Swanson’s Season “Sliding”

Thank Goodness we are at the midseason break, Braves fans. Because your team could use some time to relax and focus.

While the pitching has been fine, it’s the offense that has raised many brows amongst the organization and its fans. Having Freddie Freeman back in the lineup will certainly help things, but the other members of the offense need to find their rhythm if the team expects to contend for a playoff spot in 2017.

One of those players, in particular, that has struggled through the season, as a whole, is Braves rookie phenom, Dansby Swanson.

Swanson in his past 11 games has been less than average. to put it bluntly, he’s been pretty bad. in those 11 games, he has 34 at bats and has collected just four hits while striking out 15 times and drawing four walks. That gives him a strikeout rate of nearly 40 percent of his plate appearances and a walk rate of 10 percent. That’s a lot of strikeouts for anyone, but especially for someone like Swanson, who doesn’t have a lot of power in his swing.

In those past 11 games, Swanson is slashing .118/.211/.206. for the season, Swanson is hitting .222 and getting on base just short of 30 percent of the time. many think that Swanson’s numbers are due to bad luck, but a .221 xBA (expected batting average) would indicate otherwise.

A big reason for Swanson’s struggles lies with the fact that the 23-year-old has had an issue with the slider. he has seen the pitch 140 times this season and actually has a decent success rate when a front door slider is thrown, but he has struggled tremendously when the pitch is thrown down and away.

Below you can see where sliders are thrown to Swanson.

Swanson Heat Map

Now you can see his contact percentage against those same pitches.

Swanson Heat Map 2

The Braves phenom would prefer pitches that run in on him that he can turn on, but every opposing pitcher knows that. So what is his kryptonite? The slider.

With Swanson’s struggles against the slider established, you can see that pitchers are throwing him a slider 25.6 percent of the time, which is more than any other off-speed pitch combined. He is seeing a curveball or change-up 15.8 percent of the time.

For those who like some simpler baseball numbers:

Swanson has seen the slider 140 times this season and has collected just two hits in 22 official at bats. That’s good for a .091 batting average against a pitch which has whiffed on 20 times this season.

To put that into perspective, Swanson has seen 290 fastballs and has whiffed just 26 times and has 27 hits in 72 at-bats against them. Against Cutters, sinkers, and change-ups he has accumulated 29 at-bats with seven base hits and has whiffed 15 times in 120 at bats. (he needs help with cutters and sinkers, too)

According to pitch values, Swanson is worth -2.19 wSL/c (slider runs above average per 100 pitches) and worth -6.6 wSL for the season.

Many view Swanson as the golden child of the Braves team and feel that he can do no wrong, but the statistics are plain as day to see. It would be one thing if he was playing exceptional defense at the shortstop position, but it has only been slightly above average to this point in the season. Sure the 15 errors will make anyone cringe, but Swanson has had his highlights at the position as well.

I’m not saying that Swanson will be a bust, nor am I saying that he should be sent down to the minor leagues to figure it out. I will say that he needs to get some better pitch recognition when it comes to the slider or else this season for Swanson will be long and his career will be short.

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