The Growing Tide In Favor Of Batting Jason Heyward Second In The Atlanta Braves Lineup

Brace yourselves! Yes, this is going to be another one of those posts that talks about / complains about Jason Heyward batting sixth instead of second in the Atlanta Braves lineup. Really, though, I'm going to point out the growing tide of media outlets who are echoing the sentiment that the Braves blogosphere (choposphere) has been saying since it was first reported at the beginning of spring training that new manager Fredi Gonzalez would hit Heyward sixth.

Yesterday, ESPN and USAToday jumped on the bandwagon with posts about this. First, from ESPN:

Heyward was Atlanta’s best hitter in 2010, leading the club in OPS. He’s Atlanta’s best hitter in 2011, sailing along with a .273/.429/.636 line through 11 games.

So it makes perfect sense that new Atlanta Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez is hitting Heyward sixth, right?

No, of course it doesn’t. Nobody bats their best hitter sixth, not even Tony Muser.

Ouch, a Tony Muser reference. And then from USAToday:

With every vicious swing of Jason Heyward's bat that sends a baseball flying out of a stadium, the cries of outrage grow louder than a tomahawk chop.

The disorder, in this case, is over the Atlanta Braves' batting order.

They even give Talking Chop a shout out and link in that article -- referencing our preseason poll in which we asked where Heyward should hit in the lineup. That's ESPN and USAToday, but when the The Birmingham News gets into this three ring circus, stop the presses:

One change in the Atlanta Braves' lineup would produce more wins.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez is throwing away precious outs by hitting Nate McLouth second and Jason Heyward sixth.

This is a case of "conventional" (read: faulty) logic for lineup construction: An RBI guy, which Heyward is, should hit sixth to drive home the middle of the lineup.

Here's what Gonzalez should be thinking: The point of an offense is to score as many runs as possible.

Dude, ouch. Not only did a national site compare Fredi Gonzalez to Tony Muser, but now the central Alabama paper of record is calling your logic faulty. Oh, it is on!

So of all the sites out there, which one could possibly come to Fredi's rescue? Would you believe FanGraphs?

[...] the amount of virtual ink being spilled over this issue doesn’t commensurate to the outcome it’s having on the Braves chances of winning baseball games. Yes, hitting McLouth second and Heyward sixth is an inefficiency, but in reality, it just doesn’t matter all that much. [...]

Essentially, swapping the two would give Heyward just under an extra half of one plate appearance per game. And remember, we’ve estimated the production difference at one-twentieth-of-a-run per plate appearance. Cut that in half to account for the quantity difference in trips to the plate and you have a difference of one-fortieth of a run per game.

In other words, if Fredi Gonzalez stays with this line-up for another month, then we’ll be able to write that his batting order has cost the Braves one full run. If he stays with this line-up for the entire year, then the estimated cost would be a whopping four runs. That is almost half a win, so it’s not fair to say that it’s nothing, but in the grand scheme of things, four runs per season is not a huge number.

Are you confused yet? Who to believe: The Birmingham News or Count Statula?

This wounded dove is going to have to be considered day to day. We're going to have a take a wait and see approach with this one. Gonna have to take it one game at a time. New meme for the web: "That's as crazy as batting Heyward sixth."

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