A lot is being made of Braves 3B Chris Johnson recently claiming the National League lead in batting average, but most fans outside of Braves Nation may be asking... "Who is Chris Johnson?!"
Johnson was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 4th round of the 2006 draft, and made his debut for the club in 2009. After a short stint in a Diamondbacks jersey in the second half last year, The Braves acquired Johnson in the Justin Upton deal essentially to platoon with the black hole that was Juan Francisco, before shipping Francisco to Milwaukee in the emergence of Johnson. But at this point in the game, it wouldn't be wrong to call it the Chris Johnson deal.
Johnson may lead everyone but Miguel Freaking Cabrera in batting average, but most of us in Braves Nation view this as unsustainable, and as classic case of hitting over his head. While it may seem like it on the surface, is it justifiable that we think this? Let's break down the numbers:
You can clearly see the steady rise in line drive percentage from around league average, to good, to elite status. This is clearly unsustainable, but the fact that it is on a consistent rise is a very, very positive thing, especially when compared to how drastically his fly ball percentage dropped. CJ has seemingly stopped swinging for the fences and relied on making steady contact, as noted by his good ground ball percentage. This combination of poking balls through, dropping liners into the shallow outfield, and exploring gaps and foul lines leads to a ridiculous .421 BABIP. Once again, unsustainable, but when you look at his career BABIP, it makes you wonder how much luck is really involved here, and how much can be attributed to this new approach.
Speaking from a strictly offensive standpoint, Chris Johnson has been one of the most pleasant and least talked surprises of this year. It seems he has adopted a new approach at the plate, transforming himself into the type of hitter the Braves needed him to be. He may not be as patient of a hitter as we would like, and the walk rate leaves some to be desired, but to me, Chris Johnson seems to have turned a corner in his major league career. I'm not saying he will compete for the batting title year in and year out, but he definitely isn't the Chris Johnson we though we were getting.