Freeman on ’14 roster: Heyward leading off ‘not well-constructed lineup’

Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer is trying to improve Braves performance at plate. (Curtis Compton, AJC)

Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer is trying to improve Braves performance at plate. (Curtis Compton, AJC)

Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer is trying to improve Braves performance at plate. (Curtis Compton, AJC)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — I’ve posted a column posted on Kevin Seitzer, who I’m resisting the temptation to call the Braves’ next ex-hitting coach. That’s not meant to be a statement on Seitzer, who actually did a terrific job in Toronto last season (USA Today named him their hitting coach of the year), as much as it is the instability of the position and the Braves’ possible offensively challenged lineup in 2015.

Here’s a link to the column on MyAJC.com.

I spoke at length Tuesday with Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman for a column later this week. He likes Seitzer a lot but he doesn’t understand why his predecessor, Greg Walker, came under such criticism, amid poor offensive production by the team’s flawed lineup. (For the record, Walker phoned Braves executive John Hart with a week remaining in the season last year to say he was resigning.)

Freeman on Walker, Seitzer and hitting coaches in general: “It seems no one wants to blame the players as much as the hitting coach. I mean, it wasn’t Walker’s fault. We had the same hitting coaches in 2013 and absolutely killed it. We did strike out a lot but in 2014 we weren’t hitting the home runs that we were in 2013 so the strikeouts were magnified.

“Every hitting coach has close to the same philosophy, they just say it a little differently and are able to relate (to players) differently, with how it’s worded. Some people just need the words coming from a different mouth.”

Freeman also had strong comments that reflected what was so often written and said in the media, and by fans, last season — but usually denied publicly by the Braves.

“Having Jason Heyward hitting leadoff for you is not a well-constructed lineup,” said Freeman, and he was referring more to the personnel on the roster, not the lineup decisions of manager Fredi Gonzalez.

“We didn’t have a guy in the first or second hole to get on base to set the table. It was me and Justin (Upton) trying to get on base and set the table with two outs, and then hope for the best. Now I think we’re more built like the Royals. Maybe we won’t hit as many home runs, but we have guys who are going to fight for every at-bat.”

Good stuff from Freeman. For more on Seitzer, go to the column on MyAJC.com.

Some recent ramblings from the digital jukebox
— MyAJC: By any name, Braves need a different Upton
— AJC: How long should Braves give Upton to show improvement?
— MyAJC: Braves have issues but McDowell not one of them
— AJC: I still can’t talk to Roger McDowell without thinking of ‘The Second Spitter’
— AJC: Poll: Are expectations for Braves too low, high or about right?
— MyAJC: Will Gonzalez be given some latitude during Braves’ rebuilding?
— MyAJC: Falcons’ roster gutting could have big names
— AJC: Data show Falcons got least (10-22) from most ($279.3 million)
— MyAJC: Georgia shows why we still can’t assume success
— AJC: Are Hawks getting Ray Allen? Odds site makes them favorite
— MyAJC: Private agendas still at play in Hawks’ offices
— AJC: Tiger Woods seems in danger of missing Masters (again)
— AJC: Trade likely means Hawks are planning for something
— MyAJC: Kyle Shanahan, the coach’s son, has absorbed a lot of jabs
— AJC: Greg Hardy skates (and is he worth the risk for Falcons)?
— MyAJC: Hawks’ deadline move wouldn’t hurt chemistry
— AJC: Tech doing just fine, recruiting rankings notwithstanding
— MyAJC: Dan Quinn’s ascent to top job was years in making
— AJC: Forget trade talk — Dan Quinn wants Julio Jones on his team
— AJC: Falcons need players but Dan Quinn is a good start
— MyAJC: Tom Brady takes the air out of critics in Super Bowl
— AJC: Short takes: Brady rallies Pats but Seahawks bungle ending
— AJC: Another possible embarrassment for Falcons: Fake crowd noise
— MyAJC: There’s no confusion about pecking order on Super Bowl teams
— AJC: Dan Quinn could have final day on 53-man roster
— MyAJC: Blank speaks but remains vague on Falcons’ restructuring
— MyAJC: Tiger Woods’ problems aren’t just physical anymore

Reader Comments 0

38 comments
HUDDYS1FAN
HUDDYS1FAN

In fairness to Frank Wren, he didn't make out the line up cards last season. Fredi Gonzalez did because he's the manager. That said, Wren needed to be fired. Question is.....why is Fredi G. getting a pass?


If Bobby Cox is the answer, I'm giving it a thumbs down. B.J. should have been benched immediately. Even Jordan Schafer would have been an improvement in CF, but he wasn't the answer  to leading off that this team was sorely missing last season. Yes Schafer thrived in Minnesota, batting ninth. Simmons never got the same opportunity to lead of like he did in 2013.

2014 is mystifying too me, Why? Just look at 2013. The most common and productive line up: Simmons, Heyward, Freeman, J. Upton, McCann, Uggla, B.J and Johnson.

Why didn't we ever see Simmons SS, Heyward CF, Freeman 1st , J. Upton RF , Gattis LF, Johnson 3B. La Stella 2B, Schafer CF, Laird C ??????? Freeman hit exclusively in the three hole, Heyward led off where he didn't belong. B.J. should have been riding the pine, Schafer should have never best lost to the waiver wire, etc.


I said all that to say this, Fredi G's line up construction lacked creativity, intuition and not much movement at all compared to 2014. Simply put, the man is on the hot seat. His job is on the line, period. Which is why Fredi G. hasn't been given a contract extension as of yet.

Nashville Jeff
Nashville Jeff

@HUDDYS1FAN  Why don't you realize that BJ was forced into the lineup by his salary and quit blaming FG.  Broken record bs as usual from you and the Fredi bashing armchair gang.  You post as if you have special insight into the clubhouse.

LegalBeagle3
LegalBeagle3

@HUDDYS1FAN Simmons is an awful option for leadoff.  Just look at his swing--he's practically upside down on the follow through. Compare his swing to Jeter which is so smooth and balanced.  He goes to bat with a plan.  Our guys, like Simmons, would go up and seemingly just swing as hard as they possibly could. None of them--least of all Simmons--make consistent enough contact to be a decent leadoff hitter.

GWJ0525
GWJ0525

We had Jordon S last year just sitting on the bench who was and should have been our lead off hitter the whole season, so to say we did not have a lead off hitter and had to put Heyward in that spot is so wrong.

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

Well Freddie it's about time you speak up...........hanging around your new Spring Training teammate  Gomes might help you after all!

kenstallings
kenstallings

Looks like the players are finally free to condemn Frank Wren!  Truth enjoys the sunshine!

HUDDYS1FAN
HUDDYS1FAN

@kenstallings Then they should condemn Fredi G. because his line up construction sucked brass balls last season.

Delbert_D
Delbert_D

I hope they are working out Upton as a switch-hitter. Can't hurt. Let him bunt a lot in the 9th spot in the order.

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

"... “We didn’t have a guy in the first or second hole to get on base to set the table."


Did someone say leadoff hitter?  Like Michael Borne or Raphael Furcal?


Those guys all wanted way too much money.  The Braves, doggone it,  just couldn't affort to pay 'em.  And they weren't worth all the money they were asking anyway.  The Braves made the smart move - which I guess means the Dodgers and Indians are idiots for paying them.


I guess every club who takes  the Braves overpaid castoffs are idiots.  Surprised the Braves haven't won more championships, given how much smarter they are than everybody else.


At any rate, can't wait for 2017.  Stay classy!  Go get 'em Braves!

pbond3
pbond3

@CardiganBoy 

"Did someone say leadoff hitter?  Like Michael Borne or Raphael Furcal?" 

No, more like Jordan Schafer. Thanks to the Dunce (FG) continuing to play BJ for so many games, Schafer was traded. Leading off and playing regularly for the Twins for around 40 games, he hit .285 with a .345 OBP and 15 stolen bases. That gave him 30 SB for the year in only 104 games.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

The Braves need a "Manager Coach," who can get in Freddi Gonzalez' face and remind him what managing is all about ... since he forgets every game.


As for every hitting coach saying the same thing ... that begins in pee wee ball, once the 5-year olds start looking at live pitching and the tee is taken away.  Watch the ball into the bat.  Choke up with two strikes.  You have to put on this frilly pink dress if you strike out again.

peanutgallery
peanutgallery

I don't interpret the statement as Freeman saying Heyward couldn't get on base. It's that Heward would be better served being further down in the lineup but had to bat leadoff because the Braves didn't have any other options.


Chris Johnson is a free-swinger who might hit 60 points higher than BJ but you look at his OBP and SLG and it's barely any better because he refuses to take a walk and he's not crushing the ball out of the park when he does make contact.


Simmons or La Stella should ideally be batting in the #1 or 2 spots but neither one can get on base reliably.Neither one is a threat to steal either. They need to pick up their offensive game.


Unless two or more of the Braves position players learn to make better contact and get on base it's going to be a hot mess.

GeorgiaBugman
GeorgiaBugman

More BS rhetoric from the Atlanta organization that thrives on mismanagement and diversion.

NajehDavenpoop
NajehDavenpoop

It isn't the hitting coach's fault that players can't hit. It absolutely is the hitting coach's fault that players don't work the count and take pitches and work their way on base when they can't hit. The Braves have plummeted in the OBP ranks since Pendleton was "reassigned", and that absolutely is on the hitting coaches. The reason the hitting coach deserves blame is because the teamwide approach to hitting was flawed, not because the roster was constructed poorly.

kerryb
kerryb

@NajehDavenpoop I remember when people complained about Pendleton because they weren't hitting.  A hitting coach can stress working the count but it's the guy in the box that has to do it.

58Supersports
58Supersports

@NajehDavenpoop  you can't make a player do what you tell him... million $ players do their on thing and the cheap paid coach gets the blame. If the manager don't back the hitting coach then it is what it his. Players are not the same as 15, 20 years ago... union took care of that.

58Supersports
58Supersports

Thanks Freeman for saying what many fans have said all year.  I've said Walker was not to blame many times on this blog. He is my friend and lived couple miles from me for 15 years are more. I've also said FG was to blame for line-up and still believe that... FG should have been fired... I'm a Braves fan and support them win or lose but FG needs to go.

Go Braves.

58Supersports
58Supersports

I will say talking to GW that he never said anything bad about Braves management or team. He was a first class Coach and loyal to the team. Always been that way.

Da_Mick
Da_Mick

@58Supersports  Nothing against Walker myself, but you don't make a very good argument for the job that the man himself did by using your personal familiarity with him to justify the job he did or didn't do.  

Big Wally
Big Wally

We laugh, Gonzo will probably have Freeman batting lead off this year.

FredMacmurray
FredMacmurray

So he just called the manager a dumbass,, I like it.

Nashville Jeff
Nashville Jeff

@FredMacmurray  Learn to read.  He was "referring more to the personnel on the roster, not the lineup construction."  Can't you even read a quote right off the page.  You call FG a "dumbass"?  You should say duhhhhhhhhh at the start of all your comments in the future. 

Maggot_Man
Maggot_Man

Give Freddie break. His wife must be very distracting. Have you seen her?

SOB
SOB

Pitiful, just pitiful. What a mess. R. I. P. Atlanta Braves...

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Good luck to Seitzer with this bunch.  Hopefully he is the next Don Baylor.  Braves hitting coach is a position with a short life span, it seems.  Only ISIS prisoners have a shorter lifespan than a Braves hitting coach. 

Wilbo
Wilbo

"I spoke at length Tuesday with Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman"


Trying to make yourself relevant, chump?


You're gonna have to do better than that.

Nashville Jeff
Nashville Jeff

@Wilbo  Yeah he should post on a sports blog under a make believe name and fire off insults from a make believe intellect.  Would that do it for you?

afx
afx

@Wilbo  I think something personal between him and you, I left my suspicion outside of this comment. can't wait for your next one

JAS0N
JAS0N

“We didn’t have a guy in the first or second hole to get on base to set the table."


Heyward had the 2nd best on base percentage on the team last season.

tmc
tmc

“It seems no one wants to blame the players as much as the hitting coach..."

gotta disagree with Freddie on that comment. I blame BJ/Melvin Upton & Dan Uggla  or any player 1000 times more than any hitting coach for their lack of success. The Braves brass seem to be the one's blaming the hitting coaches (or a certain former gm) over the years.

58Supersports
58Supersports

@tmc  Walker resigned... Wren Fired and it should have been both Wren and Fredi G. fired.

KennethGrim
KennethGrim

I do not think I am a baseball genius, but Heyward should be 3,4, or 5 as far as I know about the game.  It is not a "flawed lineup".  I would think you call it flawed managing.  He is still there, let's see how bad next year gets.


DawgnIT
DawgnIT

@KennethGrim Nope, you're wrong just like Freeman is wrong and anyone else who refuses to scapegoat Heyward!


*Sarcasm alert*

Nashville Jeff
Nashville Jeff

@KennethGrim  Why should Heyward bat 3/4/5?  Because his power has gone downhill at breakneck speed for the last 3 years, because he can't hit left handed pitching, or because he has that ugly awkward swing at any pitch inside or above his belt?  The only thing he did reasonably well at the plate was post a decent obp because he took walks.  His best #'s have been at leadoff the last 2 years.  Forget the "he's too big and strong" bs arguments and face facts.

RayPugh
RayPugh

Heyward had a .350 OBP in the leadoff spot - that's "getting on base and setting the table". I know he's just towing the company line, but that statement simply isn't true.