The Atlanta Braves closed out the weekend in convincing fashion, handing the Colorado Rockies a 14-6 defeat and becoming the highest-scoring team in the National League in the process.
That statistic is not surprising considering Atlanta’s offensive firepower. Several hitters have shaken off slow starts to help the lineup collectively hit its stride of late, but a recent tweak in the starting nine might make the Braves even more productive.
After 68 games, manager Brian Snitker decided to swap first baseman Matt Olson and second baseman Ozzie Albies in the batting order as the club returned to Atlanta on Thursday. Olson dropped to fifth, while Albies jumped to second in the lineup.
The reason was twofold.
Snitker wanted to find a way to ride the hot hand with Albies, giving him more opportunities to produce while also putting Olson in a spot to remain a featured run producer in the lineup.
“That’s Snit’s job (and) I trust wherever he feels most comfortable with me,” Olson said. “It’s not like this is a lineup where you have to be in a certain spot in order to drive runs in. Everybody is getting on base, so I’m cool with whatever.”
Olson entered the season batting second and started quickly, but he soon found himself striking out more often than at any other time in his career. His blend of power and patience remains intact, however, with Olson among the NL leaders with a team-high 20 home runs and 47 walks coming into Tuesday’s series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Despite leading the majors with 95 strikeouts through Sunday, Olson’s 50 RBIs put him just one behind Albies for most among NL hitters.
Even though Olson is on track for a career-high 45 home runs, he is looking to make some adjustments.
“Obviously, the swing-and-miss is too high, and the strikeouts are too high,” Olson said. “It’s more of just staying on (my) work and finding something that clicks. I’m not doing anything earth-shattering, just continual progress throughout the course of the season hasn’t been the easiest for me. It’s been a lot of ups and downs, but we’ve got a lot of season left, and I’m sure it will click here soon.”
Snitker has seen the value Olson can provide and believes this move is a chance for his slugging first baseman to perhaps find another level.
“The (overall) production has been really good,” Snitker said of Olson’s contributions. “I know he’s frustrated for as much swing-and-miss. Again, it’s not because he’s not analyzing it and doing anything (about it). But as long as he keeps knocking runs in, I think we can live with the other. I really feel he’s going to turn that thing around and get to where he wants to be.”
The impetus for this change in the Atlanta lineup seemed to originate with Albies’ hot streak more so than any misgivings about Olson’s contact issues.
Getting most of his at-bats much lower in the order, Albies heated up in late May and has become one of Atlanta’s most productive hitters. With Albies’ swing clicking both ways, Snitker wanted to put his switch-hitting second baseman in a place to make even more of an impact.
“It has been a lot more consistent,” Snitker said of Albies’ production from both sides of the plate. “He’s going to keep working, that’s for sure. Nobody works any harder than that guy.”
While characteristically stronger from the right side throughout his career, Albies began flashing significant power while batting left-handed of late. He has hit 12 of his 17 home runs from that side this season, including a walk-off home run to cap a three-game sweep of the New York Mets on June 8 and a go-ahead, three-run homer to help send Atlanta to a sweep of Colorado on Sunday.
The Braves’ offense may just now be coming into its own, but Olson already believes this group has a chance to be an extremely rough ride for opposing pitchers.
“I think it’s the best lineup I’ve been a part of. It really is,” Olson said. “One through 9, there’s no soft spots. Being on the other side of good lineups like that, where every guy has a chance to do something, you never feel comfortable out in the field and I’m sure you don’t as a pitcher.”
This article originally appeared in the Marietta Daily Journal. Find it here.