(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
Leave it to yours truly to write about a dearth of offense at a certain spot in the lineup the morning after the Braves pile up 17 hits and eight runs on the Arizona Diamondbacks. They matched their season-high for a nine-inning game, after they got 17 hits on April 18 against the Mets.
The Braves got two or more hits from seven of the nine hitters in the order last night and another base hit from pitcher Tim Hudson. Dan Uggla was the odd man out, going 0-for-4, though he did score a run after being hit by a pitch and balked to second base.
But yes, I’m going to pick on a spot in the order anyway – the No. 3 hole – because in the conversation about moving Jason Heyward up in the order yesterday, it became a hot topic and one I thought worth delving into a bit.
Many of you thought Fredi Gonzalez should have left Martin Prado in his second spot and put Heyward in the No. 3 hole, instead of what he did which was to put Heyward in the No. 2 hole and move Prado to No. 3.
Of course the way the game played out, who’s to argue much with how it worked out, but from talking to Fredi a little about it, I think he was just going for getting his three hottest hitters to the top of the lineup, and either way he was going to have back-to-back lefties, either with Michael Bourn and Heyward, or Heyward and Brian McCann.
So I think he just put his guy who’s been the more consistent all-around hitter this season in Prado in the No. 3 hole. And he probably liked getting Heyward and Bourn’s speed back-to-back there. I’m sure others of you like the power Heyward offers in the No. 3 hole, especially given his production of late.
But frankly, I don’t think Gonzalez knows exactly what to do with that spot right now. It’s the spot for the best and most important hitter in a lineup and so far this season, it’s been a black hole.
The Braves are hitting .205 from the No. 3 hole, lowest at any position in the order except for the pitchers’ spot (.154). Their .278 on-base percentage at the No. 3 hole is the lowest of any outside of the pitchers’ spot (.207). Even the .382 slugging is third-worst this side of the fifth hole (.357) and pitchers’ spot (.190).
Here’s a breakdown of who’s done what this season in the No. 3 hole for the Braves:
Player Games Batting Average, On-Base, Slugging
Freddie Freeman 38 .232/.298/.424
Brian McCann 24 .191/.255/.372
Chipper Jones 6 .100/.269/.250
Martin Prado 3 .250/.308/.250
Jason Heyward 2 .125/.222/.375
I also think a certain responsibility comes with hitting in the No. 3 spot and hitters know it, so there’s a mental side to it too. I know the mental side of the game often gets lost in the number-crunching in these kind of forums (smile), but maybe if you’re a manager you don’t necessarily thrust a young hitter in there, even a hot one, and assume everything will be smooth.
Just talking in general yesterday, not necessarily about Heyward, Gonzalez said: “Not everybody can hit third. You would think so, but mentally whatever it is, a No. 3 hole or a No. 4 hole, some guys don’t like that stuff.”
I do know Fredi thought about hitting Heyward third and maybe he does it again here soon. He originally made out four lineups yesterday and had Heyward hitting second in one, third in one, and fifth in two others. So we’ll keep an eye on that.
But my bigger point, is that Chipper Jones has made hitting third look easy for all these years, and I think what this tells us is that it’s not so simple just to plug somebody in there and assume he’s going to take off. It’s a demanding spot, and as we know, an important one.
Who’s on first?
Braves prospect Joey Terdoslavich was dealing with a double whammy this season – the challenge of skipping Double-A altogether as he started the season in Triple-A Gwinnett, and learning a new position on top of that – third base. It proved a little too much at one time, as Terdo hit only .180 while committing 22 errors in 53 games for Gwinnett.
Since the Braves sent him to Mississippi, though, he’s taken off – hitting .353 (24-for-68) with 10 doubles, one homer, and 16 RBIs in his first 18 games. (Had to do a double-take on the doubles. Really? 10? Yes.)
As for the position, the Braves also decided to let him return to first base, to get comfortable more than anything else. But after he got his feet underneath him, they put him back at third base for a couple of games too. I asked assistant GM/farm director Bruce Manno about him yesterday, and he said the Braves haven’t made a decision on what they want to do with him position-wise, so for now they’ll let him do a little of both.
“We’re not ready to decide which one or how much more of one vs. the other,” Manno said. “We’ll see how it goes. We’re not tied into anything. We just want to make sure we get him in the most comfortable place.”
Flashback to Father’s Day
We had a lot going on Father’s Day here, since that was the day after Brandon Beachy left the Orioles game with an elbow injury, and I only got to mention briefly the awesome surprise Craig Kimbrel had given his father that day – surprising him on the field with a brand new Harley-Davidson Road King Classic motorcycle.
But I had a chance to ask him about it yesterday and thought I’d share. You know how Kimbrel always does the closest-to-the-pin golf game before first pitch? Well, he got his brothers and father in on a ruse, getting out there to do it on Father’s Day, so he could present him with the gift on the field.
Kimbrel said they let his dad Mike hit first. “He swung and missed on the first one,” Kimbrel said laughing, and explained his father looked up and watch the imaginary flight of his would-be ball. “He played it off pretty good.”
They gave him a mulligan and he hit again, this time a decent shot. That made it a little easier for his brothers
Matt, Alan and Craig to all sandbag and let Mike win. That way, Craig could take the microphone and announce that his father had won a prize from the three brothers.
Mike didn’t see it at first, when they drove the Harley in from right field, but when they did, Kimbrel said he could see tears in his dad’s eyes.
“He’s had a 1980 Honda forever and he always fixes it up every year, getting it up and running again,” Kimbrel said. “And I figured I’d get him something he didn’t have to work on so much. He could enjoy.”
Apparently, he’s been doing quite a bit of that.
“I talked to my mom yesterday, and I haven’t been able to get in touch with dad for a few days,” Kimbrel said. “She said that’s because he’s been riding his bike everywhere.”
1. Bourn 8
2. Heyward 9
3. Prado 7
4. McCann 2
5. Uggla 4
6. Jones 5
7. Freeman 3
8. Simmons 6
9. Hanson 1