Aside from the fact that the power isn’t quite there for him yet, Matt Olson has been hitting like you figure he would here in the start of 2022
We’re currently in the middle part of May, which seems like a decent time to start to take stock of how players are looking as we leave the start of the season and effectively get into the meat-and-potatoes of the regular season following Memorial Day. I am once again here to voice my grave concerns about a Braves hitter at the plate. The last time this happened, Dansby Swanson proved me to be a fool and a worrywart since he’s basically back to being the Dansby Swanson we expect after going on one of his patented hot streaks. Between his return to the lofty heights of 91 wRC+ and his stellar defense, he’s actually tied for the team lead in fWAR right now! I sure hope the next dip for Dansby isn’t as calamitous as the first dip he had this season, but we’ll see!
Anyways, here’s my main concern: Matt Olson has not hit a complete and utter moonshot that bounced off the roof of the Chop House yet. Seriously, Olson’s hit three home runs so far — two of them were on the road and the last one he hit in Cobb County was all the way back during the Opening Week series against the Reds. Even then, that home run went to center field. We were promised prodigious power from Olson to right field and we haven’t seen him launch a souvenir ball to that area of the ballpark yet. The Braves should see about getting a refund, right?
In all seriousness, Matt Olson’s done pretty well in his first month in a Braves uniform. Taking a quick look at his stats, it’s kind of remarkable how quickly most of his stats are matching or exceeding what he did last season while also being pretty close to his career numbers as well. Olson is walking at his usual clip dating back to 2020, his strikeout rate is just a tick above where it was last season, the first two numbers of his slash line are in the same neighborhood, the same can be said of his wOBA and xwOBA, and while his wRC+ is a tick lower than where he finished at last season, it’s still well above average. If you like counting stats, then you should be happy to see that Matt Olson is currently the MLB leader in doubles. It’s not a huge deal but at least it means he’s finding green with his batted balls more often than not!
Speaking of batted balls, that’s been the most interesting thing about Olson so far: His BABIP is at .326, which would be the highest mark of his career if that keeps up. If that does indeed continue then we’re likely going to be in for some really good times watching this guy hit because he’s likely to go on a major tear at some point. This is also something that very well could be sustainable for the local kid — he did finish the 2019 season with a BABIP of .300, so it’s definitely well within the realm of possibility that he could finish this season with a BABIP north of .300. Even if it does dip lower than that, Olson does have a season where he finished with .292 BABIP and just last year he managed to have a career season with his BABIP at just .269. Either way, Matt Olson has plenty of leeway in that department and should be fine going forward.
Of course, if his BABIP does take a trip below the equator of .300 then the obvious hope would be that he’s still hitting for power. I joked about it earlier, but that’s the only thing that’s been missing for Olson so far this season. His .193 Isolated Power number would be the lowest mark of his career for any full season and he’s only averaging one home run every 39.7 at bats here in 2022. For comparison’s sake, he averaged one home run per 14.3 at bats from 2017 through 2021. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Olson’s 2022 AB/HR ratio is not going to be anywhere near 14 once this is all said and done. He’s got a proven track record of hitting for power and it really feels like it’s only a matter of time for him to really start crushing the ball.
So at this point, if the only thing that’s really wrong with Matt Olson is that he’s not swatting baseballs all the way to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and he’s whiffing a little bit more than usual, then there’s not a lot to be concerned about here. It would be completely shocking for a slugger of Olson’s power to not eventually tap into that power at some point and all of his other numbers are mostly in line with what we’ve come to expect from the 28-year-old first baseman. He’s been performing as advertised so far, and long may it continue as we’re in the infancy of what should be a long and fruitful relationship between Matt Olson and the Atlanta Braves.