure out how to hit, get moved to a higher spot. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

You want your best hitters batting 1,2,3 because over the season they will get 50 or more AB's than the guys hitting  6,7,8.  Do you want BJ getting the extra AB's, foolish is as foolish does.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

If Chris Christie is the Falcons answer at tight end, then BJ is the answer at leadoff.



BigHittas
BigHittas

Bring back Julio Franco. At the age of 50 something he's still a MUCH better hitter than that half*** BJ Upton!

I imagine Terry Pendleton would even have a better OBP.

It would be nice to have a player in BJ's spot that actually wants to excel.

BTW, someone in the front office should address the lack of hitting coach effectiveness. When you have an entire lineup regularly swinging for the fences something eventually has to give.

Sit some of those stubborn fence swingers on the bench; grow a set FG!!!! 

restaurantsatl
restaurantsatl

People are defending BJ at leadoff??? Your leadoff man doesn't lead the league in strikeouts, hit .200 and have an on base percentage of .272. Give it up! So he got lucky one game. I really hope Fredi doesn't keep him up there. 

watcher16
watcher16

 The leadoff man is only guaranteed to lead off one time a game:  the first inning.  What's the issue?

seminoleking
seminoleking

bj is WELL suited for leadoff. his ONLY problem, like was mentioned by the announcing crew, is bj fell into being a homerun hitter. ive ALWAYS said that bj wasnt a homerun hitter, that he fell into it by mistake because he had a quick bat early in his career. the reason bj COULD florish at leadoff, besides the fact that he has speed, is the fact that he is REALLY a line drive singles hitter, and he DOES have patience at the plate. early in his career, when he was quicker with the bat than he is now, he could get away with that loop in his swing. now that he has gotten older, the loop has been exposed. so, all he has to do is STOP swinging for the fences by cutting his swing down and the loop will not effect him because he wouldnt be loading up all the time before swinging........

JRoswell
JRoswell

Freddy Freeman is the team's top performer.  You build the lineup around him.  No way he goes to 5 slot.  He is the no. 3 hitter because you need him to get as many opportunities to drive in runs as possible.  


So you go from there.  Jason no 1, not because it's idea, but because Gattis is great for no 4, so no need to bat Heyward no 4,  and the team has had good success with him leading off.  I say Johnson at no 2 to get a RH batter and so that he sees better pitches. BJ at  6, 7 or 8 or even 9, until the team gets a longer term solution (ie, a different center fielder). 

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

That was a great bunt laid down by Simmons last night.  He should be batting in the 2 hole.  If he was younger and faster, he could lead off.  The most ideal leadoff hitter the Braves have is Schafer.  He is fast.  He just needs to stop trying to hit home runs and make contact.  He needs to hit the ball in the dirt and bunt.  We do not need a leadoff hitter that wants to start a game (or inning) thinking, "Gee, I could really pick the team up with a dinger right about now."  BJ Upton, La Stella, Heyward, and Schafer - they all swing like they have to rip the cover off the ball.  It gets so bad when they swing so hard so often, and miss so often they have to rest their arms and take a called strike so often, that a foul ball seems like progress.  That idiot Carey boy announced that last night, saying, "BJ is at least fouling more balls off."  We don't want a foul ball accomplishment in a leadoff hitter.  Then, announcer Byrd said, "This pitcher can throw a 91 mph fastball that is pretty darn hard to hit."  A Phil Niekro ephus pitch is pretty darn hard to hit when the bat has grown to your shoulder, like BJ's has when he has 2 strikes.


Here is a line-up for Freddi to use, which will tickle him because never does a batter come up batting from the same side as the batter before him.


Schafer LH - CF

Simmons RH - SS

Heyward LH - RF

J. Upton RH - LF

Freeman LH - 1B

Gattis RH - C

La Stella LH - 2B

Johnson RH - 3B

Johnny Wholestaff - P or DH


The key is making Schafer try to make contact.  Someone has to shake the steroid or pot out of his brain.  They have to make him focus.  Look him in the eye before each at-bat and make him repeat back the words, "Make contact."  The manager (Luman Harris?) used to fine Ralph Garr for hitting fly balls.  He paid him for hitting the ball on the ground.  Garr cleared 200 hits that year (Beep Beep).  Of course, that required some form of coaching and management - something the Braves lack most.

martyjames
martyjames

Hey its time to play schafer lead off cf an give him 3 straight weeks at it as it couldnt be worse that BJ 

an also if uggla would agree send hin down to gwinnett an let him use a much lighter bat an shorter and send me 10% of is contract as I belieave he will hit!!!!!

reckingball
reckingball

They might want to try Uggla out in the leadoff spot.

dawgfandanno
dawgfandanno

B. Upton - Bumped my head you say? Probably but guy can run when interested. Make contact!!


La Stella - Would be valuable in the 2 hole by simply making contact


J. Upton - His K's worry me in the 3 spot. Should see good pitches ahead of Freeman though


Freeman - He'll regain his Mr Consistency label sooner or later


Gattis - Guy can hit the ball!! Wish they had 7 more of him


Heyward - Please stand a little closer to the plate


Johnson - Relax, dude. Temper flare ups = batting average going down


Simmons - Will improve as a hitter. Just continue that beautiful SS position play





reckingball
reckingball

Maybe BJ will start hitting, and get on base more often while he is hitting in the 1st slot.

UWreckMeBaby
UWreckMeBaby

BJ will pout on the bench and be a distraction. He needs to be selling peanuts and cokes in the stands.

jdcigar
jdcigar

Schaffer needs to be in Center leading off with La Stella batting second.  Leave BJ on the bench

brad37
brad37

La Stella

Justin Upton

Freeman

Gattis

Heyward

Johnson

Simmons

BJ Upton

Pitcher

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

I think management and the team is so embarrassed about the BJ signing, they refuse to let it go, like a bad stock you hope will someday turn around yet you are down 50% or more.


I don't manage the team so what the heck, but also I have lost interest in watching the Braves as well in general.


If Frank Wren is around for 4 more years then it will never change, the signings will be horrible, and the hitting the same.

theoriginaltruth
theoriginaltruth

@Pistol66  Opine all you wish, but BJ's primary issue is dead smack between his ears.......there is no up side except BJ being somewhere else.....

PhilUnderwood
PhilUnderwood

@FrediStupid So sad to see these kind of remarks.  It slaps those of us that lived through Eddie Haas, Bobby Wine and Russ Nixon right across the face.  I promise, our day had worse managers.

GetBackJojo
GetBackJojo

@FrediStupid Why bring AAA Gwinnett down? Bo Jangles should be gone. That would be the best headline.

BaseballBuff
BaseballBuff

@Ficklefan Well said, but I do not think a new manager would help this bunch. With Wren, it may not be so much about saving face as saving his job. Between Struggla and Big Joke, he has thrown away millions of the team's payroll. Wren should answer for it.

restaurantsatl
restaurantsatl

@seminoleking His ONLY problem? No, there are many problems like the fact that he strikes out more than anyone in baseball and has one of the worst on base percentages over the last 2 years. It doesn't matter how fast your leadoff man is if he doesn't get on base. I congratulate him on getting lucky last night.

restaurantsatl
restaurantsatl

@JRoswell Exactly! I don't know what Schultz is thinking dropping our best hitter to #5. He could potentially miss an extra at bat late in the game hitting #5 instead of #3.

BaseballBuff
BaseballBuff

@BooBooBear Schafer does not solve the leadoff problem, but this is still the best proposed lineup I have seen, given what we have. I like it.

ScubaSteve
ScubaSteve

@BooBooBear as bad as BJ has been, you're going to have a tough time convincing me Schafer is a better option.

ChipBrown
ChipBrown

@BooBooBear That lineup would never work, I don't see moving Freeman or Gattis for that matter. To win more games Betancourt needs to be called up to catch everyday and the line up as follows

1 - la Stella 2B

2 - Simmons SS

3-Freeman 1B

4-Gattis LF

5-J.Heyward CF

6-J.Upton RF

7-Betancourt C

8-Johnson 3B

BruceMac
BruceMac

@BooBooBear  This lineup will never occur because It is too obvious and would result in more wins.  We sure as heck don't want to admit FW is the dumbest GM on the planet, do we?

DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

@Jazzpman More like a stock down 90% and the guy is still holding on for dear life. :-) The Braves apparently also didn't learn that stocks go to $0 sometimes.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

@ChipBrown @BooBooBear Read the article about how it says the rookie batting leadoff experiment has failed.  La Stella needs to bat low in the order.  I put him 7th just to satisfy the Fredster fetish for no two batting the same way in the order.  I think seeing Betancourt play is an easy drive up I-85.  Thinking rookies are the answer is like thinking a life jacket was a good substitute for a life boat when the Titanic was sinking.  That is called a "rebuilding mode."  Get ready for 100-loss seasons when you call up Gwwinnett to play in the Ted.  Also, 3, 4, 5, 6 is where the meat goes.  Again, the Fredster fetish is afraid to put two lefties together.  Freeman, Gattis, Heyward, and J Upton can be mixed and matched.  The lineup is not about who hits in the middle, but who sets the table up front.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

@BruceMac @BooBooBear Yeah. The wildcard is always what contract language says for BJ Upton.  It appears it says, "If you do not play me in 5 straight games, where I bat in a top-five place in the batting order, then I must be released to sign with whomever I choose, while you still pay me for 3 more years."  Money is the only reason BJ Upton plays. That would be okay if BJ Upton could be coached and told "make contact," and he listened.  Unfortunately, BJ Upton has an ego that acts like his agent and anyone asking him to do something other than what BJ wants to do is then a racist, worst than Donald Sterling.  The boy will not be told what to do.

ChipBrown
ChipBrown

@BooBooBear @ChipBrown That is very true but just like Uggla if we leave BJ in the line up its like a rebuilding year without the rookie getting any big league experience. the kid has earned his shot in my book. Your line up would produce some more runs I agree but the real answer is getting some contact guys on the field.If you remember a few years ago when Simmons was called up as a rookie because the Pastorniki deal was not working he ignited the line up for a while until he hurt his wrist.  

BruceMac
BruceMac

@BooBooBear @BruceMac  Yea, but you gotta love those advanced post game dance moves that the outfield works on endlessly to impress their posse on the rare occasion that the Braves actually win.  LOL