The Oakland A’s were dealt a blow in just the second game of this season when slugging first baseman Matt Olson injured his hand while swinging. Olson, who’d played in all 162 games last year without an injury, hit the injured list after just two games and was forced to miss six weeks due to surgery on the hamate bone of his right hand.
Olson made his return to the Oakland lineup on May 7, when the A’s came home from a brutal 1-8 road trip to host the Cincinnati Reds at the Oakland Coliseum. After lighting issues delayed the game 1 hour and 45 minutes, Mike Fiers hurled a 131-pitch no-hitter, the second of his career to give the A’s a 2-0 win over the Reds. Since then, Oakland has gone on a 39-20 hot streak with help from many contributors, including Matt Olson’s hot bat.
Olson immediately went back to everyday first base duties with his return from the injured list, and in 62 games this season, he’s batted .255 with 20 HR, 40 RBI, .369 wOBA, .312 ISO and 134 wRC+. Olson’s hard contact rate is off the charts, currently standing at 54.7%. His .260 BABIP suggests he’s found himself unlucky, but with a career .272 BABIP, it’s likely that it won’t get much higher due to several factors, including teams using the shift against Olson and his lower speed.
Olson has displayed his power on many occasions with the A’s during his young career, including 24 HR in just 59 games in 2017 and 29 HR over the course of a full season last year. While 29 is still a solid amount, especially for someone in his first full season, it’s been well known that Olson could potentially hit a lot more. He’s fully expected to surpass 29 this year, needing to hit just 10 more in Oakland’s remaining 68 games.
Besides his increased power numbers, Olson’s other stats are very similar to last season’s. His .254 average is seven points higher than last year’s, his .333 OBP is three points lower, his 23.5% K rate is 1.2% lower, and his 9.4 BB% is 1.2% lower. The biggest difference has undoubtedly been the power, including a .557 SLG that’s .104 higher, .303 ISO that’s .094 higher and a 54.2% hard contact rate that’s 6.9% higher.
The Athletics struggled out of the gate this season due to both the offense and pitching staff. The pitching staff has since improved, and so has the offense, with the addition of their slugging first baseman. Olson’s absence had a heavy impact on the A’s throughout the first six weeks, but his return has brought a powerful bat to the lineup and has helped Oakland gain a Wild Card spot in the AL for the time being.
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Stats as of July 16, 2019