This is my annual post on how the Braves should arrange their batting order, based on research from “The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball.” The basics of a batting order by “The Book” can be found here. I also utilized Steamer projections, found on Fangraphs and at steamerprojections.com.
1. Justin Upton
2. Jason Heyward
3. Evan Gattis
4. Freddie Freeman
5. Chris Johnson
6. Andrelton Simmons
7. Dan Uggla
9. B.J. Upton
You want your best hitters hitting first, second and fourth. Not surprisingly, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman are projected to be the three best hitters and three best on-base guys on the team. Justin has the lowest projected slugging among the three, Heyward the second lowest and Freeman the highest. So Justin leads off and the higher slugging guys follow.
The number five and three spots are for the next best hitter, with the better hitter hitting fifth, unless he hits a lot of homeruns. Gattis and Johnson are the next best hitters, with Gattis more reliant on the homerun for his value and Johnson more reliant on other types of hits. So Gattis fits nicely in “The Book’s” number three slot and Johnson in the number five slot.
The rest of the lineup is basically just filled with the better all-around hitters (according to Weighted On-Base Average) hitting highest, with the exception of the ol’ pitcher-in-the-eighth-spot thing.
It’s always fun to look at batting order, but here is a quote from one of the writers of “The Book,” Tom Tango, that nicely sums up how a team should approach its batting order. This is from an answer to a question about batting order, from a May 2011 Baseball Prospectus chat:
The best way to set up your batting order is to put it in the optimal order (which means you have to have different batting lineups based on pitcher handedness), and then tweak it based on the ego of the players, because human impact is more important than leveraging two runs.
Fredi Gonzalez seems to like this lineup to start the season:
1. Jason Heyward
2. B.J. Upton
3. Freddie Freeman
4. Chris Johnson
5. Justin Upton
6. Dan Uggla (or Gattis)
7. Evan Gattis (or Uggla)
8. Andrelton Simmons
Following B.J.’s decent spring, it might be a good idea to hit him second, at least for a while, and put him right in the middle of things to start the season. It’s a nice sign to a player that the team believes in him enough to put him in a key spot. There has also been a lot of talk about Chris Johnson regressing, and he probably will. But putting him in the cleanup spot early on could be a signal to him that the Braves believe in him, regardless of whether he’s a good hitter or he comes close to repeating last season’s performance.
The Braves have a solid core of four or five hitters, with three having a chance to be among the best hitters at their positions, and even the huge question marks of B.J. and Uggla have the potential to be good. The big three of Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman could all be MVP candidates, which would go a long way towards helping this team hang with the Nationals.