Atlanta Braves: Why is Michael Harris struggling so much in 2023?

Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Harris II is mired in a deep slump.
Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Harris II is mired in a deep slump. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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Atlanta Braves
Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Harris II is essential to the club's ongoing success. / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Swinging More Now and Enjoying it Less

  • In 2022 he swung at 67.2% on in-zone pitches and made contact at an 83.7% rate
  • This year he’s swinging at 72.3% of in-zone pitches and making contact at a 73.6% rate.

Players who get to the majors have shown they can hit a fastball, and Michael did that very well last year. This year, not so much.

  • In 2022 they threw fastballs at 53.6%, he batted .342, slugged .632, and whiffed 23.2%.
  • This year they’re throwing more fastballs (56.45), but he’s batting only .125 and slugging .175 with a 30.9% Whiff rate.
  • In 2022 he saw breaking pitches 32.4 % of the time and batted .238 with a .401 slug and 35.9% Whiff rate.
  • This year pitchers are throwing fewer breaking balls (30.6%), and he’s batting .267 with a .433 SLG and 24.2% Whiff rate.

Harris is pulling the ball more often this year, hitting fewer ground balls, which translates to more fly balls, but the increase hasn’t produced better results because he’s hitting fewer of the line drives that turn into hits and more popups that become easy outs.


I have no idea whether it’s a residual effect of his back issue or Harris went into the offseason trying to cut down on ground balls or looking for more home runs. Neither makes a lot of sense to me.

Many of his ground ball outs in 2022 would become hits this year, and his 19 home runs in 441 PA look like 25 a season, well above what we see from most center fielders. But whatever caused it, the result is not getting the bat into the hitting zone on time.

At some point, the Braves have to do the same thing for Harris they do for pitchers, send him to Gwinnett to figure it out. Sam Hilliard and Kevin Pillar can patrol center field until he figures it out.

That’s a Wrap

As I write this, I see that the Atlanta Braves are giving Harris a day off. He needs at least a day, maybe more. When he comes to the plate, he looks like he’s pressing, and that’s never a good thing.

The Atlanta Braves need Harris performing at something close to his 2022 level as they try to win the East again in 2023, so they need to do whatever it takes to get him there.