Braves veteran third baseman Chipper Jones is hoping to return to the lineup in time for the series against the Mets on Friday.
His return will present Fredi Gonzalez with quite a challenge, and one that Braves analyst, Joe Simpson, pointed out during today’s game.
Where do you place Chipper in the lineup?
As a long time Braves fan, it seems a crime to bat him anywhere other than the #3 spot. However, given the current tears that Uggla and Freeman are on–it might not be a terrible idea to move Chipper around a bit.
In a month where Freeman hit .362 and Uggla hit .293, it would also seem like a bad idea to move these guys around–who are both enjoying double-digit hitting streaks.
I think one thing is certain: Don’t move Uggla from the cleanup spot. Don’t do anything to mess this guy up.
He’s not missing any mistakes at the plate currently, and while his hitting streak will come to an eventual end–I think this spot fits Uggla best. Even when Brian McCann returns.
Freeman will also cool off, but he has shown a wonderful ability to make adjustments to major league pitching. Right now Freeman is staying ahead of the pitchers and spraying the ball all over the place. His current 17-game hit streak has led to this slash line: .406/.455/.580 (AVG, OBP%, SLG%).
Coming into the season, I felt like Freeman’s average would be in the .270-.275 range. An adjustment period is likely on the horizon, but he seems to determined to defy all odds. His BABIP is extraordinarily high, but I really don’t feel like he’s getting a lot of cheap hits.
Some players consistently have high BABIPs throughout their career, but it’s too early to tell for Freeman. Still, .361 seems a bit too high.
Baseball Prospectus listed Freeman’s ceiling (or his 90th percentile) for this season at .298/.354/.465 (18 homers). That’s almost right in line with his current production (.296/.363/.477). Achieving the 90th percentile is highly unlikely, and I think Freeman will regress in the future.
Despite the lower average, Chipper is still a hitter that strikes fear into opposing teams. He is a better on-base guy career wise, and has a better feel for the strike zone than Freeman, who has 47 more whiffs than Chipper.
So we come back to the question presented at the beginning of this article: Where do you bat Chipper?
I think the answer is ultimately his old, comfortable spot. While it would be wise to continue protecting Freeman with hitters like Uggla and McCann behind him, I’m not sure where else Chipper would fit in.
The five slot seems to be the only other logical place in the order, with McCann batting third, and Uggla batting cleanup. Freeman and Heyward in the six and seven holes. Chipper still provides above average on-base skills to hit near the top of the lineup, even in the twilight of his career.
Whatever the case, Jones will be a welcome addition to the lineup. Fredi has shown he’s not afraid to take an unorthodox approach to his lineup this season, so it will be interesting to see what he comes up with. Braves fans would just like to see the team at full strength.
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