Braves: It’s time to change the lineup vs. righties

dfu19033041 braves at phillies

The Atlanta Braves have rewritten the narrative and made it to the World Series against the Astros, but they are not done yet.

The Braves came out swinging in Game 1 and shocked many with a decisive win, but Game 2 was a different story. The Astros jumped out to the big lead early, and Atlanta didn’t have an answer, scoring just two runs.

There is a reason why there was such a substantial difference in offensive performance. The Braves have crushed lefties all year long, but at times, have struggled against righties. Platoon splits matter, and they have been on full display during this postseason.

Brian Snitker made the right move by putting Jorge Soler leadoff in Game 1. Many fans across social media were surprised why the lineup was changed for Game 2. It’s simple, Valdez is a lefty, and Urquidy is a righty.

Although statistically, Game 1’s lineup was not the most optimal, it was far better than it has been in the past. The same cannot be said against righties. Putting Eddie Rosario leadoff makes sense since he has been one of the better hitters on the team against righties with a career .275/.312/.502 slash line, which equates to a 107 OPS+ (7% better than league average).

For what it’s worth, Jorge Soler does not do as well against righties, posting a 96 OPS+ in 2021, and a 97 OPS+ for his career. This points to why Snitker decided to switch it up.

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is a flawed ideology in baseball.

When the Game 2 lineup was announced, many fans were using the old saying “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” This is a flawed concept.

First, the reason teams like the Tampa Bay Rays — with their minuscule budget — can compete is because they are always looking to improve. Lineup optimization is an entire subject on its own, but managers should always be open minded to improvement.

Sitting stagnant and thinking other teams are not trying to improve their lineups even when they are winning is a recipe for failure.

In theory, to create the most runs, a team needs four different lineups:

  • A lineup versus team that most of the innings pitched will be against righties with a DH
  • A lineup versus team that most of the innings pitched will be against righties without a DH
  • A lineup versus team that most of the innings pitched will be against lefties with a DH
  • A lineup versus team that most of the innings pitched will be against lefties without a DH

The Atlanta Braves have made steps forward in platoon splits, but there is one glaring area that needs to change to massively increase the odds of success against righties.

Look at these two slash lines:

  • .323/.354/.585 with a 134 OPS+
  • .237/.295/.454 with an 88 OPS+

The first slash line looks like a legitimate threat that you would be happy to have in the heart of your order. The second slash line looks like a guy that you hope is good with his glove, because he is not offering much with his bat (for reference, Dansby Swanson, who is batting 7th, 8th, or 9th, has a career 89 OPS+).

The first slash line is Ozzie Albies when hitting against lefties. The second slash line is Ozzie Albies batting against righties.

This is not a knock on Albies; it is almost shocking that he has never received any MVP votes. However, it makes little to no sense for him to be batting 3rd against a righty starter, especially in the World Series where every out is crucial.

But… But Ozzie Albies has an 11-game hitting streak!

Albies does currently have an impressive hitting streak going. No one can take that away from him. However, it is not the type of tear that makes sense to completely dismiss his past struggles.

Of these 11 games, he has 14 hits. 11 of these hits were singles, and many of them were infield hits. This does bring value, but again, not a 3-hole hitter type.

Over his 11-game hitting streak, he does have a somewhat solid slash line of .333/.346/.458, which would equate to a 122 OPS+. An .804 OPS would have been 59th in MLB.

In his last nine games, Albies only has one extra base hit, a double off of Walker Buehler. His OPS also does not look quite as good against righties — .779. If you were to span that across an entire season, that would be good for 77th in MLB and an OPS+ of 98.

That’s 2% below league average, and that is during a hitting streak. Again, Ozzie is a phenomenal player, but not the profile of a number three hitter when he faces righties.

Who can take his place as the Atlanta Braves 3-hole hitter versus righties?

The Braves have much better options to move to that spot. Freeman, Rosario, and Riley seem to be set in stone, so let’s look at other possibilities:

  • Duvall – 113 OPS+ vs righties in 2021, 99 OPS+ for his career
  • Pederson – 101 OPS+ vs righties in 2021, 109 OPS+ for his career
  • Soler – 91 OPS+, 97 OPS+ for his career
  • Swanson – 100 OPS+, 100 OPS+ for his career

As can be seen, all of these players except Soler have hit righties better than Ozzie has over his last nine games. Factor in that Ozzie is due for some regression, and it only makes sense to make the change.



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