Atlanta Braves: Struggling Austin Riley shows signs of life

Austin Riley of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Austin Riley of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Atlanta Braves: Amid Austin Riley’s struggles this season he has shown some signs of life.

Coming into today’s game Atlanta Braves second-year player Austin Riley had seen 54.2 percent fastballs with a batting average of .000 on them. He also continues to swing and miss at off-speed and breaking balls nearly half of the time. So the good news is that he looks a little more patient this year, the bad news is that he’s still not hitting when he swings.

He’s still striking out in 30.8% of his PAs (which is less than his 36.4% last season) but is much higher than the MLB average of 21.7 percent. I can’t help but think about what broadcasting legend and former Gwinnett Stripers announcer Tony Schiavone told me about his thoughts on Austin Riley. 

Riley tends to pull his head, even on fastballs down the middle. In the bottom of the fourth inning against the Mets on Sunday, he struck out on a 3-2 count and whiffed on two fastballs right down the middle with his head yanked down the third baseline.

The bright side of that particular at-bat has appeared to be a consistent theme for the slugging righty this season.

He laid off the pitches out of the zone and even the strike he didn’t swing at was just barely on the inside corner for strike two, it was a good miss for the guy who couldn’t lay off of a pitch last season.

I believe little things like that are very positive signs moving forward for Riley. Meanwhile, he’s in the top half of the league in exit velocity and in the 75th percentile in sprint speed. He ended today’s game 1-3 with two strikeouts, moving his batting average up to .115 on the season.

A positive note for Riley so far is that his patience is showing up in the stats as his walk rate is up to 7.7% from 5.4% last year.

Atlanta Braves and the shift

I find the shift to be endlessly intriguing. It feels like every time an opposing team stops a Freddie Freeman line drive to right field by placing an infielder out there right where the ball lands, they give up a base hit to the left side or let a runner advance freely since they have nobody to cover the base.

The league BABIP against the shift and without it shows virtually the same results. Now some people argue that without the shift the overall BABIP would be higher, but I don’t know how to prove or disprove that. I just find the shift very interesting and so I made a note today during the game against the Mets.

Sunday’s game saw another example of how the shift can hurt you as much as it helps. In the bottom of the third with the bases loaded. Freeman hit a grounder into the shift but with no one to cover second, the inning-ending double play was out of the question and the Braves scored a run.

I know the shift works on guys like Joey Gallo, but I’m still baffled as to why you would employ it against pure hitters like Freddie Freeman.

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