Offensive keys to the season: Heyward, Chipper

Heyward is obviously pivotal. He is one of the few real question marks in the lineup. Bourn will be solid. No way Prado doesn’t rebound. McCann will be McCann, and won’t fade late. Freeman could take a step back in year 2, ala J-Hey, but I don’t see it happening. Uggla will be Uggla.

That leaves J-Hey, Chipper and the shortstop. Ergo, your two keys to the offense. If Heyward reverts to his rookie form, this lineup is solidly six deep, at least. The last few practice games have been encouraging, as he’s launched balls into the universe like he did two years ago in Florida. Despite his struggles last season, the kid is only 22. Now, he could hit .240 with 17 homers. But something along the lines of .275-.280, 25 HR, 90 RBI, .385-.400 OBP is far more likely.

J-Hey does that, and we have just two iffy lineup spots.

One of those will be shortstop. Whatever offense we get there is fine, as long as Simmons/Pastornicky/Wilson catch the ball.

The other of those spots, on certain days, will belong to the 40-year-old Mr. L.W. Jones. The last 1990s MVP still active, Chipper was productive last year in 455 at bats in 126 games. He had the second-best OPS on the team, the third best homer-per-at bat ratio, and the best RBI per at bat ratio. RBI are dependent in part on other players, of course, but still, it’s a positiive indicator. Old No. 10 led the team in slugging percentage, and was intentionally walked 10 times, second most behind McCann. (Strangely, Uggla only drew two intentional walks.) Of his 18 homers, only 3 came when the Braves were ahead or behind by more than three runs, so most of them meant something.

The bottom line: if Chipper can come reasonably close to matching last season’s production and play, say, 115 games, it will be significant. There will be his production, obviously. That would also limit the plate appearances by the likes of Diaz, Hinske and Constanza. Jorge did some nice work last year, but those guys all represent a severe drop in ability from even the 40-year-old Chipper Jones. They are simply not players you want playing too often.

We welcome your thoughts.

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7 Comments on Offensive keys to the season: Heyward, Chipper

  1. Jack Straw // March 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm //

    I don’t care about shortstop, as long as the glove is good. And I agree with your assessment as far as the likely scenario for Heyward.

    Chipper concerns me. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has slipped substantially the last two (2) years. That is telling; pitchers no longer fear him, and are more willing to challenge him, successfully. He can only compensate so much with his experience. And I believe there is a good chance he won’t be able to play out the season. The left side of the infield is going to hurt us badly.

  2. Tokyokie // March 30, 2012 at 9:33 am //

    Yeah, that sounds about right, but I’m afraid we need to worry about whoever replaces Prado in left on days Chipper is hurting because that’s likely to be at least a third of the season. (And why did we spend the off-season trying to trade Prado?)

  3. charlesad // March 30, 2012 at 3:53 pm //

    Prado’s replacements are what I was writing about — Hinske, Diaz, et al.

  4. rankin' rob // March 30, 2012 at 7:12 pm //

    We just signed Livan Hernandez. That’ll be a division changer…

  5. Jack Straw // March 30, 2012 at 8:59 pm //

    Livan Hernandez can pitch 9 innings. Until Hudson comes back, we don’t have anybody who can give us 7.

  6. Jack Straw // March 30, 2012 at 9:01 pm //

    And I have always been a big Matt Diaz fan, but I recently realized that he failed to homer last year. The whole year. 250 plus at bats.

  7. charlesad // March 31, 2012 at 7:49 am //

    Wren says Hernandez will be a long reliever. A tweak, but it should give them more flexibility with C. Martinez. Jack, I’m afraid Diaz is done. It looks like he’ll make the club but if he were not under a big league contract I’m not sure he would.

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