Dansby Swanson Has THE POWER!
Did I go through the effort of writing up this entire post just for the goofy headline/featured image combo? No. No. Not EXCLUSIVELY.
But I can’t say it hurt. Dansby Swanson has finally started hitting for some power, which has been an absolute joy to watch at the plate.
As I’m sure you noticed, Swanson had a particularly strong series against the Cardinals this week, with SIX extra base hits in just three games, tying Ernie Banks (1958) as the only Cubs shortstop to accomplish that feat. No surprises, it raised his overall slash line quite a bit, too. As Brett pointed out earlier, Swanson entered the series hitting .271/.382/.357/112 wRC+, with an .085 ISO. And he left with hitting .289/.392/.423/129 wRC+, with a .134 ISO. And with his plus-plus defense at shortstop, Swanson is now tied as the 7th most valuable player in MLB by fWAR (1.7).
And because I know you’re all wondering, here are all four free agent shortstops from over the winter:
- Swanson: 129 wRC+, 1.7 WAR
- Bogaerts: 128 wRC+, 1.7 WAR
- Turner: 89 wRC+, 0.7 WAR
- Correa: 77 wRC+, 0.0 WAR
Just pointing that out.
But this post isn’t about them, or even about Swanson’s overall performance. It’s about that re-discovered power stroke from the right side of the plate.
Even as he got off to a red-hot start for the Cubs this season, Dansby Swanson’s power was really lacking early on. A guy who hit 25+ homers in each of his last two seasons with the Braves almost went the entire month of April without his first long ball. And he had just three doubles before May.
But since that first home run caught the basket at Wrigley Field, Swanson has hit seven doubles and three homers in just 65 PAs. And he’s done it while actually LOWERING his strikeout rate. That’s important and exactly what you want to see. In other words, that’s a guy’s natural talent taking over, not someone switching up their already productive approach to trade contact for power.
So what exactly is going on? Well, for one thing, Swanson’s hitting the ball in the air more often as the season goes on. And by now, I think we all know that’s Step 1 to netting extra bases. Indeed, from the start of the season through April 27, Swanson’s average launch angle was just 5.8 degrees. But since then, it’s more than doubled to roughly the league average: Swanson (12.2 degrees), League Average (12.4 degrees).
The fly ball rate, then, has gone in one direction.
Similarly, over those same two stretches, Swanson’s contact got WAY louder, with his average exit velocity (89.3 MPH –> 90.2 MPH), hard-hit rate (36.5% –> 43.9%), and barrel rate (7.9% –> 17.1%) all rising rather significantly. And at least a portion of that increase can be attributed to (1) an increased pull rate (47.6% –> 53.7%) and, especially, more swings on pitches in the zone.
In fact, he’s enjoyed a nice gradual increase as the season has gone on:
It’s still very early in the season, and this is certainly not a rate Swanson will keep up. HOWEVER, based on the underlying data – and, frankly, his recent history of hitting for power with the Braves — I think we can continue to expect more power from Swanson than what we saw from him in April.
And that will be crucial for a Cubs team that has had a distinct lack of power from their designated hitters (.399, 20th), first basemen (.347 SLG, 26th), and right fielders (.400, 16th) so far this season.