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Quick Look: Matt Olson’s Best Version of Himself

Oakland’s slugging first baseman has someone gotten better

Tampa Bay Rays v Oakland Athletics Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

Christian Yelich’s .402 ISO is the highest single-season mark of any player with at least 200 PAs in the last ten years. Matt Olson’s 2017 ISO of .392 is the next highest. To do what Olson’s did that summer many things had to click. Exit velocity, launch angle, “juiced” baseballs, etc. Since then Olson’s results haven’t been nearly as good as they were in 2017, but so much about Olson’s profile is actually better.

Starting with the Basics

Olson’s 0.45 BB/K ratio is the highest of his career, and much better than it was in 2017. That year Olson struck out more than 27% of the time, a number he has cut down to 24% in 2019. He has also increased his walk rate from 10% to 11%. Additionally Olson has hit the ball in the air much more often.

Olson’s Batted-Ball Distribution

Season Team GB/FB LD% GB% FB%
Season Team GB/FB LD% GB% FB%
2017 Athletics 0.83 15.9 % 38.1 % 46.0 %
2018 Athletics 0.83 21.1 % 35.9 % 43.1 %
2019 Athletics 0.54 21.6 % 27.6 % 50.9 %

So Olson is striking out less, walking more, and when he puts the ball in play he’s putting it in the air more often. All ingredients for success. What about his quality of contact?

Statcast Data

This season Olson’s xBA, xSLG and xwOBA are all higher than they were during his 2017 home run barrage. This is because Olson is making better contact. While his average exit velocity isn’t the highest it has ever been, it is higher than it was in 2017, including his exit velocity on balls in the air. Olson’s 91 MPH average exit velocity coupled with his 19 degree launch angle give him a career-high 17% barrel rate, a mark that is in the top-2% of the league. The number hat really stands out, though, is Olson’s hard-hit rate of 54.4%, which is 7% higher than in 2017 and is tops in baseball in 2019 out of all batters with at least 100 batted-balls.

Olson’s Statcast Data

Season Batted Balls Barrels Barrel % Avg. Exit Velocity EV on FB/LD Launch Angle XBA XSLG XWOBA Hard Hit %
Season Batted Balls Barrels Barrel % Avg. Exit Velocity EV on FB/LD Launch Angle XBA XSLG XWOBA Hard Hit %
2017 129 21 16.3 90.8 98 15.7 0.256 0.576 0.388 47.3
2018 419 51 12.2 93.1 97.4 17.8 0.250 0.492 0.355 52.2
2019 119 21 17.6 91.7 98.2 19.8 0.267 0.588 0.395 54.4


All in all we’re seeing Matt Olson become the best version of himself. His batted-balls aren’t flying out of the park like they did in 2017, but everything else he’s doing is being don better than ever before. And sometimes that’s all you can ask for.