The Athletic reveals a positive trend for Braves early in the season

Braves Olson

The Braves have had several bounce back candidates off to hot starts. Ronald Acuna Jr. had the worst year of his career in 2022 due to the nagging knee injury but is back to his pre-injury self, slashing .340/.431/.500 with two home runs, good for a .931 OPS to go along with five RBIs and a league-leading five stolen bags. But it’s Matt Olson‘s resurgence that The Athletic’s David O’Brien believes is one positive trend that could be real:

Positive early-season trend: Matt Olson is hitting .333 with a 1.129 OPS

Not that he’s going to finish batting .333 with a 1.129 OPS, but Olson looks terrific at the plate after making adjustments to his stance during the offseason designed to correct last season’s flaw he’d picked up, wherein he’d shift too much weight to his back foot and then “crash” forward with his hands to compensate. He’s much more balanced this season and able to wait on pitches and use the whole field. Also, the limit on shift defenses helps him significantly, since he had so many hits taken away on line drives through right side. — David O’Brien

I don’t think DOB could’ve gone wrong with either of the Braves’ first two batters; both are off to a scorching start, and I believe the pair can sustain a similar production level throughout the season. The average may dip, but the process tells me the drop-off won’t be extreme. The advanced analytics back up Matt Olson‘s case.

Stats courtesy of Baseball Savant:

  • Avg. Exit Velo.: 99th percentile
  • Max. Exit Velo.: 95th percentile
  • HardHit%: 86th perecentile
  • xSLG: 87th percentile
  • Barrel%: 97th percentile
  • xwOBA: 97th percentile

Matt Olson has returned with a vengeance after a lackluster first season with his hometown Braves. Despite recording an OPS north of .800, mashing 34 home runs and 44 doubles, Olson’s 2022 campaign was a disappointment for his lofty standards.

2023 has been a much different story. The shift ban should result in as much as a 40-point uptick in his average, though it’s been much higher than that early in the season, and the pressure of replacing a franchise great like Freddie Freeman seems to be off his shoulders.

Olson and Acuna might be the most potent first two batters in any lineup in baseball. And I believe they’ll both sustain a similar level of production throughout the season.

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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