Matt Olson is only batting .158 this year, but his 118 wRC+ is comfortably above-average. That’s because when he does get a hit, it goes far.
Olson is 12-for-76 so far this season, but eight of those hits have been homers. More recently, dating back to Aug. 5, each of his last seven hits have been dingers. Here’s what that looks like expressed as a batting line:
Olson, last 10 gms: .175/.283/.700, 156 wRC+, 13.0% BB, 17.4% Ks
Since homers don’t count in BABIP, because they’re fielding-independent, Olson’s BABIP during that span is .000 — and there have been some unlucky loud outs along the way, so his slash rates might even be deceptively low. But the best part of those numbers is the low strikeout rate, showing that he’s not just selling out contact for power, which in turn offers hope that his batting average can recover. His Statcast xwOBA is a mammoth .433, thanks to all that frequent and hard contact.
His full 2020 line looks like this through 93 plate appearances:
Olson, 2020: .158/.312/.474, 118 wRC+, 8 HR, 18.3% BB, 22.6% Ks, .404 xwOBA
Granted, he’s still drawing walks, and striking out at least a little bit, so the One True Outcome label in the headline is mostly just a cheeky reference to his lack of non-dinger hits. But that K rate is lower than you’d expect from someone with a .316 isolated slugging percentage, and his 17 walks rank fifth in MLB, so there’s some good news to make up for my literary deception.
The A’s have played a lot of close games, so several of Olson’s taters have been especially meaningful. Here’s a quick run through all of them:
- 7/24: Opening Day, walk-off grand slam in 10th inning
- 8/5: Down 1-0 in 2nd inning, took 2-1 lead
- 8/5: Up 5-4 in 8th inning, added 1 run
- 8/6: First run of game, 2nd inning (off All-Star Mike Minor)
- 8/9: Up 1-0 in 3rd inning, added 3 runs
- 8/12: First run of game, 1st inning
- 8/14: Down 7-2 in 9th, sparked comeback rally
- 8/15: Down 3-2 in 6th, tied game
Four of the eight gave Oakland a lead, and another one forced a tie. The A’s won all of these games.
We’ve really gone as far as we can in this post without enjoying a dinger video. Here’s Olson hitting one out to straightaway center field at Oracle Park in San Francisco, against the last-place Giants.
At some point, Olson’s numbers will balance out and he’ll collect a few singles and doubles to go with all of these jacks. But don’t expect the homers to stop flowing, not from a slugger who has already proven himself with 97 of them in 1,349 career at-bats — that rate of 13.9 at-bats per dinger would rank sixth in all of MLB history, behind McGwire, Ruth, Bonds, Thome, and Giancarlo Stanton.
Maybe Trevor Gott had the right idea after all in the 9th inning on Saturday, putting Olson on base as the tying run and taking his chances with literally anybody else. (Even if that plan didn’t work either.)