The Atlanta Braves need their utility man, Jordan Schafer, to step it up as Jason Heyward recovers from his broken jaw. Schafer and shortstop Andrelton Simmons had been Braves’ manager Fredi Gonzalez’s go to lead off men for most of the season until July 27 when Heyward was moved to the leadoff spot.
Heyward had changed the entire look of Atlanta’s lineup. The 240-pound lefty didn’t fit the physical mold commonly found at the top of a major league lineup, but he was doing it just fine. In his last 89 plate appearances, Heyward batted .350/.416/.575 with 13 RBI and 23 runs. From the leadoff spot he was not only scoring more but hitting more players in than he had been from the two hole, which he had predominately played for the rest of the season.
Since Heyward’s injury, however, the responsibility has been placed on the shoulders of Schafer. The dependable bench player had performed very well this season, something I found very rewarding since I had never been happy about him being sent away to the Houston Astros mid-2011. The left-handed speedster had batted .309 in 123 at bats through June but was sidelined with a foot injury in July.
Since Schafer’s return he’s been disappointing to say the least, especially when compared to Heyward’s performance over the last month. Coming into Sunday’s game, Schafer is hitting .088 after 34 at bats in the month of August, with no extra base hits whatsoever.
A little regression is expected; Schafer had been playing over his head a little bit throughout the first half, and now his numbers are reverting back to more of what people expected from him, though I don’t think it’s going to last long. Against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon, Schafer showed signs of hope by going 2-for-4 with an RBI double. With his speed, he could fill the leadoff spot for Atlanta nicely as October approaches. In any case, if the Braves wish to win home-field advantage for the playoffs, they’re going to need Schafer to step it up.