Jason Heyward should not bat sixth

For some of you who still read when I occasionally blog, this headline makes perfect sense.  Lineup studies have shown that you’re better off with your best hitters getting more PAs at the top of your lineup.  Even Bobby Cox batted Heyward second for the most part last year, and it was a terrific choice.

Fredi Gonzalez, on the other hand, has chosen to put his most productive hitter in the #6 spot in the lineup, instead employing the ghost of Nate McLouth to bat second.

The issue is getting a little more traction in recent days, with the AJC’s Dave O’Brien taking a fairly neutral shot today, Craig Calcaterra pleading for a change at HardballTalk, and Dave Cameron saying it’s much ado about nothing yesterday on FanGraphs.

I couldn’t resist a comment on Cameron’s post, which essentially wondered what the big deal is when the lineup change would only net around 4 runs (half a win).  My response:

I’m hoping as a Braves fan that Fredi contributes in all those intangible ways (clubhouse management and the like), because Heyward hitting sixth is clearly the wrong decision, even if it is only worth a few runs.

Personally, I’m not shocked at the outrage, since lineup decisions are fairly easy to analyze for their impact on run scoring with the tools we have now. If we recognize it is the wrong decision, and it’s something we’ll notice day in and day out, why is it so surprising that people are mentioning it?

I’ll grant that there are probably more interesting things to talk about than the daily lineup and that Fredi is unlikely to change in spite of our efforts. I think he’s a likeable guy and is probably great at behind-the-scenes stuff.

Still, if someone comes to me and asks me for a few dollars of my paycheck every other week for no apparent reason, I’m not going to oblige just because it probably won’t keep me from making my house payment. I’m going to look at him like the fool he is and say no.

That basically sums it up.  Am I missing something, or should the goal not be to make decisions that result in the most wins?  I don’t buy the argument that it would throw the clubhouse into chaos because people aren’t batting in spots they’ve “earned.”  People need to get over their antiquated notions about “RBI guys” and lineup protection and just do what results in the most runs being scored.

The lineup is low-hanging fruit.  It is easy to change, and as the Rays have shown, it’s worthwhile to squeeze out every last bit of production you can get.  So please, Fredi, just change it.

Follow me on Twitter and join me in using the #6hitter hashtag for Heyward/lineup discussion, if that is up your alley.

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