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Matt Olson is a dinger monster once more

The slugger has five homers in his last seven games.

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

All eyes were on Matt Olson at the beginning of this year. He’d burst onto the scene last summer with 24 homers in 59 games, and the nation waited to see what he could do in a full season. Unfortunately, he got off to a slow start through the first 40 games.

Olson, first 40 games: .227/.314/.362, 89 wRC+, 4 HR, 9.4% BB, 31.4% Ks

There were a lot of warning track shots mixed in, but he simply wasn’t finding the seats as often as he had before. That’s changed over the last month.

Olson, last 23 games: .306/.379/.682, 188 wRC+, 9 HR, 9.5% BB, 20.0% Ks

That’s more like the dinger monster we saw last season. Even better, he’s rediscovered his power stroke while simultaneously slashing his strikeout rate. He did a lot of swinging-and-missing during the slump (16%), but he still made plenty of hard contact when he did put the bat on the ball. In the more recent split he’s slashed that swinging-strike rate nearly in half (10%), giving himself more opportunities to connect the barrel.

What’s more, he’s especially hot right now — five of his homers have come in just the last seven games. Granted that’s been against the pitching of the also-ran Royals and Rays, but for what it’s worth one of the dingers was against a lefty (Yarbrough) and another two came off a $70 million starter (Kennedy). His overall season numbers are now looking good.

Olson, 2018: .257/.339/.482, 126 wRC+, 13 HR, 9.4% BB, 27.2% Ks

We really shouldn’t be surprised by Olson’s resurgence after a brief sophomore slump. He still smashes the ball as thoroughly as anybody, and in fact he leads all first basemen in terms of hard contact:

Looking deeper into the Statcast data, he ranks well in all kinds of categories among hundreds of MLB hitters (min. 100 batted balls):

  • 1st in Hard Hit rate, 95+ mph (59.9%)
  • 7th in Avg Exit Velocity for flies/liners (98.3 mph)
  • 12th in Avg HR distance (412 ft)
  • 2nd-longest Max HR distance (475 ft)
  • 21st in Barrels per Batted Ball (8.3)
  • 18th in xwOBA (.408)

The six guys ahead of him in exit velocity: Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Gallo, J.D. Martinez, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Teoscar Hernandez. The only player with a longer homer so far has been Marcell Ozuna.

Olson still has a long way to go to prove that he can be a consistently productive slugger, but he’s passed a major test by working his way through his first extended skid. Hopefully whatever adjustments he’s made (and continues to make) can stick long-term, because the A’s lineup is much scarier when he’s on his game. The sound his bat makes on this dinger is haunting.

Oly Toledo! As for the rest of the lineup, here’s an updated wRC+ ranking:

  • Jed Lowrie (132): Following up his 99 wRC+ from May with a 99 in June so far.
  • Matt Olson (126): En fuego.
  • Khris Davis (126): Back from the DL and back to blasting dingers.
  • Matt Chapman (106): Leads all MLB players with +16 Defensive Runs Saved.
  • Mark Canha (105): Good start to June (6-for-14, only 1 strikeout).
  • Chad Pinder (101): Has played 6 positions, with positive ratings at 4 or 5.
  • Dustin Fowler (92): Already tied for team lead with 4 steals (in 23 games).
  • Jonathan Lucroy (86): Finally hit first homer at end of May.
  • Marcus Semien (85): Last 7 games: 3-for-27, but also added a son.
  • Stephen Piscotty (82): Waking up in June? (7-for-18, 2 doubles)

Beyond that group, outfielder Nick Martini is 0-for-5 so far while covering for the injured Matt Joyce, and Josh Phegley is yet to bat since coming back up from Triple-A (1-for-4 this season). Since breaking out of their team-wide slump in the final game of the last homestand, the A’s have scored 42 runs and launched a dozen dingers in their last seven games (against Rays, Royals, Rangers).

Great to see the green and gold piling up runs again, with a healthy Khrush and a locked-in Olson finally leading the charge in the middle of the lineup!

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