Looking at FanGraphs’s plate discipline numbers, Braves’ hitters are swinging more often so far this season than they did in 2011. They are swinging more at pitches inside the strikezone and outside the strikezone. Braves’ hitters are also making contact less often than in 2011, so far. They have a higher rate of swinging strikes.
However the Braves are walking more often and striking out less often than last season. They’ve posted a higher on-base percentage and a higher slugging percentage this season. The Braves are among the league leaders in pitches per plate appearance this season. Last season they were just below the league average, ranking 9th out of the 16 National League teams. Of course we all know last season the Braves’ offense disappointed. This season the offense is one of the better offenses in the league in the early going. Granted, it’s way too early to know how things will turn out but the team is living up to its offensive potential so far.
I’m not sure what to make of the fact that the Braves’ numbers with concern to making contact and swinging seem to intuitively be worse than last season, except that they must be taking a better approach and picking out the right pitches with which to do their damage. It seems they aren’t overly concerned about making contact but–given that they are drawing more walks, striking out less, getting on base more and slugging higher–it seems they are picking out the right pitches to lay off of and they are definitely doing more with the pitches that they hit.
Hitting coach Greg Walker and assistant Scott Fletcher are already getting a lot of attention. Fair or not, it’s understandable, given that the Braves offense was consistently solid with Terry Pendleton as hitting coach, wasn’t very good under Larry Parrish in 2011 and has bounced back early this season under Walker and Fletcher. It’s hard not to draw conclusions.
Still, we should point out that it’s still very early. The Giants have scored more runs per game than the league average and the Reds have scored fewer runs than all but one NL team. It will be a while before we know for sure whether the Braves’ offense has turned the page from 2011. And we can’t have it both ways. The Braves’ offense looks great but the run prevention doesn’t look so hot. So if we are willing to take a wait and see with the sub par run prevention, it’s only fair to wait to see what the offense does as the season progresses.
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