On Sunday, Ozzie Albies hit two home runs in the series finale with the Rockies. The two home runs came from the top of the lineup, a position that has proven to be Albies’ sweet spot. Ozzie’s success at the plate has come from the top of the lineup this season. In 19 games, the second baseman is hitting for average and power. The Atlanta Braves have found their leadoff hitter in Ozzie Albies.
The Atlanta Braves don’t have a lot of choices when it comes to who will bat leadoff. Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte are all options. Dansby isn’t a typical leadoff hitter who can get on base more often than he doesn’t. Ozzie fits that mold, slightly more. But Ozzie has shown the top of the lineup, his preferred position seems to be the two-hole, but that was taken over by Josh Donaldson and his rigid commands. That leaves Inciarte, a player who has found success at the top of the lineup. The Braves were hoping Inciarte would find that same success this year, in a spot he was most comfortable, leading off.
The season started with Ender Inciarte at the top of the lineup. In 9 games, as the leadoff hitter, Inciarte .158 average and .238 on-base percentage were bad enough for Braves manager, Brian Snitker, to sneak other options. Inciarte, who has mostly batted as the leadoff hitter since joining the Braves, has seen his batting average and on-base percentage steadily decline since the 2017 season, the year he hit .305 as the leadoff hitter. Last season, his numbers dropped to .223 and .292. Lately, Inciarte is finding more success at the bottom of the lineup, in the 7th or 8th spot, than at the top of the lineup.
With Inciarte struggling to make anything happen up top, the Braves changed tactics by moving Ozzie Albies to the leadoff spot. So far, in the small sample size of 17 games, Albies has thrived in his new role. In 17 games, Albies has scored 20 runs, hit 5 home runs, and is almost hitting .300 while getting on base more than a third of the time, .345. Albies, a switch hitter, will also provide a mismatch for whatever pitcher is taking the mound any given night. That is an advantage for Albies, no matter who the pitcher is. To Albies’ credit, in the 6th spot, where Albies started the season, the second baseman was hitting the ball just as well, if not better.
The Braves have struggled the first month, especially with consistency. The top of the lineup has seemed to give Brian Snitker the most trouble when deciding who will leadoff the game. Behind the leadoff spot, the Braves are loaded with Josh Donaldson, Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Nick Markakis.
If the Braves have found their solution in Albies, this Braves lineup is only going to get more dynamic. With the struggles, the pitching staff is having, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, the Braves offense is what’s been, and will have to, carry this team to success. With the emergence of Albies as a viable option up top, the Braves may have one less question to worry about.