Dansby Swanson’s Incredible Turnaround in 2022

Dansby Swanson's Incredible Turnaround in 2022

The Atlanta Braves were four games back of the New York Mets for first place in the National League (NL) East on June 24. The team’s 14-game winning streak in early June significantly changed World Series betting odds and MLB picks today.

 

Atlanta has received contributions from several players during its resurgence. Third baseman Austin Riley leads the team with 18 home runs, while first-year first baseman Matt Olson, replacing Freddie Freeman, has been a welcome addition with 10 home runs. Pitcher Max Fried is also performing at a Cy Young candidate level.

 

However, has been one of the most important figures in the Braves’ turnaround. The veteran shortstop and former No. 1 pick in the MLB Amateur Draft is now second on the team in OPS and has a .302 batting average. Swanson hasn’t hit over .274 in any of his first five full seasons in the league.

 

Swanson’s Disastrous Start

 

Whether it was a World Series hangover or just a poor start, Swanson was not his usual self to begin the 2022 season. A key contributor during the team’s World Series run last season, he had only seven hits and four walks through 49 at-bats in 14 games. 

 

He also only had a 63 percent contact rate, which was about 10 percentage points below his average. Even worse, he struck out in more than 40 percent of his plate appearances during the first two weeks of the season.

 

“I almost threw up,” Swanson told The Athletic about his poor start. “It was that bad.”

 

Swing Improvements

 

While Swanson has been particularly hot as of late, he said April 21 was the day that it all clicked for him at the plate. That was an off-day before a nine-game homestand. Swanson really examined his swing and made the necessary changes that day.

 

“It’s paid big dividends for me,” he said. “Just really found some consistency and really trusted in some work that I’d done in the offseason that I felt was going to get me to a good place. But I just kind of took some time, just staying the course, with some of those adjustments that I’ve made.”

 

The proof is in the pudding. Swanson now has a .302 batting average to go along with 12 home runs, 41 RBI, 25 walks, 14 doubles, and one triple. He also already has a career-best 11 stolen bases. Swanson had 10 stolen bases in 2018 and 2019 and only nine last season.

 

It could be argued that Swanson hasn’t quite met the expectations of a first-overall pick, but these last two seasons now put him on track to be worthy of that distinction. He’s on pace to break his career-high in home runs and RBI this season and is arguably the most important player in the Braves’ lineup.

 

His Improved Approach

 

Swanson’s improved approach at the plate is noticeable in a variety of different metrics. He had only a 65 percent swing rate at pitches in the zone through April 20 and not because he was being too cautious; instead, he had trouble recognizing pitches and getting his timing down. He only had a contact rate of 63 percent.

 

Since then, Swanson has a swing rate of 75 percent of pitches in the zone, similar to what he had last season. His zone contact rate has also increased from 63 percent before April 20 to 81 percent as of June 20. His strikeout rate has also decreased dramatically. 

 

“It’s been night and day from where he started to where he is now,” explained hitting coach Kevin Seitzer. “It’s the timing on the fastball, the recognition of the secondary stuff, the takes on the strike-to-ball pitches. Those are the big things that jump out. When guys are on time for the heater and they’re laying off strike-to-ball breaking balls, they’re in a really good spot. And that’s what we’ve been seeing from him for quite a while now.”

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