Matt Olson

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Matthew Kent Olson

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Biographical Information[edit]

First baseman Matt Olson began his professional career in 2012.

He was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the supplemental first round, 47th overall, of the 2012 amateur draft and signed for a bonus of $1,080,000. The signing scout was Matt Ranson.

He began his career playing for the AZL Athletics and Vermont Lake Monsters, hitting a combined .282/.352/.521 with 9 home runs, 45 RBI and 32 runs scored in 50 games. Entering the 2013 season, he was ranked by MLB.com as the Athletics' 5th-best prospect. That year, he hit .225/.326/.435 with 23 home runs, 93 RBI and 69 runs scored in 134 games for the Beloit Snappers, making the Midwest League Mid-Season All-Star team. With the Stockton Ports in 2014, he hit .262/.404/.543 with 37 home runs, 97 RBI, 111 runs scored and 117 walks in 138 games. He won the Single-A Joe Bauman Home Run Award that year.

Olson hit his first two career homers in the same game, on June 24, 2017 against the Chicago White Sox. In the 10-2 win, teammates Jaycob Brugman and Franklin Barreto also connected for their first homers, the first time this had happened since the 1914 Kansas City Packers had pulled off the trick in the Federal League. From September 15-19, he homered in five straight games to push his total over the 20 mark. He was the fifth player in team history to accomplish this, although it was still one game shy of the team mark of six held by Frank Thomas. He finished the season with 24 homers in just 189 at-bats, but just two other extra-base hits, both doubles, for an extremely unusual stat line. He then had an excellent sophomore season as one of the leaders of a young A's team that surprised everyone by clinching a post season slot. He played all 162 games, hitting .247 with 33 doubles and 29 homers, scored 85 runs and drove in 84. He not only hit well, his defensive was also outstanding, earning him a Gold Glove. In the Wild Card Game against the New York Yankees, he went 0 for 2 with a pair of walks.

In 2019, he started both games of the A's season-opening two-game series against the Seattle Mariners at the Tokyo Dome, going 1 for 5 with a walk and a run. However, in his final at-bat on March 21st, he injured his hand on a foul tip and had to undergo surgery the next day, putting his streak of consecutive games played in jeopardy even though the A's next game was not scheduled for another week. Indeed, x-rays revealed a broken hamate bone, putting him on the shelf for a while and forcing the A's to acquire veteran Kendrys Morales from the Toronto Blue Jays to fill in in his absence. He returned to the line-up on May 7th and went on to play 127 games, hitting a .267 with 36 homers and 91 RBIs - all career bests in spite of the time missed. He repeated as winner of the Gold Glove at 1B. But, once again, the A's season ended in disappointment with a loss in the Wild Card Game, this time to the Tampa Bay Rays. He went 1 for 3 with a walk in the 5-1 loss.

On July 24, 2020, he was the hero in the A's first game of the abbreviated season. In the first game to go into extra innings after the adoption of the tiebreaker rule, he hit a walk-off grand slam off reliever Hoby Milner of the Los Angeles Angels in the bottom of the 10th to give his team a 7-3 win. In the top of the inning, he had made a very good play to cut off the Angels' "additional runner", Shohei Ohtani, the first such runner in major league history, at third base. It was the first opening day walk-off grand slam since Jim Presley had hit one for the 1986 Seattle Mariners. He played all 60 games for the A's that season, hitting .195 with 14 homers and 42 RBIs. In spite of batting below the Mendoza line, he was actually a productive hitter, given his power and walks, with an OPS+ of 103 (though that was below what one would expect from a first baseman). In the postseason, he was shut out in the Wild Card Series, in which Oakland defeated the Chicago White Sox in three games, going 0 for 9 with 3 walks, but in the Division Series loss to the Houston Astros, he went 3 for 14 with a pair of homers, scoring 4 runs.

He bounced back in 2021 to be named to the All-Star team for the first time thanks to a solid all-around season that had him finish 8th in the MVP vote. In 156 games, he batted .271 with 39 homers and 111 RBIs. He also hit 35 doubles, walked 88 times and scored 101 runs, for an OPS+ of 153 and while he failed to win another Gold Glove, his defense remained excellent.

On March 14, 2022, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves in return for four young players - OF Cristian Pache, C Shea Langeliers, and Ps Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes. It was a homecoming for Olson, who had grown up only a few miles from where Truist Park now stood, and an admission by the defending World Champions that they would be unable to re-sign 1B Freddie Freeman. Less than 24 hours after the trade, the Braves showed that they were committed to Olson as their new man, as they signed him to an eight-year contract extension worth $168 million (he had two years left on his current deal). He played all 162 games in his first season with the Braves, hitting .240 with 34 homers and 103 RBIs for an OPS+ of 120. He was his team's best hitter in the postseason, going 4 for 12 with 2 homers, but Atlanta was upset by the Philadelphia Phillies in the Division Series in four games. If his first season was a good one, he broke through to another level in 2023. He took over the National League home run lead early in the season, was named to the All-Star team for the second time and on September 11th became the first hitter in the majors that season to reach the 50-home run plateau when he went deep twice in the second game of a doubleheader against the Phillies. He had long before that set a new personal best for homers when he hit his 39th and 40th in the same game on August 12th. He was one homer short of the team record of 51 set by Andruw Jones in 2005, then hit that record-tying homer the very next day. His next step was to set a new franchise record for RBI, besting the 135 that Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews had collected with the Milwaukee Braves in 1953, something Olson did on September 28th. That was actually the modern franchise record, as another member of Cooperstown, Hugh Duffy, had driven in 145 runs in 1894, when the team was still in Boston and RBI was not yet an official statistic. He once again played all 162 games, hitting .283 with 54 homers and 139 RBIs. He led the NL in homers, RBIs and slugging percentage (.604) and also scored 127 runs for an OPS+ of 162.But once again, the postseason was a postseason, as he went just 4 for 16, with all of hits being singles in the Braves' loss to the Phillies in the Division Series.

He started the 2024 season slowly, but in May passed a rare milestone as he played his 500th consecutive game. Not only was that the longest active streak in the majors, there had only been six longer ones in the 21st Century, and he was about to overtake two of them.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time All-Star (2021 & 2023)
  • 2-time AL Gold Glove Winner (2018 & 2019)
  • NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2023)
  • NL Slugging Percentage Leader (2023)
  • NL Home Runs Leader (2023)
  • NL RBIs Leader (2023)
  • 20-Home Runs Seasons: 6 (2017-2019 & 2021-2023)
  • 30-Home Runs Seasons: 4 (2019 & 2021-2023)
  • 40-Home Runs Seasons: 1 (2023)
  • 50-Home Runs Seasons: 1 (2023)
  • 100 RBIs Seasons: 3 (2021-2023)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (2021 & 2023)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Mark Bowman: "Braves sign new pickup Olson to 8-year deal", mlb.com, March 15, 2022. [1]
  • Mark Bowman: "Olson sets Braves' RBI mark as Atlanta clinches MLB's best record", mlb.com, September 29, 2023. [2]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "The 'Unspoken Bond' between Olson and longtime friend", mlb.com, September 12, 2023. [3]
  • Matt Kelly: "Don't expect sophomore slump for Olson: Rookie first baseman made most of his elite contact in 2017", mlb.com, February 5, 2018. [4]
  • Matt Kelly: "Olson's historic trick: Fewer K's, more power: On pace for 40 homers, A's star has biggest K% drop in last 20 years", mlb.com, August 28, 2021. [5]
  • Mike Petriello: "Why the Braves chose Olson over Freeman: Georgia native is nearly five years younger than free agent", mlb.com, March 15, 2022. [6]

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