So long, Swanson: another departure, another clip show

Dansby Swanson didn’t have the Atlanta career that Freeman did, but he was still a big part of a lot of Braves teams: first some underwhelming, and then some quite overwhelming. After 827 regular season games, 37 postseason contests, over 3,500 PAs, and an accrual of over 16 fWAR, he’s moving on to Chicago’s north side, where his lovely locks will have the chance to sway in the breeze of the Windy City.

As we did for Freeman last year, then, this is as good of an opportunity as any to look back at Swanson’s career in clips. Not his most meaningful moments, maybe, but some notable ones nonetheless.

Highest wRC+ game

It’s hard to do better than one PA, one homer, and that’s what Swanson delivered on June 24, 2018. Back before he became a mini-baseball iron man, missing just two games across his final three years with the Braves, Swanson’s playing time was a bit less regular. He missed much of May 2018 with a wrist injury, and even after his return, was really scuffling along, with a 60 wRC+ heading into this game. So, on a Sunday afternoon, he grabbed a bench seat as Johan Camargo shifted to shortstop for a game… but he wasn’t going to get a full day of rest.

In the bottom of the eighth, despite the Braves holding a two-run lead, the Braves had Swanson pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot. He swung through two Brad Brach fastballs over the plate, took two more for balls, and then crushed a righty-righty changeup on 2-2 for a relatively cheap homer down the line:

Swanson stayed in to play short, but the Braves closed the game out in the next frame, so he didn’t ask again. As a result, this stands as his highest single-game wRC+ as a Brave, a nifty 1,240.

Notably, this is the only 1,000+ wRC+ game of Swanson’s career. While he’s compiled seven multihomer games so far, each featured at least one out, hence him not breaking through the 1,000 threshold except for this one, single-PA effort.

Swanson’s highest wRC games

I mentioned when I wrote the Freeman version of these that no one really talks about wRC, and since then, I don’t think anyone has talked about wRC. Quick refresher: wRC+ converts a player’s batting line, adjusted for park, instead a scale where 100 is average; wRC (without the plus) is a counting that tells you how many runs above average a player’s batting line has been worth across the PAs the player has had, after adjusting for park.

Swanson has had three games in his career where he compiled four wRC. One came in 2019; the other two came within a few days of each other this past summer.

July 4, 2019 came in Atlanta against the Phillies, and it had so many of the fireworks befitting the day it occurred on. The Phillies threw up a four-spot on Mike Soroka of all people, but the Braves tied it in the next two innings. Then Ozzie Albies hit a three-run homer to make it 7-4, and yet more homers, mostly from the Braves, made it a 12-6 final score in favor of the home team. Swanson had a huge rule in the outburst. He hit a homer off Zach Eflin in the first to make it 4-1, and then doubled with two outs in the second to tie the game at four runs apiece. After a couple of outs, he drilled his second homer of the day off Austin Davis to score three more runs and cap the scoring. (The second home run was a bit of a cheapie, but the first homer was destroyed.)

I miss… the 2019 baseball.

The other two were both part of Swanson’s recent early summer assault on MLB pitching — from June 2 to July 2, he had a 190 wRC+; it was still 149 from June 2 through July 29.

The first standout game came on June 23, as Swanson decided to subject Giants pitching to his brand of punishment. He opened the bottom of the first with a leadoff homer off Alex Wood. In the second, Wood hit him with a pitch to drive in a run, given that the bases were loaded. Then, the next time up, he homered again to make it 7-1 Braves. He added another single in the sixth before finally making an out, giving him a 3-for-4 day in a 7-6 win. This clip only has the homers, but yeah, those were some well-hit homers.

Swanson’s steamy summer continued when on, July 1, he had a four-hit game at the Great American Ball Park. His day actually started when he hit into a double play in the first, but then he singled in the third, doubled in the fifth, popped a three-run homer in the seventh, and then doubled again in the ninth as the Braves easily won 7-1

Okay, the homer was a cheapie, but still.

Best offensive playoff game

Again, I don’t care about the playoffs, but Swanson probably does… which means that the fact that arguably his best playoff game offensively, without context, was the Game 4 NLDS loss to the Cardinals in 2019. In that game, Swanson went 2-for-3 with a walk. He singled and scored to bring the game within a run in the third, and then doubled and scored to do so again in the fifth. His walk in the sixth loaded the bases and gave Adam Duvall a chance to blow it open with the Braves ahead by one, but that didn’t happen. Swanson struck out in the eighth, and the Cardinals tied it and won it late.

Best offensive calendar week

Ha, this is a fun blast from the past: September 5 through September 11, 2016. Swanson was a major leaguer for all of about three weeks when this run began, and it was a fun one, with the emphasis on “run.”

On September 6, he connected for his first MLB homer, to inside-the-parker. and added a single. The next day, he added a more conventional homer, as well as another single and a walk. After an off-day, he added three more singles and a walk. He did have a bummer of a Sunday game to wrap up the week (strikeout, double play, double switched out of the game), but all in all, it added up to a 298 wRC+ with a .529/.597/.941 line over 19 PAs, with as many walks as strikeouts.

On the flip side, all things must come to an end, and aside from that lame Sunday game, things really crashed down to earth the next Monday, when this happened…

Ow. Hope Tyler Flowers bought him dinner or something. I do not miss 2016.

Best offensive calendar month(s)

Okay, the cheaty answer here is the few days of July that kicked off the 2020 season. 2020 was pretty great for Swanson, the first “year” where his offensive outputs caught up to some high-quality offensive inputs. The beginning of it was pretty insane for Swanson, as in his first 32 PAs of the season, he had a .387/.406/.677 line with two homers and three doubles, good for a 185 wRC+. In a sign of things to come, he had horrid peripherals, with just one walk and a strikeout rate pushing 40 percent in that span, reinforcing the idea that he was going to provide offensive value by mashing and not by walking while avoiding strikeouts.

Here’s him destroying the meads in one of those games, as there’s no sizzle reel for the whole eight-game stretch:

Swanson’s “real” best calendar month, though, came in June 2022, as discussed above. In that span, he posted a 166 wRC+ with seven homers, five doubles, and not-particularly-gnarly peripherals. While often, superlative outputs suggest huge outperformances of inputs, Swanson’s June 2022 featured a .411 wOBA and a .400 xwOBA. Not bad, kid.

Best regular season WPA game

Swanson has a funny relationship with clutch. His career clutch score is 1.91, but this involves two seasons where he really stacked his performances towards higher leverage (2017, 2020), and a few where it was the opposite (2021, and to a lesser extent, 2019). Any kind of laddering of outcomes towards certain situations is, of course, random — but that doesn’t mean Swanson didn’t rack up some big WPA numbers here and there.

The biggest, though? August 17, 2020, against the Nationals. Swanson had a couple of singles earlier in the game, but this was all about his walkoff, two-run homer in the ninth. This whole situation was crazy: the Braves came into the inning trailing by three, but a hit-by-pitch and a two-run homer by Adam Duvall trimmed the deficit to one. After a single, two Braves made outs, bringing Swanson to the dish, where he turned the game around with no further margin for error:

The game for Swanson was worth .860 WPA. The homer alone, .893.

Best postseason WPA game and play

One game before Swanson’s big offensive outburst in the Game 4 NLDS loss to the Cardinals, he had a big WPA outburst as the Braves won Game 3.

In the third, with the Braves down by a run, he doubled, but was stranded. After an out, he had a one-out single in the eighth that started a little rally that loaded the bases, but again, nothing. But then, in the ninth, two outs, still down by a run, blam!

This was the first of three runs the Braves scored with their backs against the wall to take a lead in the five-game series.

Best regular season cWPA game

Sometimes the stars and standings align so that you can get some decent cWPA in a game, and with the pivotal Atlanta showdown between the Braves and the Mets in 2022, Dansby Swanson sure did. His homer off Max Scherzer in the fifth turned around not only the game, but arguably the division, as the Mets didn’t score again and the Braves won this one and the next one as well.

Best postseason cWPA game

Getting cWPA is way easier in the postseason, if you homer in key moments. Swanson did that, too. 2021, World Series Game 4, Braves down by a run in the seventh… cue Swanson and Jorge Soler, turning the deficit into a lead, and soon, a 3-1 lead in the series. Here’s Swanson tying the game.

The Statcast stuff

Swanson’s hardest hit ball of his career was this relatively nondescript single against the Pirates in 2021. At least it wasn’t an out. Amusingly, the Braves scored 14 runs in this game, yet his nearly 110-mph exit velocity single wasn’t involved in any of those runs.

As far as furthest hit balls, we have Swanson taking Jacob deGrom deep, a day before he did the same to Scherzer as shown up above, 441 feet into the Atlanta night:

The above was also the best xwOBA on a ball Swanson has managed for his career. I know deGrom supplied a lot of the power, but still, imagine having your best-ever xwOBA in a plate appearance against Jacob de Grom of all people.

defence?

This is a little hard to query, but I still thought it was a little interesting.

Here are some Dansby Swanson hops, robbing some guys;

And some pop-up catches:

And, y’know, ye olde grounders:

I’ll miss those backhands most of all, I think. Happy travels, Mr. Swanson.

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