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Thursday, July 3, 2014
Johnson back to 2013 form

By Mark Simon

Remember last season when Atlanta Braves third baseman Chris Johnson came out of nowhere to contend for a batting title?
Chris Johnson
Johnson


After a slow start, Johnson is on another big tear.

He’s hitting .366 in his past 23 games after registering two hits and three RBIs in a 3-1 win over the New York Mets. The Braves have won a season-high seven straight games. They're 15-2 this season when he has an RBI.

Johnson garnered attention on May 23 when he threw a tantrum in the Braves dugout. He’s raised his batting average 19 points since then to its current .284.

How he’s hitting
Johnson ranks among the game’s top line-drive hitters. His 24 percent line-drive rate over the past two seasons ranks 25th-best in the majors. He’s upped that rate to 31 percent over his past 23 games.

He’s also in the midst of an unusual run when he hits ground balls. The ground-ball double he hit past diving Mets third baseman Eric Campbell plated all three Braves runs on Wednesday.

It was his 16th hit on his past 40 ground balls (a .400 batting average). He totaled 16 hits on his first 79 ground balls prior to this hot streak.

Right now, if a pitch is in the strike zone, Johnson isn’t missing it. He’s hitting .449 over these 23 games when an at-bat ends with a pitch in the zone.

How do you get him out?
If Johnson has a vulnerability, it’s that he is a bit of a chaser -- he tends to swing at pitches that are out of the strike zone at a high rate. His 39 percent chase rate this season ranks fifth-highest in the majors and that chase rate has held during this hot streak.

A little ways to go
Johnson is still not to the level that he was last season. He’s walked only eight times in 333 plate appearances, so his on-base percentage is only .304 this season.

Johnson also is not hitting for power. He’s on pace for only six home runs this season, which would be half his 2013 total.