Braves

Braves: Dansby Swanson reminds us why he was always going to be the starting shortstop

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Following Swanson’s return from a heel injury in August, the shortstop went into a severe slump, watching his batting average dip over 20 points, which generated a widespread debate among Braves Country. Who should be the starting in the postseason – Swanson or Adeiny Hechavarria?

I can proudly say I was never on the wrong side of this argument. While Hechavarria was a quality addition – and looking back on it – even more necessary now that Charlie Culberson and Johan Camargo are both likely out for the year, you cannot ignore lengthy track records when making postseason decisions.

Hechavarria is now in his eighth MLB season. His career OBP is .290, and his slugging percentage is a wildly underwhelming .352, giving him a career OPS of .642. He has 37 career home runs, which is about what Swanson was on pace for at the All-Star break. That’s a sample size of over 3,000 at-bats. If Brian Snitker would have ignored that and sided with Hechavarria’s recent success while in Atlanta; it would have been unbelievably foolish. Swanson’s career numbers may not be eye-popping, but he proved before the injury that he was a much more polished hitter in his fourth season. He showcased power to all fields and a newfound willingness to take what the pitcher gives him. Eventually, he was going to turn this around, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

In the last four games of the regular season, Swanson racked up eight hits, essentially putting to rest whether Hechavarria should be the starting shortstop. He collected two hits and an RBI in the first two games of the NLDS, but his Game 3 performance screamed, “I’m back.”

The former National Champion at Vanderbilt is as thick-skinned and clutch as they come. In the most critical game of the season, he went 3-4 with two doubles, and I don’t think anybody in Braves Country will forget this game-tying RBI anytime soon.

The rest of the Braves lineup combined for four hits. Coincidently, Adeiny Hechavarria had the opportunity to tie the game right before Swanson and struck out on a check swing. The Cardinals opted to intentionally walk Brian McCann to get to Swanson, who was 0-5 in his career against Carlos Martinez before last night. The rest is history.

Swanson and Adam Duvall are the only players on the team with a hit in all three games of the NLDS; Swanson leads the Braves’ starters in postseason batting average by nearly .100 points and has proven to be a certified killer in crunch time. Nobody wants this more than the hometown kid, and I’m glad Snitker never hesitated in giving him as many opportunities as possible to snap out of his slump. With Swanson rolling like this, it adds another element to a dangerous Braves lineup – one that Hechavarria was never going to be able to replicate.

 

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