The entire Braves offense has been off for most of the season, but nobody has looked nearly as lost as Dansby Swanson. After his first at-bat last night, the Braves shortstop already had 55 strikeouts in just 155 at-bats (!), and even worse, he had struck out in 26 of his last 64 at-bats.
Dansby Swanson's strikeout to end the second inning was his 55th on the season (in his 155th at bat).
Swanson's gone down on strikes in 26 of his last 64 at bats, dating to April 30th in Dunedin.#Braves @680TheFan
— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) May 19, 2021
Swanson actually ended the night with a couple of hard-hit balls, resulting in a double and a single. Still, his batting average is just over the Mendoza Line (.209), and OPS isn’t much better (.631). But as bad as the stats are, the eye test is even worse. He looks a lot like he did early in his career, and honestly, I thought those days were well behind us.
On top of that, whatever good Swanson did with the stick, he canceled out with an inexcusable baserunning gaffe in the bottom half of the eighth inning. With runners on first and second and one out, Swanson attempted to steal third on his own and was thrown out. Ehire Adrianza struck out to end the inning, and the bat was taken out of Ronald Acuna’s hands in the most pivotal moment of the game to that point. It was a prototypical example of a player trying to do way too much, which often happens when a competitor like Swanson isn’t getting it done at the plate.
This was a guy that received All-Star consideration in 2019. Before he went down with a heel injury, he was one of the best shortstops in the National League, and he followed it up with an even better 2020, recording an .809 OPS (the highest of his career) and playing elite defense at shortstop. Because of that, he had the highest bWAR of any player at his position (that includes Fernando Tatis, who was in the MVP conversation). At this point in the season, I thought we would be talking about inking Swanson to an extension; instead, the talk is about whether he should be benched in favor of Orlando Arcia.
Arcia, who the Braves acquired just a week into the season, has been absolutely mashing in AAA, recording a 1.199 OPS with seven homers in just 14 games. He was once considered a building block of the Brewers organization. Still just 26-years-old, he’s legitimate competition for Swanson. However, I’m nowhere close to ready to turn my back on the current Braves shortstop.
Perhaps Swanson isn’t the player I thought he was — a potential All-Star caliber shortstop that can smash 20+ homers and record an .800 OPS while playing plus defense, one that every club would want to be a staple of their organization. The extension conversation has undoubtedly died, but the talk about replacing him every day for Arcia should as well.
The former Brewer has plenty of experience in the majors, and we know exactly what he is — a decent defender that comes with no consistency at the plate. He boasts a career .244 average, .648 OPS, and hits for very little power. His career bWAR is 2.3; Swanson topped that in 2020 alone. Arcia’s AAA numbers are eye-popping, but what do you think Swanson would be doing if he played in Gwinnett? I imagine the stats would look very similar.
Arcia was brought in to be a bench bat late in the year and provide organizational depth — think Adeiny Hechavarria. I highly doubt it ever crossed Alex Anthopoulos’ mind that he could be a replacement for Swanson; I’ll even go as far as to say it never did. A flip could switch for Swanson at any moment. This is his job, and he’s shown enough over the last two seasons to keep it throughout the entire 2021 campaign. If he can’t turn this around, moving on from him at the end of the season is a conversation that should be had. But right now, the talk about replacing him with Arcia is nothing more than nonsense.
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