Austin Riley isn’t the only Braves bat turning the corner


Austin Riley is currently the hottest hitter in the Braves lineup, even after an 0-4 night in the win over the Nationals yesterday, but he’s not the only Atlanta bat starting to heat up (and no, I’m not talking about Huascar Ynoa, who hit his second home run in as many games last night — a grand slam to break the game wide open).

After a miserably slow first two weeks of the season, Ozzie Albies has begun to pick things up with the stick. Over his last 11 games, he’s hitting .341 with six doubles and three home runs, resulting in a 1.094 OPS. His average for the season is now up to .232, and his OPS is nearing .800, thanks to a .485 slugging percentage. As a result, Albies has already accumulated 0.6 WAR, which is a bit remarkable given how slowly he started. The Braves second baseman hit just .128 with a .399 OPS over the season’s first ten games.

The underlying statistics are just as promising, too. Albies xBA is in the 89th percentile, his xwOBA is in the 82nd percentile, and his xSLG is in the 81st percentile. But what is perhaps the most promising statistic of all has been his falling K-rate. Last season, Albies struck out in 24.2% of his plate appearances. This year, that number is down to 15.9%, which would be the lowest mark of his career since 2017 — his rookie season in which he only played 57 games and struck out in 14.8% of his plate appearances.

There was never a point where I was worried about Albies. My only concern with him is health; he’s been one of the best second basemen in the game and will continue to ascend with experience. It was only a matter of time before he got hot. Now, it’s time for some of the Braves’ other stars to follow suit.

Last year’s NL MVP, Freddie Freeman, has looked like a shell of himself early in the season. The same can be said about Marcell Ozuna and Dansby Swanson — two critical pieces to Atlanta’s league-leading offense in 2020. Atlanta’s pitching has been inconsistent, but it was equally — if not more — unreliable a season ago. This lineup carried the team, and they will need to turn it around as a whole if the Braves want to get out of this funk they’re in.

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