Austin Riley is Peaking at the Perfect Time for the Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves have been the best offense in baseball for the majority of the 2023 season. However, some of their key players have gone through some rough patches. Austin Riley is no exception to that but he is in the midst of a massive offensive outburst.

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets
Atlanta Braves v New York Mets / Rich Schultz/GettyImages
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It has been a historic season for the Atlanta Braves in 2023. They still hold the best record in all of baseball at 73-41 and carry a run differential of +170 which is out of this world.

The pitching staff had been one of the top in all of baseball through the first half but that has recently regressed majorly and in the second half, they have one of the worst team ERAs in all of baseball. They rank 27th with a collective 4.95 ERA since the All-Star break.

Atlanta's offense has remained strong despite a slightly slow start to the second half. The team average was second-best in baseball at .270 through 89 games before the break with a .830 OPS. Through the second half so far, they have stayed second-best with a team average of .282 and a .877 OPS through 25 games.

Austin Riley has been one of the main drivers of that sustained success after the All-Star break. He came into the second half of the season as a man on a mission. Once a year it feels like Austin just goes on a long streak of crushing the baseball.

Specifically, the months of July and August have always been kind to Austin. In July, he has a .295 career average with 32 HR and 81 RBI through 104 games. The career average in the month of August is .299 with 17 HR and 59 RBI through 87 games.

The Braves' third baseman currently has a .281/.339/.512 line with a .851 OPS through 114 games. He has 128 hits including 22 2B, 1 3B, 27 HR, 72 RBI, 39 BB, and 117 K. Definitely an all-around great season but since the All-Star break, he's been on another level entirely.

Comparing Austin Riley's First and Second Half So Far

Los Angeles Angels v Atlanta Braves
Los Angeles Angels v Atlanta Braves / Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

He isn't just getting singles here and there but instead, he's hitting the ball well and driving it to all parts of the field. The home runs have now begun to come in bunches and he just seems locked in.

Through the first 89 games of the season, Austin slashed .266/.327/.448 with a .775 OPS. He had 94 hits including 16 doubles, 16 homers, and 44 RBI with 31 walks and 91 strikeouts. His wRC+ was at 105 through the first half.

He was hitting a lot more ground balls during the first half as his groundball percentage sat at 42.2% and when he was hitting fly balls, his home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB) was at 15.8% with a 37.7 hard hit percentage.

That has drastically changed in the second half as he is hitting the ball in the air more often and at a high exit velocity. His ground ball percentage has dropped to 37.0% and his hard hit percentage is up to 50.7% through 25 games in the second half so far. As far as HR/FB ratio, it sits at 29.4% which is a drastic improvement from the first half. Basically, if he hits the ball in the air right now, there is a pretty decent chance it's going over the wall.

Now, that HR/FB ratio in the first half is considered above average so it's not like he was doing terribly. That's just a testament to how incredible he has been in the second half. 20% is considered an excellent HR/FB ratio and he is almost 10 points higher than that rate at the moment.

His stats are just as impressive and drastic improvements from the first half as well. With a slash line of .333/.381/.735 and an OPS of 1.116, Riley is putting up MVP-type numbers right now. Austin has 34 hits including 6 doubles, 1 triple, 11 homers, 28 RBI, 8 walks, and 26 strikeouts as well in the second half. His wRC+ increased drastically to 178 and a wOBA of .439 is 100 points higher than it was in the first half (.331).

If there's any knock it's that his strikeout percentage is still pretty much the same 23.1% before the break and 24.1% after the break. So, that could certainly be improved and would make Riley even more dangerous of a batter.

August: Riley County

Milwaukee Brewers v Atlanta Braves
Milwaukee Brewers v Atlanta Braves / Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

The month of August has really been what's driving Riley's impressive stat line at the moment. Through 10 games, his average for the month sits at .349 with an OBP of .388 and a slugging percentage of .628 so far. His OPS sits at 1.016 in August and is absolute insanity.

Before hitting his 11th homer since the All-Star break in Friday's game against the Mets, Riley's 10 homers since the break were the most in all of baseball back on August 4th. It's like someone went onto MLB The Show and supercharged his card with maxed-out attributes. He's just found another gear and it sure is a lot of fun to watch.

His bat is impressive but his defense has also been much improved in the second half and he's starting to make some really nice plays out there. Now, he's still not an elite defender but has been providing some above-average defense lately that compliments his offensive surge very well.

Will he be able to sustain this pace? It's hard to say because there are a lot of factors that go into having success at the plate. However, he's gotten hot at the right time and could carry his hot bat through the final two months of the regular season. A confident Austin Riley is the best Austin Riley and fans are getting to see exactly why he was signed to a 10-year extension.