Posted: 12:36 pm Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
By Jeff Schultz
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.
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.• Instant re-post: Recent blogs and columns (free links)
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About the Author
Sports blogger and columnist Jeff Schultz has been with the Atlanta-Journal-Constitution since 1989. He has been honored several times by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA) and several other organizations.