Smoltz: I'd rather face Acuña in leadoff spot

The Midday Show w/ Andy & Randy
May 22, 2019 - 4:17 pm
Ronald Acuna Jr. #13 of the Atlanta Braves

Logan Riely/Getty Images

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Numbers never lie, right?

Over his career batting in the leadoff spot, Ronald Acuña Jr. has 23 home runs and has slashed .332/.414/.638 in 353 plate appearances. Since he slid back atop the Braves’ batting order 11 games ago, the phenom is 16 for 45 (.356) with four dingers. A home run every 13 plate appearances is something special.

But one Atlanta Hall of Famer thinks Acuña should head back to the four hole.

“Personally I'd like to see him bat in the fourth spot with Freddie Freeman in front of him and either Markakis or Riley or whoever (batting behind him),” John Smoltz said. “The lineup for the Braves is not an issue. It's a great lineup that's going to provide a lot of opportunities to score. But across the board, I think you could make a lot of arguments for other scenarios that are maybe not a no-brainer.”

What’s one of those arguments?

“I, personally, if I was facing Ronald Acuña, I would much rather face him in the leadoff spot than in the four spot,” said the former Braves pitcher. “He can do so much damage, he can create so much stress for me personally that if they could get runners on in front of him. Imagine in the day and age of having to unfortunately face Albert Pujols all those 10 years and in St. Louis when he was dominating and he was batting in the three or four spot. Imagine today if Albert Pujols was the young Albert Pujols, he would be batting second and in some cases maybe first. Thank you very much.”

Smoltz, whose resume affords him as much latitude as he wants in terms of talking about the mind of a pitcher on the mound, not only doesn’t seem scared of first inning bombs from the leadoff hitter, he also can see situations where Acuña batting first might not work for the Braves as well.

“I don't care about a guy hitting a leadoff home run, I don't care one bit,” Smoltz told Andy Bunker and Randy McMichael on The Midday Show with Andy and randy Wednesday. “But the way clubs are building their clubs now they're putting power in (the front), they're jumping the start right away. I understand, universally, that's what makes sense. But when you get to a playoff situation or you get to a big series, or you allow a really good pitcher to navigate through a lineup full of strikeouts then that goes right out the window.

“George Springer has reset and redefined the leadoff spot. Good luck trying to find a bunch of George Springer's having the kind of year he's having where he can steal, hit triples, hit homers and set the tone. But again, Houston's lineup is so good George Springer could bat anywhere. It's the product of your lineup that can sometimes answer those questions.

Smoltz thinks Atlanta’s lineup is good too. He says the argument that the Braves will provide plenty of opportunities is valid.

“The Braves have a really good lineup, so that argument works for them,” said Smoltz. “He (Acuña) could bat first, second, third or fourth, it doesn't really matter as much.”

Postseason series and elite pitchers, those are the times where Acuña batting leadoff might not offer Atlanta enough scoring options.

Related: Smoltz: Soroka is Maddux 2.0