Despite the National League’s “reputation” as home to lesser talents playing an antiquated form of inferior baseball, it certainly has more than its share of talented young outfielders. Two of these future (present?) stars, Jason Heyward and Colby Rasmus, are off to red-hot starts with the bat.
Plying their trade for two of the league’s more glamorous franchises, Rasmus and Heyward are proving themselves worthy of the considerable hype from pundits and stat nerds alike, entering today’s action with nearly identical wOBAs of .444 and .445. Patience and power in spades
Jason Heyward posted the kind of rookie season reserved for Hall of Famers when he put up a .277/.393/.456 with 18 home runs at age 20. Coming into the 2011 season, it is clear he is a huge piece of Atlanta’s playoff hopes.
Making new manager Fredi Gonzalez’s decision to hit him the sixth in the batting order that much more infuriating. While the specific allure of “RBI chances” surely features prominently in this (odd) decision, the reality is much more troubling: he comes to the plate far less frequently than much worse baseball players.
Dan Uggla is off to quite a slow start in Atlanta but he is powerful hitter who can take any pitcher deep. You could make a case for Uggla hitting fifth and I suppose I would listen. Hitting Nate McLouth second, as the Braves have every game but once, is inexcusable.
Nate McLouth isn’t a good hitter, yet there he is in the number 2 slot every day. McLouth, like Heyward, hits left-handed so we can’t even chalk it up to the Fredi’s slavish devotion to a balanced, RLSLR batting order.
Not only would moving the great Heyward to the second slot ensure him more plate appearances, it will do the team some good. Heyward’s incredible patience (9 walks in just 43 PAs, good for a 22% walk rate which is nothing short of amazing) and considerable power makes him a great candidate for extending innings and opening up the running game if Martin Prado feels so inclined.
Considering the Braves currently sit 24th in baseball in runs, I don’t think the status quo is really an option for a team expecting to challenge for the division crown. Moving a “run producer” (a guy who doesn’t make many outs) into a higher place in the order is the least he can do.
Colby Rasmus experienced more than his share of controversy regarding his role with the team. Reports of bickering/disagreements with LEGENDARY manager Tony LaRussa finally quieted when the season started and the Cardinals slotted Rasmus in as their every day centerfielder.
With his job secure, Rasmus decided he’d just go ahead and rake. 8 walks, 2 home runs and 15 hits already this year for the young outfielder. Just as vital as having a secure role, Rasmus also has a secure spot in the lineup: second.
Hitting second ahead of Albert Pujols is, if conventional thinking holds, great for business. I don’t know that I agree, why would any pitcher want to throw more pitches over the plate & increase the odds of having a base runner on when Pujols comes to the plate?
Rasmus drawing invaluable walks in front of the game’s greatest hitter is certainly a credit to his team and only stands to increase their chances of scoring runs. Like Heyward, his ability to keep innings alive and hit for power make him an ideal number 2 hitter?
I know people cling to RBIs like grim death so consider one minor factoid: number 6 hitter Jason Heyward has 38 plate appearances classed as RBI chances (i.e. with a runner on base). Number 2 hitter Colby Rasmus? 44. Maybe pitchers hit eighth for a reason!
With Rasmus only 24 and Heyward but 21 years old, these two stars figure to dominate the baseball landscape for the foreseeable future. The sooner their managers learn to just get out of their way, the better.