COMMENTARY | If the Atlanta Braves are going to stop treading water and take a firm grasp of the National League East, it's time for Fredi Gonzalez, the man of a thousand lineups, to shake things up once again. The order that is currently favored by Gonzalez is not maximizing the players who are hitting well, and it is asking others to do things to which they are unaccustomed.
Here is my proposed lineup, with annotations:
Jason Heyward - Over his last 14 games, Heyward has really turned it on. He is hitting .297, but, more important, he is both walking and striking out 10.3 percent of the time, both among the team leaders over that period of time. Putting him in the leadoff role would maximize those trends and enable Heyward to be more active on the basepaths, one of his strong suits.
Justin Upton - After an astronomical start, Justin Upton has come back down to earth. Not quite crashing, but more of a rough landing. It is almost a shame that Upton started so well, because he seems to be trying to recreate the meteor show he put on in April rather than just being a good hitter, which he is. Moving him to the two-hole and requiring that he think more about his at-bats may do him a lot of good.
Chris Johnson - If you could sue a manager for malpractice, I'd have hauled Fredi Gonzalez in front of the Fulton County judge weeks ago. Chris Johnson has been criminally buried in the eight-hole ever since he won the starting third baseman job. All he has done is put up numbers that, if he qualified, would put him behind David Wright as the best hitting player in the National League at that position. The guy gets hits, and does it at important times with runners on. That's what you want from your No. 3 hitter.
Freddie Freeman - Freeman is now living up to the promise he has shown over the last few seasons. He leads the team in RBIs and deserves to be an All-Star. He has been walking a lot as teams try to take the bat out of his hands, but that should end with the resurgent Brian McCann batting behind him.
Brian McCann - McCann looks like he is hitting beach balls these days. After winning the NL Player of the Week Award the first week of July (an award that he had amazingly never won before), it's important that McCann stay in the five-spot to provide Freeman protection.
Dan Uggla - Uggla has hit somewhat better over the last couple of weeks, although he is still striking out a ton. He was robbed of two home runs in the first game of the Marlins series on July 8, partially because the stadium is the size of something that houses cruise ships. Hopefully he'll have another second half like his 2011 season, when he went on a 33-game hitting streak.
BJ Upton - The fans' frustration with BJ Upton is rivaled only by his own. Really the only hope at this point is that all the work he is putting in will pay off at some point, and that he won't let his emotions get the best of him. As long as he is on the team, he'll start, at least most of the games; the Braves aren't paying him to sit on the bench. Despite his struggles, he is still a threat, and so the seventh spot in the order seems appropriate.
Andrelton Simmons - Simmons swings at too many bad pitches and does not walk enough to be a truly effective leadoff hitter. He does, however, put the ball in play, which is what you want the guy batting in front of the pitcher to do.
Joe Thomas was raised and lives within shouting distance of Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. He is the sports editor for The Sting, the student newspaper of Southern Polytechnic State University.
- Sports & Recreation
- Atlanta Braves
- Fredi Gonzalez
- Justin Upton
- Jason Heyward
- National League East