What the Braves Lineup Changes Mean for You

Recently the Braves changed their lineup dramatically for the first time this season. They have altered a few different pieces here and there at times throughout the first few months, but now they have moved Jason Heyward to the fifth spot, Justin Upton to sixth, and inserted Tommy La Stella in the leadoff spot.

La Stella

La Stella becomes a much more attractive fantasy player in the leadoff spot. I mentioned before his call up that I was not terribly excited about him from a fantasy perspective because he doesn’t hit for power and he doesn’t steal bases. He does get on base though and hits for a high average. La Stella has struggled of late, specifically since being moved into the leadoff spot, but he still is hitting .302 with a .368 on base percentage and a rather sustainable .333 BABIP given his batted ball skills. He should be in line for a lot of runs if he remains in the leadoff spot, so if you need a very cheap alternative and a Matt Carpenter-lite, La Stella can certainly be that guy.

Heyward

The big difference with Heyward in this scenario will be an increase in RBI opportunities and a decrease in runs. It stinks if you are an owner of Heyward that his overall times at the plate will hit a pretty sharp decrease, but given his history he should produce more power over the course of the season than he has so far and when he does that he should be able to help a good deal with RBI. I am certainly concerned that his stolen base output will decrease along with his run total. Again, he will be getting to the plate less frequently and may not be in as many stolen base situations as he was earlier in the year. I was hoping for a 20-20 season, but with his early season power struggles and now his movement in the lineup, I think expecting something like 17-17 is more reasonable.

Upton

Justin Upton has a 134 wRC+ and his brother BJ has a 68 wRC+, but BJ is the one batting second while Justin bats sixth. I am not sure how long that will last, but if it does that is certainly not good news for Upton who has regularly been a cleanup or at worst a fifth hitter this year. Justin is one of the more inconsistent players in the league, and for the second straight year he’s hitting a pretty big slump after a very strong start. His walk rate is down and his strikeout rate is up, and he was able to score 94 runs last year while hitting primarily in the top four spots in the lineup. His run output will likely take a nice dip in the sixth spot, which was one of the main draws in acquiring him during the draft. He’s not a bad guy to look to move at this point, but keep focused on whether the Braves move him up into the second spot because in that position he becomes much more attractive.




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Ben Duronio writes for Capitol Avenue Club, FanGraphs, and does the Sports Illustrated Power Rankings. Follow Ben on twitter @Ben_Duronio.


15 Responses to “What the Braves Lineup Changes Mean for You”

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  1. Atreyu Jones says:

    It seems absurd to draw up a lineup that gives so many more PA’s to BJ Upton than Justin Upton.

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  2. yosoyfiesta says:

    This was a nicely written piece, explained the effects of the moves to your fantoline-up, true to the title. Let’s call it what it is though, Freddi Gonzo is a moron. Fine, put La Stella up top, kid get’s on base at a decent clip, seems a little like Carpenter, no pop, no speed, but can make contact at a high rate. Lineup for the braves should be:

    La Stella
    Heyward
    Freeman
    Upton
    Gattis
    Johnson
    Simmons
    Pitcher
    Fake Upton

    Bury Bossman Jr., he’s terrible with the bat, but he can run, just a little, so on the extraordinarily rare case that he gets on base, he can get out in front of the good guys and maybe produce a little bit. Is he the most expensive defensive replacement caliber player in the majors? Could switch Upton and Heyward based on handedness splits too. Upton #2 spot v lefties, Heyward drops to #5, Gattis up to #4. Against righties, as shown above.

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    • wilt says:

      Err, doesn’t make much sense to put all three lefties together.

      As a Braves fan the lineup I’d like to see is

      Heyward
      Justin
      Freeman
      Gattis
      Johnson
      La Stella
      Simmons
      BJ

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      • yosoyfiesta says:

        wilt, you’re on the wrong site man, three lefties doesn’t matter, strong side of the platoon. Also, as it says, you could adjust for the handedness of the pitcher and take advantage of platoon splits.

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      • KJ says:

        I think your lineup makes the most sense.

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      • majnun says:

        Three lefties matter at the end of the game when you bring in a LOOGY and he throws the whole inning

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  3. sweetdickwillie says:

    Seriously, I’ve been bitching all season about the idiocy of batting BJ in the 2-hole. It’s one of the dumbest line-up moves, if not THE dumbest, in all of baseball. Do they really put so much more emphasis on speed at the top than OBP? What year is this????

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  4. Himonky says:

    This can only be good news for Freddie Freeman, right? La Stella will be on base more often to be driven in, Heyward and Justin can drive him in for more runs.

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  5. BaconBall says:

    The 1954 Milwaukee Braves finished fifth in the NL, five games back of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Phighting Phils and the Reds were one game back, with the Bay Area Giants three games back. According to the pythWL the Reds should have finished first, at 92-70, three games ahead of the Giants. The Cards and Phils would have tied for third/fourth with 88 wins, then the Braves in fifth with 87 wins. The Dodgers would have been sixth at 86-76, then Pittsburgh at 84-78. The Cubs, Mets, and Colt 45′s were never in it.
    The Braves led the league in runs scored with 803, 88 more than the 2nd place offense of the Cards. The problem was that they gave up 744 runs; only the Mets gave up more, 776. Upon closer examination one sees the ERA of 4.12 (lg avg 3.54) exceeded the team FIP, the 3.79 given on BR by .33, while the FIP at FG shows 3.89, dropping the difference to 1/4 from 1/3. It is obvious the Braves had defensive problems.
    Examination shows the Braves had an open wound at second base. Frank Bolling was a 32 year veteran who was rapidly aging right in front of the eyes of manager Bobby Bragan and GM John Mullen. Frank fired out of spring training hitting .271/.500/.852 with 3 home runs. He only hit 2 the rest of the year, while all his batting stats dropped like Little Boy on its way down to Hiroshima. From looking at Frank’s fielding stats, he had obviously lost it all. I do not know whether Frank was injured, but something drastic obviously happened to cause the sudden change. Yet Bobby B kept trotting him out there until August, when even he had seen enough. By then it was too late as the damage had already been done.
    What makes this difficult to understand is that the Braves had a young second baseman, Mike de la Hoz, who put up good numbers when he did play. All you need know is that the wRC+ was 111 for Mike and only 47 for Frank. Defensively Mike was a positive 4.2 while Frank was a negative -7.6. Frank had 387 PA and a WAR of -1.9. Mike had about half as many PA but a WAR of +1.5.
    One way to look at this is that if Mike had played the whole season with the same WAR and Frank had never come to bat, the Braves would be +3.4 better. How about if we double Mike’s PA so he would have about the same number as Frank. Then Mike’s WAR would be +3.0. Add the -1.9 and the Braves would have been about 5 games better. If Mike had played at the same level for the season, then his WAR for 600+ PA would be +4.5, meaning the Braves could have, had they put Mike on 2B and left him there for the season, been +6.4 games better with only this change in personnel. Add six wins to the Braves pythWL and the Braves top the Reds by one.
    Seeing the Braves were scoring more than enough runs, Bobby Bragan could have seen what he needed was preventing runs, which means defense. Lee Maye played 750 innings in CF, with Felipe Alou playing 489. “Put me in coach/I’m ready to play” Ty Cline was there for only 182 innings, but his TZ was +2. The TZ for Alou was +6. Lee Maye rates a -12! It is obvious that as a center fielder, Lee Maye should have been in a corner spot. But Lee could hit, and he hit lefties well, too. His wRC+ is 125. Ty Cline’s wRC+ was 118, only a small drop off from Maye. What John Mullen and Bobby Bragan failed to see is that they could trade Lee Maye for what they needed, a good pitcher, and come out much better defensively, and with Mike de la Hoz producing much better than Frank Bolling, at least the same offensively, but probably much better, because remember that after April, Frank made Mario Mendoza look like a slugger.
    I do not know exactly how many runs the Braves would have saved playing the two better CF’s, but each play made than would not have been made by Lee Maye would have made the pitcher’s stats look better. Let us say that making the aforementioned changes would have brought the team ERA down to FIP level. That would mean the Braves would have allowed 50+ fewer runs. That could mean a five game swing just defensively.
    The Braves find themselves in a similar situation this year. They finally broke down and faced reality at second base, leaving the gaping hole in CF I call “Blown Job.” B.J.Upton has been a total bust; an unmitigated disaster. The last time I watched a Braves game B.J. came running in on a ‘fliner’ and it popped out of his glove. A few innings later he let a ball roll under his glove all the way to the fence. Even the old scout going blind, Gus, in the movie, “Trouble With The Curve” could see B.J. has Blown his Job. I can no longer watch as the manager Freddi Gonzalez continues to make his first mistake before the game begins by penciling in Blown Job Upton into the second spot.
    What the Braves need is a lead-off hitter, and, as it so happens, they have one on the bench in Jordan Schaefer, drafted by the Braves in the 2005 draft. He seemed to have put it together before being injured last year. He has speed, but has not hit LHP. He is outstanding in CF.
    Almost a century ago the World Chess Champion, Jose Raul Capablanca, from Cuba, made a move the commentators questioned. Capa had moved his Rook from a1 to c1. On the next move he moved it back to a1. When asked why, the WC said, “After moving the Rook to c1 I realized it was a mistake, so I moved it back where it belonged.”
    The Braves need to move their Rook.

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  6. Billy Martin says:

    The way B.J. has been playing makes me wonder if he has been spending time with Dock Ellis (http://deadspin.com/5819880/the-long-strange-trip-of-the-dock-ellis-lsd-no-hitter-story)
    After reading the post from BaconBall I looked at the stats, concluding I would at 30 runs to the Braves offense and subtracting 50, which seems reasonable. The Braves pythWL would be .590, or 95.6 games.

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  7. BloodStripes says:

    I heard today La Stella is something like 3 for 33 in the lead off spot. Worth the move up.

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  8. BaconBall says:

    1954 was a mistake, as must be obvious to most, and I do not know how to edit once it has been posted.
    You, Navid, are simply wrong, sir. Felipe Alou was traded by the San Francisco Giants with a player to be named later, Ed Bailey and Billy Hoeft to the Milwaukee Braves for Del Crandall, Bob Hendley and Bob Shaw. The San Francisco Giants sent Ernie Bowman (January 8, 1964) to the Milwaukee Braves to complete the trade. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/a/aloufe01.shtml
    Felipe had a reverse type platoon, hitting RHP(.261/.302/.404) better than LHP (.204/.301/.316). Still, I would have rather had a platoon of Ty Cline and Alou in CF because of their defense. Knowing what we know today about defense, no manager in his right mind would move a corner guy to CF. As for Jordan, before being injured last year he hit .346/.485/.385 in Mar/Apr;.293/.388/.500 in May; and .308/.341/.462 in June, and he played OUTSTANDING defense. He has EXACTLY what the Braves need, which is defense, getting on base and speed. If this is your definition of a replacement type player, sir, you need to take a remedial course in sabermetrics.

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    • Rally squirrel says:

      Agreed Bacon and anyway isn’t replacement player synonymous with average? So isn’t average better than well below average?

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