Atlanta Braves hitting trends: Dansby Swanson
It was November 2018 that Swanson’s wrist was cleaned up via surgery. Clearly, this impacted his performance throughout a lot of the 2018 season.
Perhaps this was related as part of needing to regain strength in that hand for 2019? Not likely, as his worst hitting months came in August and September.
In the 2019 playoffs, Swanson actually torched Cardinal pitching at a .389 clip (.977 OPS). Other than Ronald Acuna, he was the Braves’ leading hitter in that series… despite 6 K’s.
Clearly, Swanson was being very aggressive at the plate, and for the most part that paid dividends.
This was strikingly better than his .251 BA / .748 OPS hitting during the season.
What does this look like?
It appears Swanson is a player still in transition. Pitchers have changed their mix against and Swanson is trying to keep up.
His pitch location recognition has improved strongly, which helps everything else, though the contact percentage dip indicates that he was struggling to figure out how to hit non-fastballs (probably – the 38% whiff rate noted by the Brooks site is telling).
What we’d like to see:
- Improved ZContact… at least back to the prior level.
- Consistency and health
- Continued marginal improvement in the other metrics.
That could push Swanson’s average to something in the neighborhood of .265, which would be good to see after a 13-point climb in 2019 (to .251).
Unfortunately, making a larger leap upward at once is something that most players can never do.
What we don’t want to see would be any regression in those categories.
While being aggressive at the plate is one thing (indeed, that Braves aren’t relying on him for significant production), Swanson’s hitting isn’t yet beyond considering a replacement should he falter again.
That makes 2019 an important year for Swanson. It is his 1st arbitration year, and thus Atlanta has 2 more years of control with him.
Braden Shewmake was drafted 21st overall last June and was already given a taste of AA baseball last Fall. He’ll also be in camp (for a while) so that the major league coaches can watch… and compare.
Swanson is an extremely intelligent baseball player – seemingly always knowing where to be on the field for every defensive play, and carrying that to his base-running as well. That’s clearly valuable, though Swanson’s defense itself took a notable step back in 2019.
All that said, this is a championship level club and if there’s an upgrade that can be had, Alex Anthopoulos has an obligation to consider it.
It will be Swanson’s obligation to make sure that doesn’t happen to his position.