As the Atlanta Braves seem to be struggling a little bit of late, it makes you wonder what the reason for that might be. Some have suggested that manager Fredi Gonzalez isn’t doing a very good job for the Braves right now. That may in fact be true or it may not. I wanted to really think about what he must have to go through before I made a decision whether or not I thought he could do a better job, or if someone else could.
First of all, as a kind of disclaimer I want to say that I understand managing a Major League Baseball team is a terribly difficult job. It is unmistakable however, that the Braves have not played up to their ability all year long. Even during their ten game winning streak they were getting zero contributions from two-thirds of the outfield. Also of issue is the continued struggling of B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla.
Let’s look at each. Uggla is actually not having that bad of a season. In fact his homer and RBI pace isn’t that far off of his all-star season a year ago. Sure his average is down but overall he is playing pretty well for all the heck he takes from many fans each and every game. Think about Gonzalez’s options for Uggla. Who could he really replace him with? I don’t think a prospect is actually going to improve the situation that much, even Tyler Pastornicky.
The eldest Upton brother is another story. His struggles continue to the point where many have called for him to be benched in favor of the previously red hot Jordan Schafer. The problem with that is that Schafer, plus a starting role has equaled stinky every time he has been given the chance. Maybe his best role is exactly the one he is doing exceedingly well in right now. I don’t think we could expect a big upturn from Schafer taking the job from Upton. And if that were to happen, moving Schafer to a daily role and Upton to a bench role would remove one of the best bench options in baseball right now.
I think I have defended what Gonzalez has few options on well enough. Now it’s time to second guess things I think he could do better like batting order. Forget the leadoff spot. That is a black hole because Andrelton Simmons is as good of an option as there is right now. The biggest problem I see with the line-up is at the bottom. Uggla and Upton are almost always right next to each other. They have been two of the more strikeout prone players on the team. Do they really need to be back to back? No wonder people call them rally killers. When you have a good chance at getting back to back strikeouts in the middle of a rally, you bet your bottom dollar that will kill it.
Also Chris Johnson hitting in the eighth hole just makes no dumb sense. I realize he has hit well there but that is because he is a good hitter not because it’s profitable to hit behind a strikeout prone player and in front of the pitcher. I think Johnson needs to get a long look higher in the order around some guys that will give him some support. Here is my batting order if I was managing and I had to pick from the starting players including Upton and Uggla.
Simmons, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Johnson, Freddie Freeman, Uggla, Brian McCann, B-Upton, P
It wouldn’t matter to move Freeman down to the five hole because he is going to drive in runs wherever he is. That would give Johnson a good hitter before and after him. Uggla could strikeout in a rally and still be backed up by McCann which would mean Uggla would get more pitches to hit. Elder Upton would have to hit eighth until he proved he could get on base well enough to try the leadoff spot. I think that would be a good option for a line-up to break up the “rally killers” and still keep most of the left-right swap that they like so much. If you have another idea for a line-up that uses Uggla and Upton, let me know with a comment below.