Matt Olson Is on the Ascent for the Braves After a Roller-Coaster Start

Following a surprising slump, slugging first baseman Matt Olson is heating up to help keep the Atlanta Braves' offense afloat.

Matt Olson #28 of the Atlanta Braves reacts with teammates after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Matt Olson #28 of the Atlanta Braves reacts with teammates after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on September 12, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Matt Olson finished fourth for the National League MVP Award in 2023. He led all of MLB with 54 home runs and 139 RBI while pacing the N.L. with a .604 slugging percentage.

Obviously, expectations were high for the Atlanta Braves first baseman heading into the 2024 campaign. At least over the first couple of weeks, it appeared Olson would meet them with ease.

Launching Out of the Station

On Opening Day in Philadelphia, Olson came flying out of the gate with a 3-for-5 performance that included three doubles and three RBI. That paved the way to a .293 batting average and a .973 OPS across his first 65 plate appearances. At that point, the two-time All-Star already had 11 extra-base hits, including three homers, and 11 RBI over 14 games.

During that beginning stretch, Olson slugged .603, a mark nearly identical to the one he posted in 2023. His strikeout, hard-hit, and contact rates were all in line with the past couple of years as well.

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Yet, Olson unfortunately dropped into a surprisingly steep decline starting in mid-April.

A Sudden Plunge

In a slump that lasted nearly a full month, Olson simply could not buy a break. He picked up a single in five at-bats on April 15. That was the first day of an eight-game drought that saw him go 1-for-27.

Olson went 10-for-77 (.130 AVG) overall in 23 games from that date through May 12, failing to deliver any multi-hit efforts while hitting just one home run and driving in only seven across 94 plate appearances. He even managed to go 32 days without a long ball at one point.

Still, Olson is known for keeping his cool and a positive perspective:

All that transpired despite Olson maintaining healthy underlying metrics for the most part. He still produced a strong 58.5% HardHit% to go with a 94.0 mph average exit velocity and a 13.2% Barrel%. Those marks were actually right in line with his prior ones; his only noticeable problems under the hood were a slight dip in contact rate and a small uptick in strikeouts.

The main culprit was a BABIP that got cut in half, going from .359 to .173. That was due for significant course correction, and that’s exactly what has happened for Olson in recent weeks.

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Back on the Incline

Olson finally came up with a multi-hit day on May 13, following that with another two-hit day, highlighted by a homer and four RBI. That was the start of the 30-year-old slugger getting back on track.

Going into play on Tuesday, June 4, Olson had played 20 games since that dreadful slide, hammering his way to a .312/.349/.584 slash line with five deep drives, six doubles, and 15 RBI. His bat has heated up along with the Hotlanta weather.

His recent output has been especially vital, considering the Braves’ offense is not hitting up to its typically elite level and the team has dealt with multiple injuries to key contributors.

Third baseman Austin Riley missed a chunk of games in May, while catcher Sean Murphy was absent for most of the first two months of the season. Both of those guys are All-Stars, but Ronald Acuña Jr. – the 2023 N.L. MVP – is the biggest void for the Braves now.

Acuña is gone for the year with a torn ACL suffered on May 26, so Olson’s rapid ascent back to big-time production in the middle of the lineup could not have come at a better time. The Braves will need it to continue.

If Olson’s ridiculous stats from last June on out are any indication, strap in for the ride. He chugged his way to a 1.047 OPS with 37 HR and 97 RBI over the final four months of the 2023 season.       

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