Give That Lineup a Little Shake, Snit

Who wants to talk about lineup construction?

Now, before we get started, let me make a couple things clear. Some of you probably have some data that says lineup construction doesn’t matter. This isn’t the piece for you, probably. Just go about your day, safe in the belief that you are right about something.

I also want to make it clear that the Braves’ offense, overall, isn’t the reason they are struggling to get back to and above the .500 mark. The boys from Atlanta are third in the National League in runs per game at 4.78, first in the NL in homers at 93 and third in OPS at .744.

What this suggested lineup change is about is just throwing a spark in the mix. You can’t tell your pitchers, “Hey just pitch better, dummy,” and expect better results. You can’t force the other team to stop hitting stupid bloop singles at the worst possible times.

What you can do is try to change some things and maximize runs, particularly early in ball games.

So to create a new lineup, I looked at the Braves’ individual stats in June, just to see where everyone is, literally right now. I know this is a small sample size, but I’m looking for immediate results. Specifically, I looked at OPS, homers and strikeouts to get a quick picture of what’s going on.

After that, here’s the lineup I came up with:

  1. Ozzie Albies
  2. Abraham Almonte
  3. Ronald Acuña Jr.
  4. Freddie Freeman
  5. Austin Riley
  6. Dansby Swanson
  7. William Contreras
  8. Ender Inciarte/Guillermo Heredia
  9. Pitcher

Now, there are some eyebrow-raising elements of this lineup, I’m sure, but hear me out. From the top, Ozzie is the hottest hitter on the team right now with a .957 OPS this month, but he has no homers in June. I’m not concerned about that lack of power in a small sample size, but that means his OPS is carried almost entirely by his seven doubles and a triple in 53 plate appearances. Further, he’s only striking out once for every 4.82 plate appearances. He gives a GREAT chance to start the game out the right way.

Almonte is very similar. He’s third on the team in OPS this month at .915, and he’s striking out the least of anyone with one K for every 6.17 plate appearances. He’s getting on base and making lots of contact right now, making him a very good choice for the second spot.

Now we get to perhaps the most contentious part of the shake-up: Ronald Acuña Jr. not hitting leadoff. In an ideal world, I LOVE having his electric bat right at the top of the order. His leadoff home runs are spectacular, and I would love for the team to be in a spot where he could hit there long-term. But right now, I think it would be better to give him a chance to still hit in the first inning but with “ducks on the pond,” so to speak. And the guys in front of him in this proposal are providing plenty of duck-like qualities.

Freddie batting behind Ronald just makes sense to me. Frankly, he isn’t getting on base quite enough to prioritize getting a first-inning at-bat if we’re just looking for a “right now” kind of spark. But he does lead the team with three June home runs despite an un-Freeman .764 OPS in the small sample. Bat cleanup and do cleanup things, MVFree.

From there, it’s really just sorting through some guys who aren’t hitting spectacularly at the moment. Riley is rolling at .767 but just went 3-for-3 on Sunday with a homer, three RBIs, two runs and a walk, so he’s the best of the bunch. Dansby slots at sixth because while he’s cooled off, he’s also only striking out once in every 5.11 plate appearances right now. Maybe he can keep the fun going. Contreras is seventh for me because he’s going through some things at the plate, most notably striking out at the highest rate on the team, once every 2.83 plate appearances in June.

With that going on, I’d place one of the center fielders eighth to try to give the team the best chance to clear the pitcher. I’d certainly be fine swapping that to bat the hitter eighth, but with Heredia carrying a .379 OPS this month and Ender perpetually driving the struggle bus, I don’t know how much that would help, frankly.

To reiterate, I’d love to get back to having Ronald batting leadoff. If Riley, Freddie and Dansby can get going at the same time, and/or the team can pick up another bat (I’d go Mitch Haniger), slot him right back up there and have some fun. Also, I’m fully aware that historical numbers would suggest that Almonte is going to regress, although hopefully not as hard as Heredia has. And that will certainly need to change things.

But for now, let’s see what a new lineup can do.

58 thoughts on “Give That Lineup a Little Shake, Snit”

  1. Ozzie’s OBP in 2021 is exactly the same as his career OBP: .331. That is not a leadoff hitter; he cannot bat leadoff. He’s a terrific #5 hitter and I have no problem with him at cleanup. But you cannot put a guy who literally makes outs more than two-thirds of the time at the top of the lineup. We’ve all watched him a whole lot and we know his strengths and weaknesses: he has terrific gap power, but he doesn’t walk very much. He can knock ’em in, but he can’t set the table.

    Especially not when it means displacing the best leadoff hitter in baseball. The one and only thing that has not gone wrong this year is Ronald leading off the game. Please don’t change that!

  2. All I know is, you can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results.

  3. Have to agree with Alex @1. OBP at #1 counts for more than OPS. I would be willing to try Almonte at #2 until he cools off. He has shown a propensity for walking a lot. I think Riley’s numbers promote his batting clean-up but I have also seen that he has seemed to regress when batting higher than 5th. I also don’t want to see Dansby batting higher than 6th. For me, the best kind of “shake-up” would just be moving Almonte up temporarily.

    Acuna
    Almonte
    Freeman
    Ablies
    Riley
    Dansby
    Contreras
    CF
    P

    Or reverse CF and P. In some cases, our pitchers are hitting better than our CFs (see Fried, Max). Also, we’ve seen quite a few situations where the #8 guy has put us in the position of having a pitcher coming up with RISP and two outs. Plus putting a somewhat speedy guy at #9 could act as a pseudo second leadoff guy.

  4. If you could get one more guy on base in front of Freddie then they might not be able to shift as much.

  5. Almonte’s current OBP is 0.439. That is one reason why our CFs and Ps are leaving so many men on base.

  6. I’m a big fan of your work, Jeremy—glad you’re a contributor.
    But I’ll confess that I’m mostly in the lineup construction doesn’t matter camp. And to the extent it does, it’s mainly a matter of getting the most plate appearances for your best hitters. So no Almonte at #2. He’s had a good two weeks so far; his numbers will head south very soon.

  7. My take is
    Acuna
    Albies
    Freeman

    After this you fill in the lineup with whoever is hot. I don’t think we have any consistent, proven hitters beyond those 3 and their consistency has been suspect lately, but that’s the best we have. Ozzie strikes out a little less and hits into fewer dps, so I would prefer him 2nd over Freeman.

    Crap, we have to get a bat soon. Heredia, Adrianza, and Sandoval have already turned into pumpkins. Almonte won’t be far behind. Inciarte turned into a pumpkin about three years ago.

  8. @2, agree with you there. Maybe we can hire Daisuke Matsuzaka to replace Kranitz and have him teach all our guys the gyroball :)

  9. If we had a middle infielder or centerfield who could provide a high OBP, they would be batting leadoff, so I appreciate where Jeremy is coming from. The fact that our second baseman has a .331 OBP, our shortstop has a .286 OBP, and our centerfielders, well, suck is what ties the hands of lineup construction. I like that Jeremy is trying to prevent the lineup from falling off a cliff, but sadly, that cliff will be there at the beginning or the end.

    Really, the debate is over whether you want your best hitter getting as many PAs as possible (therefore putting him in the leadoff spot) or allowing him get as much “damage” as possible (therefore putting him in the middle of the order). I’ve not found the research compelling in one direction or the other, but I respect that much smarter people than I have put the likes of Acuna, Bellinger, and Rizzo at the top of lineups.

  10. Also, seriously, folks? GM says our best pitcher might be back in late August, and no one says anything? Sometimes I feel like I just don’t know you people.

    Apparently ole Dayton had a Soroka injury scoop for us a few days ago. I didn’t know he was in a boot still, but I guess that makes sense.

    In other Mike Soroka news, and since I’m not on the Twitters much, I’d like to share you another highlight from me searching Twitter for Mike Soroka news: a funny conversation between Scott Coleman (is he a TC guy?) and Grant Mcauley for all you Chip haters out there:

  11. On the subject of buying/selling from the last thread, the Braves will not be sellers. As miserable as the Braves season has been so far, this division is eminently winnable (as Ryan pointed out in the last thread). The Braves have a lot of holes, but so do the Mets and the Phillies.

    I’ll concede that the Braves might be a lot further out in mid-July than they are now, so that they have no realistic chance at the postseason. If so, selling anyone who is on a one year contract may make sense. But only if such a trade makes the Braves better in 2022 (as Rob emphasized, no 18 year olds who are several years out.). This is not a team that needs to be torn down or even rebuilt. Unlike 2014, the team has a very strong core of young position players (RAJ, Ozzie, Riley, Contreras) and pitchers (Fried, Soroka, Anderson, Ynoa, Davidson) who are under team control for several years to come. In fact, I’ll be a contrarian and insist that the last rebuild has been a big success, not just so far (three straight division titles), but also for providing a core over the next few years.

    Of course there are holes that will need to be filled, and uncertainty with the young pitchers, but I like the Braves’ prospects over the next several years better than anyone except the Dodgers and Padres.

    This assumes that the owners will let the GM spend some money. That assumption may be the fatal flaw in my reasoning :) Having this core of solid young players is why LM’s being cheapskates is especially frustrating.

  12. Cherry-picking, I know, but Ozzie’s OBP of .367 since the end of his horrid start is pretty doggone good and comes with 23 walks in 51 games.

  13. If a major lineup change is made, it is a no-brainer to put Acunior behind the Freeloader. That is the best way to get him better pitches. Ozzbies needs to be in the middle of the lineup between two right handed hitters. These ideas can not be disputed. Swanson, Freeman, Acuna, Almonte, Riley, Albies, Contreras, Pitcher, Inciarte. With this in mind why not start Adrianza a couple times per week against righties and Heredia in center against lefties. Would not be a bad idea to start Panda occasionally against strong righties like deGrom or Wheeler or some of the other flame throwers. Never start the Smith guy and only use him as a last resort.
    Put together a trade with Texas, Seattle or Miami to upgrade the outfield. I think a trade with Miami of Inciarte, Shewmake, Jenista, and Alex Jackson for Jorge Alfaro, Starling Marte and Zach Pop would upgrade three critical needs for the Braves. If Miami shows no interest focus on a package for Gallo, Gibson, and Garcia from the Rangers. Would Pittsburgh do a deal for Bryan Reynolds? I think they would for someone like Christhian Pache and a MLB pitcher and may deal Rodriguez with him to upgrade the bullpen. Send Pache, Kyle Wright and Sean Newcomb and another if necessary to three rivers for Rodriguez and Reynolds. May be able to get Stallings in the package.

  14. What would it take to pry Jesse Winker from the Reds?

    We keep talking about trading prospects before they lose their value. (Hi Kyle. Hi Touki). Are Muller, Harris (Trey – the older one) and Langeliers expendable?

  15. Beats any lineup thrown out there. And it answers my question to Mr. Acuna.
    I always thought Albies should bat lead off. The old Freeman third and Acuna fourth. I had Swanson second.
    Soroka will not be back this year. He may be fragile. Some are.
    D’Arnaud back, who cares, he is gone.
    Ynoa back, reason to care.
    Every teams has holes, even the Rays.
    Difference is, some are WAY over five hundred, and some can not get over that figure. Guess which one we cheer for?

  16. Good stuff coming from Schultz’s interview with AA!

    1. Due to revenue increase, AA can take on $ at deadline. He said they could realistically add in all assets of the team.
    2. He’s still very much in the “extend Freddie” camp.
    3. D’Arnaud, Soroka, Ynoa could be back in August.
  17. This Is Bill Edwards Editor of The Palm Coast Tribune in Lauderdale Lakes and Boyton Beach ⛱,FLORIDA. I. certainly agree with with 1000 Percent. The Braves Need do some serious thinking Especially Manager Brian Snitiker 🤔 Time is The Immediate Essence Allstar game is rapidly approaching we are not Even Close to. The Past 3 Seasons . The General Manager should open His Eyes . Or be looking up to the teams on The National League East . Think about looking to get Craig Kimbral. He Came up in the Braves Organization 😳 His Contract expires at The End of The 2021 Season those who Snoze always Lose ..get to Work Atlanta Braves .
    Bill Edwards Editor of The Palm Coast Tribune in Lauderdale Lakes and Boyton Beach ⛱ , Florida.

  18. When you’re contemplating batting Abraham Almonte 2nd in your batting order you’re going nowhere and you’re lost. I don’t mean the posters suggesting it, I just mean as a franchise.

  19. Almonte has done fine and I have no problem with asking about him batting 2nd for a week or so. If he regresses to his usual self (I give it about a 98% chance of happening), and we’re asking that question in late July I will have to agree with you.

  20. @20 No, it means you’ve lost 2 outfielders to ineffectiveness and incarceration, and you simultaneously have a different version to where to clump your best hitters in your lineup.

  21. This is really cool. I have to admit, I got some goosebumps when Hank was climbing the leaderboard and then separated himself from the pack.

    I also think that Fred Tenney probably really enjoyed telling his grandkids that he was the Atlanta franchise leader in WAR for decades. Probably sitting around the evening fire telling kids how he was criminally underrated by B-Ref but Fangraphs knew what was up.

  22. The saddest part of the graphic is Rabbit Maranville’s last -1 WAR season. Since most of the graphics of this sort cumulate positive counts, it’s rare to see someone lose ground… though Frenchy’s overall (not just Braves) WAR path is…. interesting.

    [I don’t mean to say that Frenchy was ever in any danger of getting on this list. But if you treated him as if his career began in 1876 (and was all with the franchise) it would have looked fascinating.]

  23. @17

    I think AA really had a responsibility to talk to the fans on what is going on with payroll and injuries. Glad he did. They way they’ve handled the Soroka situation has been clunky. And hopefully this curbs the selling talk.

  24. I saw an article suggesting the Braves take a 2 month rental on Starling Marte. I like the guy, but I’m afraid he would be one of the worst cases of buy high that you could find. Especially since it’s within the division, I bet the Marlins would be looking to fleece us.

  25. This is Bill Edwards here to let you know the Braves are calling up their HOTTEST PROSPECT!

  26. @23–this is so cool! First and foremost, it reinforces how incredible Mr. Aaron’s career was. His career WAR is 50% greater than the second place Eddie Mathews, who was no slouch himself. In fact, note that Mathews is still higher than Chipper, even though Mathews was all but done by age 35. It took Aaron a long time to overtake Mathews; the big difference in the two is that Hank put up huge numbers after age 35.

    This also shows how woeful the 1900-1952 Boston Braves were. Their best-Wally Berger, Tommy Holmes, Rabbit Maranville–never caught Fred Tenney. Freddie has already surpassed those three (and will soon overtake Tenney).

  27. Acuna is looking really bad at the plate. Maybe due to lingering injury but he’s having one of his funks where he can’t connect with anything.

    It’s gonna be a long night. They just look shell-shocked.

  28. That doesn’t sound good. Usually that’s code for the elbow.

  29. It is difficult to understand how Newk keeps a MLB spot. Dude just doesn’t drive the strugle bus, he has his own fleet

  30. The Braves with some classic A-B-E baseball, as Smitty used to say!

  31. If you didn’t learn it from the X-Files, might as well learn it now:

    Trust No One.

  32. Fire Chris Martin — and whoever wasn’t calling for a walk with first base empty and Martin losing his control — into the sun.

  33. Oh my. This bullpen is hard to watch. I agree, the Eastern division is winnable, by any team but Atlanta. It has become laughable.

  34. The entire bullpen needs to go. Every last one. Just admit the failure and start fresh in 2022. Horrendous.

    And for those one the Jackson train – look at how many runners he’s stranded. It’s like 99%. He has been damn lucky to have that shines ERA. He about to come back to earth with the quickness.

  35. Little late, but I love this lineup! Almonte has been incredible, I think we’ve found our permanent new LF!

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