Heyward was Atlanta's best hitter in 2010, leading the club in OPS. He's Atlanta's best hitter in 2011, sailing along with a .273/.429/.636 line through 11 games.
So it makes perfect sense that new Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez is hitting Heyward sixth, right?
No, of course it doesn't. Nobody bats their best hitter sixth, not even Tony Muser.
You know what's especially odd about this? Fredi Gonzalez isn't some grizzled old baseball man who spits tobacco juice on any statistic that wasn't in The Sporting News in 1963. Gonzalez showed up at the SABR Convention in Atlanta last summer and seemed to fit right in.
Granted, it's nonsensical to bat Heyward sixth, based on the numbers. Depending on his particular skills, of course, you want your best hitter batting either first (Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines), third (Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, etc) or fourth (Willie Stargell, Frank Robinson). I don't have the foggiest idea who the greatest No. 6 hitter in history might have been, but I'll bet he wasn't as good as Jason Heyward is, right now.
And it's obviously bizarre that Gonzalez has been penciling Nate McLouth in the No. 2 slot; that's just a crime against sabermetrics, pure and simple.
Of course, you know as well as David Schoenfield that it really makes little difference where McLouth and Heyward bat. Granted, McLouth's will cost the Braves a few runs over the course of the season if he stays in the No. 2 slot all season. Which he won't. And Heyward might account for two or three more runs if he were batting third or fourth rather than sixth. But the odds against the Braves missing a playoff spot because of Fredi Gonzalez's batting orders -- as opposed to the players he actually uses -- are exceptionally long.
Really, this is about aesthetics more than anything. It just looks wrong for McLouth to be listed four slots ahead of Heyward. And yes, I wish Gonzalez would stop it. If only because we don't get to see Heyward hit quite as often. And because we have to watch McLouth bat more.