The Athletic believes good things are coming for Braves, Austin Riley

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The Braves offense has been lifeless for much of the season. Outside of Marcell Ozuna, there hasn’t been a single player who has put together lengthy stretches of dominance.

If it weren’t for an outstanding pitching staff and the Big Bear, Atlanta wouldn’t even be close to 10 games over .500 through 60 games. For some players, it doesn’t seem that there’s an end in sight. For instance, nobody should expect Orlando Arcia to suddenly turn into the All-Star he was last year.

However, there’s still plenty of talent that should experience a surge. Ozzie Albies is capable of going on a tear, and we know just how hot Matt Olson can get. The slugging first baseman led MLB in home runs last year and has more than everyone not named Aaron Judge since 2018.

There might not be a Braves player more in line for positive regression than Austin Riley. The two-time All-Star slugged for more than .600 over the second half of last season, .885 in July of 2022, and nearly .600 the year before that in the second half, according to The Athletic’s Eno Sarris, who included Riley among struggling hitters who are doing the right things.

Sometimes, I think he gets caught in between. He even admitted as much to me more explicitly as a prospect at the Arizona Fall League one year. Alex Bregman recently said that pull percentage is a good proxy for contact point and timing, and though Riley’s pull rate is only down a little bit, it coincides with a downturn in production against the fastball. He slugged .482 on the four-seamer last year, and it’s down to .188 this year.

But you can easily look at the track record for a 27-year-old with elite bat speed and say that better is coming — it does get harder to be sure as you go down the list above.

Since becoming a full-time starter in 2021, excluding this season, Austin Riley has hit 108 home runs, slugged .525, and owns a 134 OPS+ (34% better than league average).

This year, Riley has an 87 OPS+ (13% worse than league average). Generally, when the weather starts to heat up, so does Austin Riley. Nobody should think a 47-game sample size is who he is as a player, compared to three seasons of elite offense.

Clear skies are coming for Riley and the Braves.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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