February 18, 2013

Braves Batting Order by “The Book”

With the loss of prototypical leadoff man Michael Bourn, the Braves’ 2013 batting order has been a topic of conversation and curiosity.  I’ll take the research found in “The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball” by Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin combined with the Braves’ Steamer Projections (found on FanGraphs.com by way of SteamerProjections.com) and my views of each players’ skills.

To read more about optimizing your lineup by The Book, see Sky Kalkman’s summary here:http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2009/3/17/795946/optimizing-your-lineup-by

The Braves’ optimal by “The Book” batting order:

#1 Jason Heyward

#2 Freddie Freeman

#3 Dan Uggla

#4 Justin Upton

#5 Brian McCann

#6 B.J. Upton

#7 Chris Johnson/Juan Francisco

#8 Andrelton Simmons

The #1, #2 and #4 hitters are the best, with Heyward leading off because of his on-base skills and Justin Upton hitting fourth, since he’s the best all-around hitter on the team with power.

If Uggla can bounce back in the homerun-power department, he’s perfect for the #3 spot in the order.  The #3 and #5 spots belong to the next tier of hitters not in the top three, with the #5 hitter providing more value with all-around hitting and the #3 hitter providing more value with homeruns.

“The Book” says to fill in the rest of the lineup in order of decreasing offensive talent with the speed guy hitting in front of singles hitters, if possible.  B.J. Upton is a nice #6 hitter who can do some things on the basepaths to increase the Braves’ scoring chances with lesser hitters like Chris Johnson, Juan Francisco and Andrelton Simmons at the plate.

Fredi Gonzalez has indicated that Andrelton Simmons will hit leadoff.  Simmons may be able to put up a high batting average and hit the ball with authority as he grows but so far in professional baseball he hasn’t shown much of an ability to do these things, and he doesn’t walk a whole lot.  What he’s shown so far in the pros doesn’t bode well for his chances to provide much from the leadoff spot.  But he is a tallish, thin guy in his early 20’s, so he could muscle up and learn a lot about hitting rather quickly.  Maybe it would be best to give him a chance to see if he can do the things that will lead to out-avoidance before the Braves insert him in to that leadoff role.

Obviously making out a batting order by “The Book” is going to raise eyebrows.  So it’s probably best, to avoid distraction and hullabaloo, to combine some of the concepts in “The Book” with a more traditional approach to making out a lineup card.  Taking this in to consideration, this would be my batting order:

#1 B.J. Upton

#2 Jason Heyward

#3 Freddie Freeman

#4 Justin Upton

#5 Brian McCann

#6 Dan Uggla

#7 Chris Johnson/Juan Francisco

#8 Andrelton Simmons

With this lineup the Braves have the prototypical speedy guy at the top of the order but a guy who is likely to provide more on-base skills than Simmons.  Heyward and Justin Upton, probably the most talented offensive threats on the team are in the key spots in the order.  McCann remains in the next most important spot, aside from leadoff, second or fourth.

The good news for this year’s Braves is there aren’t a lot of horrible batting-order configurations.  Even if Simmons leads off and doesn’t hit much, the #2-#6 or #2-#7 spots could provide plenty of offense.  That group of hitters has displayed plenty of offensive ability throughout their careers.  Not everything is likely to go right but a lot would have to go wrong for the Braves to completely tank offensively.  With their pitching staff, they should have enough offense to contend rather easily, barring major disasters.



2 Responses to “Braves Batting Order by “The Book””

  1. 1
    Walker Says:

    I actually don’t think the Book lineup would be controversial. Heyward batting 1st would raise eyebrows but who cares. I’m just so tired of a big segment of baseball being so closed off to new information with some being really anti-intellectual.

  2. 2
    Steve Says:

    Great blog, Shaun. Your point about 2 – 7 is one of the reasons this 2013 incarnation is so exciting. Soooooo much offensive potential here.

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