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The story of how Marcell Ozuna’s bat has come alive

Ozuna had an April he would love to forget, but since then has had a May-June he will likely remember for the rest of his life.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Cleveland Guardians
Ozuna has been on a tear
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The infamous DH for the Atlanta Braves, Marcell Ozuna, is still a bit of a sore spot for some fans, and that is okay. However, his bat as of late sure has not had a negative impact on the franchise.

Early in the year, Ozuna was struggling. However, we pointed out in our April 13th article covering the four most likely Braves to see improvements that he was having some extremely bad luck. Up to that point he had a batting average of balls in play (BABIP) of 0.048, which is insanely low.

At that point he also had an xSLG that was top 28.0 percent of MLB yet he had a measly slash line of .083/.195/.250 and a wRC+ of nineteen (81.0 percent below league average). It was only a matter of time as to him having a positive regression to the mean. This explains a lot as to why Brian Snitker stuck with him, beyond the fact that he is being paid an AAV of 16.25 million dollars.

Snitker’s patience has paid off. Ozuna now has a much more respectable line of .257/.332/.494, which is good for a wRC+ of 119.

Check out the rolling wRC+ by game for Ozuna. It started it’s rise on game nineteen (May 2nd) when he went 2-4 with a walk and then 3-5 on game twenty with two home runs.

Ozuna rolling wRC+

In the month of May, he had a slash line of .297/.360/.626 and a wRC+ of 158. Incidentally, his .300 BABIP was much closer to his career average of .307. In June he followed that up with a slash line of .321/.404./556, which equates to a 157 wRC+. This was with a BABIP of .350. All together, from the he started May, he has combined for a .308/.381/.593, which equates to a 157 wRC+ with a BABIP of .325.

Ozuna also made some strides with his xSLG. It jumped from top 28.0 percent halfway through April to top 6.0 percent of the league.

We can also see that his xwOBA jumped over league average ever since his 74th plate appearance and has never dropped below. This has resulted in an xwOBA on the season that is top 9.0 percent of MLB, even after his cold start.

Ozuna rolling xwOBA

If we look at his rolling wOBA, we can see that earlier in the season, his wOBA was lower than his xwOBA, which showed that he was due for an increase in production even if he kept swinging the bat the same way.

Rolling wOBA

All in all, this shows how important it is to not get hung up on an eighteen game sample size, and to look for indicators of positive or negative regression to the mean. But, what is even better is these charts show us that not only did Ozuna shake off bad luck and start hitting like his XSTATS indicated, but he also made adjustments and started swinging better as well. Not only has positive regression towards the mean happened, but his mean has increased drastically as well. In other words, his XSTATS have increased by quite a bit.

Almost every thinkable category has increased, so let’s see if we can dig into some possible adjustments he made.

His average exit velocity has been above average all season long. It did see an uptick around his 108th batted ball (for reference, he has 192 at the time of this writing), but it is not enough to point to it as the main reason for his spike in production.

If we look at the chart below, we can see a story.

Ozuna rolling BB and K rates

We see that what we already covered where as his BABIP rose closer to his career average, so did his wOBA. But, that was not enough to see his massive spike. We see here that he also cut back on strikeouts as the season has progressed. With less strikeouts, theoretically a player will have more batted balls. With the average exit velocity that Ozuna possesses, it will not only easily generate more hits, but hits with power behind them.

Another issue Ozuna had early in the season is that he was hitting groundballs at an alarmingly high right. Even with the high average exit velocity Ozuna has, hit groundballs well over 50.0 percent of the time is going to hurt his production. If we look at the chart below, we can see that he has stopped hitting as many groundballs and has replaced them fly balls. It is no wonder that he went on a home run tear.

Ozuna 2023 batted ball type

He has also been a lot better at swinging (literally). Early in the season, for whatever reason he was not swinging the bat as often as he has been lately, even at pitches thrown inside the strike zone. If we look at the chart below, we can see that through his first ten games he was only swinging at approximately 50.0 percent of pitches inside the zone, while also swinging at pitches outside of the zone about 35.0 percent of the time. As the season has went on, he not only swinging more often, but swinging at good pitches around 70.0 percent of the time, and laying off bad pitches at a better rate.

Ozuna swing percentages

In Summary

Ozuna did have positive regression to the mean, which we could see coming due to his terrible luck at the start of the season, but he also made adjustments along the way that has resulted in him having an insanely good stretch from May-June.

In a nutshell, Ozuna has not only stopped hitting so many ground balls and replaced them with fly balls, but he has also started swinging much more often at good pitches.

Both of these adjustments, along with his BABIP coming back to normal and his constant elite exit velocity has seemed to turn his season around.

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