7 games into the season, Austin Riley was carrying a .371 OPS. He had collected 2 hits, was having bloody awful luck with a .071 BABIP, and had struck out 8 times.
The dog days of August came round and for the next 26 games, Riley was brilliant. He carried an .886 OPS with 5 doubles, 2 triple, and 6 HRs.
Last stretch, from September 5th through 25th, Riley relapsed, carried a .609 OPS with only 1 HR and 2 doubles in 82 plate appearances.
Austin Riley, Overall
Overall, Riley finished with a .719 OPS. Hardly what fans wanted to see out of him as a full-time starter, but not a full on failure. In August, we saw what Riley has done so well in his professional career and that is making adjustments to the competition. When Riley is going well, he’s a barreling machine that utilizes all parts of the field. When he goes south, it’s a tunnel vision nightmare where he worries too much about the inside part of the plate that his hands get tied up and he’s late on everything.
Unfortunately, the worry is justified. Riley has shown, to put it bluntly, that he cannot catch up to a fastball. Here are some eye-popping stats:
- Only 1 of Riley’s HR was on a fastball, and it was only thrown at 93.5 MPH. The rest were 83 MPH or below.
- In 35 PAs against velo 94 MPH or above, Riley was 3 for 30 (all hits singles) with 5 walks and 8 strikeouts.
- Velo absolutely dominated him in the playoffs. I’ll not provide you with the stats as I’m sure you can recall (however his big HR was on a Blake Treinen 98 MPH fastball).
His swing has been criticized for being too long for 5 years (here’s looking at you Keith Law), and it looks to be an accurate assessment. I don’t have the answer for Riley, but I feel like it’s a swing adjustment that helps him find the RCF gap more (like this?).
Austin Riley’s Defense
Baseball Reference thinks Riley is Chris Johnson post-extension reincarnated with -8 Defensive Runs Saved on the year. Fangraphs rankings also detest Riley. However, Statcast ranks him average and that’s what my eyes told me for 2020. He’s got the making to be a solid 3B with quick hands and a very strong throwing arm, but lacks range and seems to struggle coming in on the ball. I’ll stick with average overall.
Austin Riley Baseball Savant Rankings
In all bat to ball ratings, Riley is above average.
- Exit Velo, 82nd Percentile
- Hard Hit, 69th Percentile
- Barrell %, 64th Percentile
However, when it comes to contact:
- K%, 42nd percentile
- Whiff %, 27th percentile
- Outs Above Average, 36th percentile
Put mildly, if the Braves want Austin Riley to be successful, he’s going to have to make more contact and figure out how to get to a fastball.
No matter what, no one will take this away from him.