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Did Dansby’s Demotion Stem from “Bad Luck”?

Dansby Swanson was demoted to Triple-A on Wednesday night after a rough start to the star shortstop’s first full season as an Atlanta Brave. After joining the Braves organization as a part of the Shelby Miller trade, the front office, and quite frankly the fan base, felt they had locked in another piece to the Braves post-rebuild plans. Swanson impressed both at the plate and in the field during his 38 big league games in 2016. He slashed .302/.361/.442 with 11 of his 39 hits going for extra bases. He played a solid shortstop defensively, the fielding percentage was a little bit lower than one would like to see, but Swanson proved he had the range to make some solid plays at short.

Fast forward to 2017 and Swanson has been struggling since the get-go. The range factor and the fielding percentage are both up, due in large part to things balancing themselves out over the bigger sample, but the struggles at the plate have been going on since his .156 average to start the season in April. It’s interesting to go back and try identify what has been the cause of Swanson’s struggles. Many claimed it to be bad luck in the beginning, which could be true, then he got hot in June and people claimed it was just his luck turning around, now one short month later, Swanson is no longer on the roster.

It’s true, Swanson was relatively unlucky to start the season. He made soft contact less than 20% of the time and the BABIP was an alarmingly low .188 after April. While all of the claims about his bad luck are relevant, it is important to note that as Swanson’s strikeout numbers were higher, his “bad luck” was worse.

Mar/Apr: K% – 25.3%, AVG. – .156, BABIP – .188

May: K% – 24.3%, AVG. – .216, BABIP – .274

June: K% – 16.8%, AVG. – .306, BABIP – .354

July: K% – 30.2%, AVG. – .125, BABIP – .188

We can all safely agree the only productive month Swanson has had in 2017 was June. Now what I find most interesting, and why I can’t chalk it ALL up to bad “luck”, is how hard Swanson’s balls in play were hit. That’s the argument here, right? Swanson was hitting the ball hard, just right at people. Here is Swanson’s hard contact rate by month.

Mar/Apr: 28.8%

May:  32.8%

June: 25.9%

July: 34.4%

How about his soft contact rate by month?

Mar/Apr: 13.6%

May:  10.9%

June: 25.9%

July: 28.1%

So, Swanson put the ball in play the most during the month of June, but had his second highest soft contact rate and hit the least amount of balls hard all season, yet he had his most productive month. I know what you’re thinking. Hitting the ball hard doesn’t guarantee it won’t be hit right at a defender. However, my point here is the strikeout rate in correlation to the contact. The fact of the matter is, in baseball, luck is only a factor on balls in play. When Swanson put the ball in play on a consistent basis, i.e. June, he was a productive major leaguer. When you strikeout 25% of the time, which a lot of players do nowadays, and you’re not hitting the ball over the fence, then your performance cannot be based solely on luck.

Dansby Swanson is an outstanding baseball player who is enduring a long slump during a season where all eyes were going to be on him. I believe the demotion was justified mainly because Swanson needs to be getting consistent at bats which he is not currently getting at the big league level, the outstanding play of Johan Camargo is also a factor in this. For those of you disappointed in the Dansby demotion, don’t be. The good news is he can work through the things hampering his production at the plate.

Featured Image Courtesy of: Getty Images

Jake resides in Carrollton, GA and loves everything baseball. He is a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan and enjoys traveling to watch their Minor League teams. He graduated from the University of West Georgia with a Bachelor's Degree in Sport Management. Jake is also a certified personal trainer and has a passion for fitness and weight lifting. You can find his personal site at You can also reach out to Jake at

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