Things are certainly going to look different for the Atlanta Braves in 2022, as the team will have a new first baseman on Opening Day for the first time in 12 years.
Yes, on Monday, the defending World Series champions acquired Matt Olson from the Oakland Athletics. By doing so, they've nearly assured that longtime Brave and key member of that title-winning team Freddie Freeman will depart via free agency, although there's perhaps a distant chance he returns now that the National League has officially adopted the DH. Thanks in large part to his defensive prowess -- his 21 Defensive Runs Saved since the beginning of 2019 are seven more than any other first baseman has had -- Olson will almost assuredly man first base with his new team.
While Olson and Freeman are differently styled hitters, a common trait they share is a recent contact-rate improvement. Freeman posted 82%-plus contact rates in each of the last two seasons -- the first time in his career he had reached the 80% threshold. Meanwhile, Olson led all batting title-eligible hitters by improving his contact rate by nearly 12% last season (65.2% in 2020, 76.9% in 2021). And that wasn't a pandemic-2020 fluctuation either, as he was in the 72% range in 2018-19.