Let me first say that I think Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is doing a great job this season. Not that he needs my endorsement, the 7.5 game lead his Braves have in the National League East does all the talking.
Now that I got that out-of-the-way, I think Evan Gattis should be starting as many games as his body will physically allow him to play productively, and Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton should be sitting down as needed to accommodate Gattis.
In his post game press conference after the May 30 game against Toronto, where the Braves bench players were instrumental in the 11-3 win, Gonzalez defended his regulars who haven’t been hitting by noting the accomplishments they have had in their careers, as reflected on the backs of their bubble gum cards.
B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward have had solid careers, and Gonzalez is absolutely correct, the stats on the back of their bubble gum cards are impressive.
But the reality is that Evan Gattis’ production this season is better than the stats Heyward and B.J. Upton have on the backs of their bubble gum cards. Gattis has been on fire all season, and has been the best clutch hitter, not only on the Braves, but in the entire National League.
B.J. Upton is a lifetime .250 hitter, with a .331 on-base-percentage and .415 slugging percentage. Jason Heyward is a lifetime .254 hitter, with a .348 on-base-percentage and .436 slugging percentage. Both have had their moments, but neither has been a big RBI or late game clutch hitter in their careers.
This season Gattis is hitting .270, with a .337 on-base percentage and a hefty .608 slugging percentage. His 13 home runs are one-off Braves team leader (Justin Upton has 14) and tied for 6th in the National League, even though he has less than 150 at bats this season. Gattis has 33 RBI which is second on the team, 4 RBI ahead of Justin Upton, who has 58 more at bats.
So why isn’t Gattis playing everyday yet?
Baseball managers are like the rest of us, they often taken the path of least resistance. Rookies like Gattis are just happy to be in the major leagues. They accept the playing time that their manager gives them and don’t complain. But guys like B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward are established players, and if Gonzalez cuts back much on their playing time, he will have disgruntled players. Not to mention agents lighting up his cell phone.
Bottom line, Gattis has produced at a very high level this season, better than the numbers that Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton have on the backs of their bubble gum cards. Better than nearly every hitter in the National League, all things considered. Gattis needs to play every day, and Gonzalez needs to deal with the fall out.