Dansby Swanson is keeping the Braves afloat when they need him most

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It’s funny how things change, isn’t it? Six weeks ago, I had people calling for my head when I defended Dansby Swanson; now, nobody can deny he has been far and away the most valuable player on the team this season. Without him, the Braves would likely be trailing the Mets by 10+ games in the NL East.

Swanson’s due for at least one, if not multiple mega-slumps each season, which his how 2022 began for him. But around April 22nd, the tide started to shift substantially. Since that day, Swanson is hitting .327 with six homers and 21 RBIs over 30 games — good for a .946 OPS. When you consider how Major League Baseball decided to use dead balls this season, those numbers are even more impressive. However, it’s not just his surface level stats that have led to wins for the Braves, it’s also when he’s getting these hits.

Dating back to his days at Vanderbilt, Swanson has always had a clutch factor about him, and that’s shining through this season for the Braves. With runners in scoring position, he’s hitting a remarkable .387 with a .928 OPS, and he’s even better when there are two outs and runners in scoring position. In those situations, Swanson is hitting a smooth .500 with a 1.248 OPS.

The Braves shortstop has been so good at the plate of late that even his overall season numbers are beginning to look like those of an elite level player at his position. Swanson now leads the Braves in batting average with a .268 mark and is approaching an .800 OPS. On top of that, both his OPS+ (114) and wRC+ (119) paint him as an All-Star caliber offensive player. That’s even more notable when considering he is also one of the best defensive shortstops in the game.

Unsurprisingly, Swanson leads all Braves players in fWAR, and it’s not particularly close. Here is the top 10:

1 Dansby Swanson Braves SS 1.9 1.9
2 Max Fried Braves P 1.5 1.5
3 Kyle Wright Braves P 1.4 1.4
4 Travis d’Arnaud Braves C 1.0 1.0
5 A.J. Minter Braves P 0.9 0.9
6 William Contreras Braves C 0.8 0.8
7 Matt Olson Braves 1B 0.8 0.8
8 Spencer Strider Braves P 0.7 0.7
9 Ronald Acuna Jr. Braves RF/DH 0.7 0.7
10 Austin Riley Braves 3B 0.7 0.7

Over 162 games, Swanson’s 1.9-mark equates to a 7-WAR season. That would obliterate his previous career-high in fWAR (3.4), which came last year. And to put into perspective just how good that is, Ronald Acuña’s best season in terms of fWAR (his only full season) was 5.5.

Swanson is on a historic pace, and at this rate, he could price himself out of Atlanta come next offseason. Regardless, it’s been fantastic to watch him breakout when the team desperately needed some life. He’s carrying the Braves right now, and at the end of the season, we could look back at these moments as being pivotal in Atlanta’s conquest of a fifth consecutive NL East title.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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