Swansongs, Vol. 3

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It has been exactly ten months since an occasion has arisen to file a new entry in this series on Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson. Thankfully, last night’s win in an unusual game on the road against the Nationals provided an opportunity to revisit the former Vanderbilt star and top overall pick in the MLB draft.

With the Braves leading the Nationals 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Swanson, positioned on the first-base side of second as part of an infield shift in place against Nationals batter Matt Wieters, snagged a late one-hopper behind him that caused him to go to the ground. Swanson nevertheless was able to flip the ball to the covering third baseman, who went on to complete the inning-ending double play. Full video is available here.

Back in September, when I last wrote about Swanson here, it would’ve been difficult to believe that it wouldn’t be until nearly the All Star break before I would write about him again. Now, the All Star game comes as something of a sore subject in this context. My sure bet for 2017 NL rookie of the year, Swanson wasn’t even among the top five ASG vote-getters at his position.

If you, brave soul, have watched any Atlanta baseball games this year, though this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. In 145 plate appearances last season, Swanson was roughly average at the plate (107 wRC+; but cf. .303 TAv ). This was the source of excitement about Swanson. Everyone knew his glove would play at short, and the evidence of an average-to-slightly-above-average bat suggested great promise for his future. It’s far too soon to abandon hope in that promise, of course; after all, Swanson’s only twenty-three years old. For the time being, though, Swanson appears to have left that bat of his back in 2016. So far this season, he’s been a decidedly below-average performer at the plate (62 wRC+, .234 TAv). By the FanGraphs’ metric, no other shortstop has been worse than Swanson on offense through the same number of plate appearances. While part of that is due to a very rough start, his performance since then hasn’t exactly been a consistent upward climb.

Since Swanson’s defense continues to be solid, the question remains whether he’ll be able to find his batting legs again in the second half of this season. The good– if tentatively so– news is that he at least appears to be trying to correct course. One of the unusual things about Swanson’s approach through the first quarter of the 2017 season was a large dropoff in his swing rates. Just as suddenly as he stopped swinging, perhaps due to a lack of confidence after poor results, though, he– sometime around the end of May and the beginning of June– began swinging again, and generally doing so more than ever.

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(There is a way to present this that’s even more visually dramatic, but I’m learning that some readers may prefer the telling of a story with one graph rather than three or nine.)

There’s a lot of noise in the rest of Swanson’s offensive data, and the improved results haven’t yet surfaced, but there’s evidence that Swanson– along with new Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer– is tinkering. Publicly, the entire coaching staff has been nothing but supportive of Swanson throughout his struggles, speaking both to his efforts at improvement and his confidence, the latter undoubtedly aided by the team’s refusal to send Swanson down to the minors.

Swanson’s going to have to do more than just swing the bat if he wants to get back to helping his team on offense as well as defense, of course. Fortunately, there is some indirect evidence that Swanson is on the right track. As Swanson began increasing his swing rates a month ago, opposing pitchers– whose behavioral changes sometimes are the best indicators of a batter’s changing level of success– started decreasing the number of pitches they threw him in the strike zone, often an indication that they view the batter as a more dangerous hitter.

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On the other hand, it could be less a sign of respect for Swanson’s bat and more a simple recognition that Swanson’s swinging more at everything these days. Without the results, it’s hard to tell. Even though it isn’t likely to conclude with a rookie of the year trophy, tThe story of the second half of Swanson’s 2017 is going to be an interesting one.

 

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Previously
Swansongs, Vol. 2
Swansongs, Vol. 1

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The arc of the ALDLAND universe is long, but it bends toward this weekend

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If there are two things I’ve written about with consistency at this weblog they are 1) the Detroit Tigers and 2) the Atlanta Braves’ foolhardy abandonment of their downtown home at Turner Field. Beginning tonight, and for the next two days thereafter, these two ALDLANDic worlds will collide when the Tigers face the Braves in the final three games ever to be played at the aforementioned Turner Field. More than anything, I am grateful that we will be able to attend each of these games, live and in person. These are critical games for the 2016 Tigers, teetering as they are on the edge of postseason qualification, and they are historic games for the City of Atlanta. I have little more to add at this juncture other than that I am very excited.   Continue reading

Swansongs, Vol. 2

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The first entry in this series featured a three-pack of defensive highlights from Atlanta Braves rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson. This series, like this website, is all about the hits, though, and now we’ve got one of those to share, in the form of Swanson’s first career MLB home run, which he hit last night in Washington.

For his first big-league four-bagger, Swanson made like fellow SEC-man James McCann and earned it the hard way. Video evidence of his inside-the-parker is here. Statcast’s breakdown video is available here. The humans who monitor that robotical statistical machine also posted this nugget:

Here’s another nugget from a non-robot-subservient human:

Call it a long-distance runaround? Yes.

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Previously
Swansongs, Vol. 1

Swansongs, Vol. 1

swansonleap

In 1973, Yes released Yessongs, an early greatest-hits/sampler album AMG describes as follows:

In many ways, the extravagance of this package equates the profligacy of the prog rock combo themselves. After all, how else but on a triple-LP collection could one hope to re-create (and/or contain) an adequate sampling of Yes’ live presentation?

In 2016, presumably, you now find yourself reading an early greatest-hits/sampler post regarding Atlanta Braves rookie and former Vanderbilt Commodore Dansby Swanson, which is a triple-video collection of defensive highlights, all accumulated in last night’s win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team that, in 2015, drafted Swanson with the top overall draft pick.

We don’t own the rights to this footage, obviously, but MLBAM was kind enough to package all three plays into one highlight video, which you can watch by clicking here. For an extra bonus, Swanson recorded his first major-league stolen base last night. Statcast’s breakdown video is available here.

Didn’t enjoy these videos? Think “Swansongs” is a dumb name that, if anything, should describe the end of a career and not the beginning? Don’t care. Sorry not sorry.

The Dansby Swanson Era has arrived in Atlanta

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On June 8, 2015, the Arizona Diamondbacks used the first overall draft pick to select Vanderbilt University shortstop and 2014 College World Series Most Outstanding Player Dansby Swanson. One of three Commodores selected in the first round of the 2015 MLB draft, Swanson spent little time in the Arizona organization before the Diamondbacks sent him, along with Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair, to Atlanta in exchange for Shelby Miller in the consensus worst (for Arizona) trade of the offseason and one of the most lopsided in recent memory.

For his part, Swanson was happy with the trade. A Marietta native, he considered his move a homecoming. After appearing in 105 minor-league games this year, the Braves called him up to the big club, and he made his MLB debut last night in a home game against the Twins.

Just three years older than Turner Field, Swanson’s first MLB appearance came in the soon-to-be-demolished park where he watched baseball games as a child. When he came to the plate in the second inning for his first big-league plate appearance, wearing a batting helmet reminiscent of Jason Heyward’s (Swanson was hit in the face with a pitch in his first onfield practice with the Diamondbacks), the rookie received a warm ovation from the home crowd. Continue reading

Everything’s Coming Up Black & Gold: A Remarkable Night for Vanderbilt Baseball

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Last night might have been the second-best night in Vanderbilt baseball history, surpassed only by the evening nearly one year ago when they won their first national championship. On the fourth birthday of Grantland.com, a sporting internet website named for VU’s second baseball coach, the Commodores completed their super regional sweep of Illinois and secured a spot in the 2015 College World Series.

Soon after the game ended, three Vandy starters– Dansby Swanson, Carson Fulmer, and Walker Buehler– were selected in the first round of the MLB amateur draft, with Swanson as the first overall pick.

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As they make their way to Omaha, here’s hoping this team has a few more good nights left in the tank.

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Previously
Vanderbilt wins the College World Series