Schafer placed in the leadoff spot
Braves manager Bobby Cox has put Kelly Johnson back in the lineup for Saturday’s game against the Astros. But Johnson will be batting sixth, while Jordan Schafer gets his first chance in the leadoff role.
Schafer is undoubtedly the closest thing the Braves have to a prototypical leadoff hitter. During the past nine games, the 22-year-old rookie center fielder has hit .273 with a .529 on-base percentage. The 12 walks he’s drawn during this span are encouraging and also a product of the fact that opposing pitchers have been more comfortable facing the other hitters at the bottom of the Braves lineup.
In the 19 plate appearances he’s collected while beginning an inning this year, Schafer has hit .375 with a .474 on-base percentage.
The fact Schafer has just one stolen base attempt this year is also a product of his former position near the bottom of the order. He has the speed and instincts to record at least 25 stolen bases this year.
Plus while batting in front of Yunel Escobar, who has a 3.75 groundball-to-flyball ratio, Schafer is going to find himself involved a lot more hit-and-run attempts. Escobar also puts the ball in play, striking out just seven times during his first 77 at-bats.
You have to like Schafer and Escobar at the top of the lineup together. There was little doubt that Cox wasn’t going to put Johnson back in the leadoff spot and yesterday I ran these graphs while wondering if Cox would use Escobar at the top of the lineup and wait a little longer to put Schafer in this role:
In 72 career plate appearances while serving as his team’s first batter
of the game, he’s hit .429 with a .444 on-base percentage.
In the 251 plate appearances he’s gathered while leading off an inning, he’s hit .333 with a .378 on-base percentage.
But with that being said, Schafer is the best option in the leadoff role and I don’t think putting him there will affect his development. He’s had just one rough week during his first month in the Majors and I think you’ll see him show some of the same patience that he has displayed while hitting seventh and eighth this year.
The only question is, will pitchers approach him in the same manner?
This move also benefits Johnson, who has the ability to be a solid run producer. In the
133 at-bats he combined for while hitting sixth or seventh last year, he hit .294
and seemed much more comfortable in roles that allowed him to maintain
his aggressive offensive approach.
Despite his three-RBI performance last night, Jeff Francoeur is hitting fifth today. With the Astros starting right-hander Roy Oswalt, Cox has put the left-handed hitting Casey Kotchman back in the cleanup spot.
Back from being with his wife while she delivered their newest child yesterday, David Ross is back behind the plate for this afternoon’s game.