Posted: 12:36 pm Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Braves’ tryouts at leadoff are dizzying 

By Jeff Schultz

So what's the chance B.J. Upton provides stability for Braves at leadoff? (AP photo)

So what’s the chance B.J. Upton provides stability for Braves at leadoff? (AP photo)

When Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez tabbed B.J. Upton as the Braves’ next future ex-leadoff hitter — sorry, just an assumption — it continued an ugly trend that began in 2006.

The Braves have struggled to find a leadoff hitter since Rafael Furcal left for Los Angeles as a free agent following the 2005 season. Furcal hit .284 as a Brave with a .348 on base percentage, a career-high 48 stolen bases and a 100 runs scored in 2005. Then general manager John Schuerholz lost a bidding war with the Dodgers that winter. Oops.

Want to a venture a guess how many players they have batted leadoff in the 8½ years since?

I’ll wait while you think of a number.

Still waiting.

Ready? Here it is: 29.

Stump you friends with Braves’ leadoff trivia.

– Question: Has any Brave batted leadoff for more than 100 games in a season since 2006? Answer: Yes. Two. Marcus Giles (113 in 2006) and Michael Bourn (151 in 2012). Bourn was acquired during the 2011 season and has been the team’s closest thing to a legitimate No. 1 hitter since Furcal left, although he struck out too much (155 strikeouts in 155 games that season). He hit .274 with a .348 on-base percentage and 42 stolen bases. He played in the All-Star Game. After the season, he also left as a free agent.

– Question: How many Johnsons have hit leadoff? Answer: 3 (Kelly Johnson, Reed Johnson, Elliott Johnson).

– Question: How many Braves have had only cameos as leadoff hitters? Answer: 11 players have started 10 or fewer games at the top of the order. They are Jose Constanza (10), Wilson Betemit (9), Melky Cabrera (8), Tommy La Stella (5), Reed Johnson (5), Elliot Johnson (4), Ryan Church (4), Tyler Pastornicky (4), Ramiro Pena (2), Diory Hernandez (1) and Brooks Conrad (1).

– Question: What qualifies as the most ridiculous season at the top? Answer: That would be 2009. The Braves used nine different leadoff hitters (see below).

Here’s the entire list, in order of appearance: Marcus Giles, Pete Orr, Willy Aybar, Wilson Betemit, Martin Prado, Kelly Johnson, Chris Woodward, Matt Diaz, Yunel Escobar, Willie Harris, Gregor Blanco, Omar Infante, Josh Anderson,  Jordan Schafer, Diory Hernandez, Nate McLouth, Ryan Church, Melky Cabrera, Brooks Conrad, Jason Heyward, Jose Constanza, Michael Bourn, Tyler Pastornicky, Reed Johnson, Andrelton Simmons, B.J. Upton, Ramiro Pena, Elliot Johnson, Tommy La Stella.

Here’s the year-by-year hitters at leadoff. New entries are bold-faced. The group’s combined statistics follow.

• 2006 (5): Giles, Orr, Aybar, Betemit, Prado. (Production: .268 avg., .336 obp, 106 runs, 66 walks, 134 strikeouts.)

• 2007 (6): K. Johnson, Woodward, Diaz, Prado, Escobar, Harris. (Production: .272 avg., .355 obp, 115 runs, 83 walks, 136 strikeouts.)

• 2008 (6): K. Johnson, Prado, Escobar, Blanco, Infante, Anderson. (Production: .273 .avg., 356 obp, 94 runs, 84 walks, 120 strikeouts.)

• 2009 (9): K.Johnson, Infante, Schafer, Hernandez, McLouth, Church, Diaz, Escobar, Blanco. (Production: .265 avg., .348 obp, 112 runs, 77 walks, 130 strikeouts.)

• 2010 (7): Cabrera, McLouth, Diaz, Infante, Escobar, Prado, Conrad. (Production: .284 avg., .336 opb, 108 runs, 57 walks, 98 strikeouts.)

• 2011 (6): Prado, McLouth, Schafer, Heyward, Constanza, Bourn. (Production: .264 avg, .313 obp, 97 runs, 51 walks, 128 strikeouts.)

• 2012 (5): Bourn, Pastornicky, R.Johnson, Constanza, Prado. (Production: .269 avg, .342 obp, 99 runs, 73 walks, 168 strikeouts.)

• 2013 (8): Simmons, Upton, Pena, Schafer, Heyward, Pastornicky, Constanza, E. Johnson. (Production: .242 avg, .305 obp, 101 runs, 60 walks, 127 strikeouts.)

• 2014 (5): Heyward, Simmons, Pastornicky, La Stella, Upton. (Production: .245 avg., .322 opb, 36 runs, 33 walks, 60 strikeouts.)

So welcome back to the top of the order, B.J. Don’t get too comfortable.

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61 comments
DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Schultz is producing like a Brave leadoff hitter.

Wilbo
Wilbo

3 weeks w/o the idiotic liberal whiner! Yay! Please tell me they fired him.

drewcat
drewcat

let me assume schultz's column. cant be that hard to sit on your fanny and give your opinion on sports, only 180 days out of the year!

lhogan
lhogan

Is Schultz sick, dead, been fired, quit or just lazy in his old age as he hasn't posted a column on this site in 3 weeks or so. I really don't miss his columns at all, just curious.

drewcat
drewcat

Not one week, not two weeks… Bradley and Schultz are useless. 

nonamedawg
nonamedawg

Thank you Mr. Wren, I appreciate you leaving the office in great condition.

nonamedawg
nonamedawg

Why not trade BJ for Ben Revere from Philadelphia. True lead off hitter plus he is from Georgia. Yes, we would have to cough up some cash. On the Georgia theme, why not trade Uggla to the White Sox for Gordon Beckham. Yes we would have to cough up some cash. I know Stella is doing a good job, but imagine having those two local talents in your lineup. Speed also. Start playing some small ball when you have dominating pitching.



ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

10 days this has been your post Jeff Schultz.


Quit trying to write ?

ColdSplash
ColdSplash

On and on and on we witness in these blogs the painfully evident willingness of the Die hard braves fan desperately contriving every possible excuse and justification of why this team doesn't suck. It's really become an art form. Right down to the ultimate resting place in the fact that mediocrity and hopefully just getting into the playoffs IS the ultimate goal and joy of the average ridiculously complacent atlanta fan.

It's pretty simple and most other teams fan base's understand it. Say it, believe it: The players aren't good enough, chosen by managers that aren't good enough, employed by an ownership that doesn't care. Truth hurts. Own it folks.

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

Great column because it is a clear example, a clear window, into how the current Braves' problems are not new, but an extension of problems in many areas going back for several years.  It is a great focused summary of  how the leadership of the  flailing, talent-loaded Braves -- who should be 10 games over .500 right now, at the very least --  is clueless on how to harness and focus all of that talent, make it sing, and accept no goal other than getting into the World Series. 


Too bad for this team to have such leadership problems stretching all the way from the top dog's corner office down to the bunting coach, but they clearly do.   Just look at this mess over the years, related only to the lead-off hitter, and it is still ongoing.  And that is just one position, one spot in the batting order. 


If it helps any, the clear and obvious lead off choice is Dan Uggla . . . . . . . . . . .  No. Wait! Stop!  I was just kidding.  

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

Also looks like the confidence of the new second baseman has been destroyed as well by "TRYING" him in the lead off role.. What a DUMB move by the manager !

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

Well how about that GM, who brings in the correct pieces ?  NOT !


Please fire Wren, as this has to easily be one of the most boring Braves teams Atlanta has had to watch in a long time !

BravoDawg
BravoDawg

BJ will never step foot in Cobb county unless he buys a ticket trust me, he will be outta here along with Fredi & Frank Wren!  Actually neither Upton brother will see the new digs, Justin strikes out too much & is a hack in the outfield!

sea8491
sea8491

Hey Brave fans, only 3-1/2 years left with B J Upton, may the countdown begin?


He will play in the new stadium.

Wilbo
Wilbo

I wonder what it would be like to be a fan of a real baseball team?

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

Clearly, the Braves have a history of getting thumpers for the line-up, and which thumper ends up batting leadoff is really irrelevant in their minds.  The Braves pitchers have not been known for being able to sacrifice bunt since Glavine, Smoltz, and Maddox were here.  They have not been known for stealing bases.  They have not been known for being able to play "small ball."  It seems that the art of a Sacrifice Fly has left the present Braves because they let runners be stranded at 3rd with less than 2 outs more often than they bring the runner home.  Everyone loves the home run, but the Braves are near the bottom in runs scored, which means they must not be hitting enough home runs OR when they hit home runs when no one is on base.  That is the problem.  They only know how to swing for the fences and they do not want to try and be hitters.  In the past 2 weeks or more, it seems the Braves strike out more than they get hits.  Of the hits they get, half are ropes hit well, with the other half "excuse me" "broken bat" flares that fall in.  Making contact is important there, because hitting the ball gives it a chance to find a hole or an error, whereas standing there letting called strikes have you go sit down, or swinging as hard as you can with your eyes closed has you constantly missing with the same effect.  Leadoff schmeadoff.  Hit the ball!  Then run, don't loaf.  The bad thing about the Braves leadoff being bad is it makes the whole team follow the lead.  No one is ever on base for Freddy Freeman to end the first.  Might as well let Freddy lead off the game.  Let him steal second.  Let him move to third on a ground out by whatever thumper bats second.  Then score on an excuse me shallow fly ball by whatever thumper bats third.  At least Freddy has a better idea of how to hit, and he would drive in less runs too, which is what he is doing with no one on base.

DrPhill
DrPhill

Too bad Wren didn't get Omar Infante back when he had a chance. BJ Upton, the gum-chomping face of the franchise, is an awful lead-off hitter. Actually, he is an awful hitter, but you already know that.

Phillipdj
Phillipdj

Speaking of the number 29 Jeff... This stat is so unreal I had to check it three times.

The Braves do not play a team that currently has a winning record for the next TWENTY NINE games. Phils, Mets, Cubs, Marlins, Dbacks, Padres.... Not until the end of JULY, do they play a winning team - Dodgers.

If Atlanta isn't in first on August 1st - they never will be

ButtermilkTuesdays007
ButtermilkTuesdays007

It's funny, because Fredi claimed that he would give La Stella an extended look in the leadoff spot, but that extended look became 5 games. Fredi really loves those SSS.

RONMERIDIAN
RONMERIDIAN

This is why I have been preaching Bonafacio for 2 yrs. The Braves have had this problem for awhile and never want to fix it. The Braves need Bonafacio, bullpen help and a bat for the bench.

NajehDavenpoop
NajehDavenpoop

You notice how those OBPs start dropping as soon as Pendleton loses his hitting coach duties? 

ChopChamps95
ChopChamps95

Until Jose Peraza gets to the majors, the Braves are going to continue to have a revolving door at the leadoff spot.  The only reason guys like Orr, Anderson, and Schafer have hit leadoff before is because they had speed.  But all had incredibly poor plate discipline and swung at almost anything, usually missing way more than they ever put wood on the ball (fair or foul).  It shouldn't take an organization that's supposed to be an annual playoff contender almost a decade to draft and develop a prototypical leadoff hitter.

joedavis
joedavis

And winning the title of Most Ridiculous is Mr. Upton himself.  Yes, the ball ran into the sweet spot of his bat once last night, but the law of averages says that will happen every 100 bats or so.  It's just going to get uglier.

Brian_from_SC
Brian_from_SC

Some context:

# of different players starting at lead off, 2006-2014

Astros-38

Nationals-38

Reds-37

Blue jays-35

A's-34

Cardinals-33

Rays-33

Dodgers-32

Mets-32

Red Sox-32

Pirates-31

Orioles-30

White Sox-30

Braves-29

Cubs-29

Dbacks-29

Padres-29

Rangers-29

Giants-28

Royals-28

Brewers-27

Indians-27

Marlins-26

Phillies-25

Twins-25

Rockies-24

Tigers-23

Angels-16

Mariners-16

Yankees-13

Bob the Brave
Bob the Brave

Sounds to me like all of our lead off hitters since Raffy have been Johnsons.

seminoleking
seminoleking

bj is WELL suited for leadoff. his ONLY problem, like was mentioned by the announcing crew, is bj fell into being a homerun hitter. ive ALWAYS said that bj wasnt a homerun hitter, that he fell into it by mistake because he had a quick bat early in his career. the reason bj COULD florish at leadoff, besides the fact that he has speed, is the fact that he is REALLY a line drive singles hitter, and he DOES have patience at the plate. early in his career, when he was quicker with the bat than he is now, he could get away with that loop in his swing. now that he has gotten older, the loop has been exposed. so, all he has to do is STOP swinging for the fences by cutting his swing down and the loop will not effect him because he wouldnt be loading up all the time before swinging.......

inoto20
inoto20

@lhogan A shark ate him, then threw him up after all the liberal whine it ingested.

PeteMTL
PeteMTL

@Wilbo 

Can't watch more than 3 innings of Braves baseball. They put me asleep every time. And some people dare say soccer is boring...

Baghead
Baghead

You guys are finally starting to get it. This is Wren's mess. He built this team on low obps. This is not new to theses players. For most of them, they haven't been able to get on base their entire careers.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@DrPhill Are you suggesting Infante would be a good option for leadoff?  Career 316 OBP, with a 315 OBP since being traded to the Marlins, and a 298 OBP this year.

DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

@Phillipdj 29 games against mediocre/crappy teams..hmmm...I'll predict that they go 15-14 over that 29 game stretch. And that might be too optimistic.

cvan32802
cvan32802

@Phillipdj  I agree with you Phil. But even if they're up a game or 2 by the end of July the pitching just isn't overpowering as it was last year with Hudson, Medlen, et al.   And the hitting is terrible as we know - 7th worst in the majors.    I am not optimistic since despite horrendous performances the management continues to send out players to the field based on the size of their contracts rather than their ability to win.

DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

@ButtermilkTuesdays007 Yeah, Fredi's definition of "extended" depends entirely on a guy's name and the size of his contract. Though I'm glad to see La Stella move...he's obviously been pressing since getting moved up...or else he's already caught the swing hard at everything bug from his teammates.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@RONMERIDIAN Bonifacio has a career 320 OBP, and is at 307 for the year.  He's hardly a solution for lead off.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@NajehDavenpoop That could be part of the reason, but OBP (along with most offensive stats) have been trending down league wide.

DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

@NajehDavenpoop Which always seems kinda odd to me since TP never did much walking in his playing days. But yeah, he sure seems to have gotten through to the hitters better than those who followed him have. Or maybe the roster had less bull-headed stubborn players on it back in TP's days.

Dsyelxia
Dsyelxia

@ChopChamps95 Wren & Company just love drafting pitchers and power hitters. The last true lead-off hitter the Braves produced from the farm was Rafael Furcal and he was a rookie way back in 2000.

Sadly, Wren will probably do something stupid like trade Peraza or La Stella for a 35-year old left-handed reliever who will be gone by the end of the season.


iamlistening
iamlistening

@ChopChamps95 The problem is that Peraza is at second base and will be blocked by La Stella. If they do move him to third, it will be at least two seasons before he can come up (this season and one season to play third in the minors). And then if you add signing Chris Johnson to an extension, who knows when Peraza will get a chance. What's sad is that the contracts on the books dictate we will have the same lineup next season.

Scott2324
Scott2324

@Brian_from_SC you read my mind. I figured that 29 was not really outlandish when compared o the rest of MLB's teams

Payton34
Payton34

@Brian_from_SC Thanks, didn't see this before I posted. This is the problem with giving a number or statistic in isolation. Points of comparison are needed to give the picture of what it means.

SoulPower
SoulPower

@Brian_from_SC 

Interesting point when you put things into perspective. Good post! Sounds like our problems go deeper than the leadoff position.

DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

@seminoleking I think you're right...he *could* flourish there. But, he won't. He's too stubborn (just too dumb). If he was willing to change his approach, he'd have done it in the 200 games or so he's played for the Braves. You could say the same thing about several other Braves who think they should go for a HR on every swing, but none of them shows any sign of changing either. (shrug)

ChopChamps95
ChopChamps95

@iamlistening @ChopChamps95  Don't flatter yourself.  Peraza is a very strong possibility to be the #1 Braves prospect by the time he debuts, #2 at worst.  His hitting is at worst equal to La Stella's and his defense is light years better than TLS.  The only thing La Stella does better is take more walks and K less, all he does is hit singles and singles hitters don't go very far at the MLB level.  If Peraza keeps playing like he has been until his debut, La Stella will end up being traded you can bank on that.

DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

@iamlistening @ChopChamps95 With Peraza's speed, I wonder if trying him in CF might not work out better, sooner, but if his throwing arm (?) is a problem in the IF, it might be too weak for the OF. Maybe LF? 

ChopChamps95
ChopChamps95

@DavidinVirginia  **Cough Schafer and Simmons cough cough**

Although I'm not sure if Schafer is trying to kill everything because he has that mentality or its because he can't catch up to anything thrown harder than 90-91.

DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

@ChopChamps95 @DavidinVirginia I've always wondered how Schafer got labeled as a hot prospect in the first place. I guess, given it's the Braves, it was just because he could run really fast...or else his game really deteriorated once he got to the majors. The sad thing is, he'd still probably be more productive in CF than the current resident there would be. 

Simmons drives me insane with his crazy wild swinging. The high BA, contact hitter from his minor league days has transformed into just another Braves swing for the fences, fundamentals (and common sense) be damned sort of hitter. Although, to be fair, it must be nearly impossible for a rookie like Simmons was or like La Stella is now, to maintain anything like a reasonable, sensible, even semi-patient approach at the plate when all the vets on the major league roster hack away 99% of the time.

ChopChamps95
ChopChamps95

@DavidinVirginia @ChopChamps95  Schafer was a "hot prospect" and rose to the #1 status because the 2 good seasons he put up in the minors back in 07/08 between A/AA were the same seasons he was on PEDs.  I know he was never caught with them either on him or in his system but his stats speak for themselves.  He hit 20 HRs those 2 seasons combined.  The 5 seasons post HGH suspension, he's hit 19 combined between both the minors and majors.  That's why everyone was drooling over him and he hasn't done jack since.