Is it time for the Atlanta Braves to address Ozzie Albies' defense?

Ozzie Albies used to be a Gold Glove candidate, now he's one of the worst defensive 2B in baseball.

Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers
Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers / Harry How/GettyImages
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Last April, Ozzie Albies defense sparked some concern when finished the month with -5 OAA, fourth-worst in baseball. At the time, I looked through the footage and found that he was getting to the balls he needed, but wasn't making the plays. I concluded that these were most likely a fluke and that his defense should normalize back to around average.

Unfortunately, this hasn't been the case for the Atlanta Braves 2B. Although the start to his 2024 season hasn't been as rough, he has been among the worst defensive 2B in baseball. Is it time for the Braves to address his defense? What can even be done to fix it?

What's wrong with Ozzie Albies defense?

When Ozzie Albies first came up to the majors, his defense was stellar. In his first full big league season, he accumulated 12 OAA, a career-high, and averaged 1.75 OAA from 2019 until 2022.

Although he wasn't necessarily Gold Glove material outside of his 2018, he was a dependable defensive player who would make the plays he needed to make.

Last season, Albies took a huge step back, finishing among the worst 2B in the league with -10 OAA.

This year, he's on pace to match that, as he's been worth -3 OAA 41 games into the Braves season. I noted last year that he was getting to balls going to his right, but not putting a glove on them. Overall last season, he was worth -7 OAA on balls toward 3B.

This season, he just isn't getting to balls. Of course, because of the camera angle, it's impossible to tell how good of a jump he got on the ball. But here are just a few plays he just couldn't get to.

And here are just a few weird plays. On this single to Luis Arraez, he opts not to snag it on a line, and instead take a step back to field it on a hop. This allows Arraez, who is anything from fleet of foot to reach on an infield single.

This is Albies' lone error, an easy play that he airmailed.

Ozzie's arm strength is big concern

Speaking of Albies arm, it's one thing that has concerned Braves fans, and for good reason. Among MLB players, Albies has the worst arm in baseball, excluding first basemen. Averaging 71.2 MPH, Albies throws are 2.4 MPH slower than the next slowest non-1B.

Of course, having a weak arm isn't indicative of poor defense. Former Brave SS Dansby Swanson has never had better than 27th percentile arm strength (this year), but has been above average, if not elite, defensively in every season arm strength data has been available.

However, it does make the need to field balls quickly and cleanly even more important. If Albies is struggling to get to balls, he can't make it up on the arm side.

What can even be done about Ozzie Albies defense?

If going to his right is the biggest issue, then shading further to the right might mediate some of the issues.

Over his career, Albies biggest struggles defensively have come with righties at the plate. For his career, he's been worth -4 OAA with righties batting, versus 10 OAA with lefties batting.

In the past two seasons, this has been exacerbated, being worth -12 OAA with right handers hitting, versus -2 OAA with lefties. This also indicates that the problem with his defense is not due to the shift being banned, predominantly against lefties.

The Braves might benefit from having Albies inch closer to the second base bag with righties hitting than the normal to prevent him from needing to field the ball on the run. This could also aid his weakness with his arm, as he wouldn't need to make far throws while moving away from 1B.

The trend line on Ozzie Albies' defense is certainly concerning, but there could be some solutions that could help the Braves buy a few extra outs and bring the longest-tenured Brave closer to league-average defense.

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