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Five Minutes with Chris Johnson: BABIP Brave

Last week, Jeff Sullivan wrote about Atlanta Braves third baseman Chris Johnson. The article addressed the 28-year-old’s surprisingly stellar season, which has him leading the National League in hitting with a .338 average. More notable is the fact Johnson has the fourth-highest BABIP [.364] in history among players with at least 1,500 plate appearances.

What does Johnson think about his BABIP notoriety? I asked him that question when the Braves visited Philadelphia this past weekend.

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Johnson on ranking behind only Ty Cobb, “Shoeless Joe” Jackson and Rogers Hornsby in career BABIP: “Those are some pretty cool names. I’m not sure how I feel about my name being on a list next to theirs, but I’m certainly honored to be in their company. I’m not sure why my [BABIP] is so high. I just try to put balls in play as much as I can by using the whole field. They seem to fall in for me, and hopefully I can keep it up.

“I think there is more room for error when you use the whole field. If you only use half the field, there’s less room for error, so I’m trying to use right field, center field and left field.

“I do have my share [of strikeouts]. The more balls you put in play, the better chance you have of getting those hits, and that’s what I try to keep doing. I can’t answer why they fall in. All I can do is go up there and try to put the ball hard in play.”

On power and honing his approach: “I’m trying to become a good hitter first, then kind of let that power come. Hopefully it will, later on. I’m still developing. Having more power is just a natural thing; it is about learning when you can take your chances, and things like that. But for the most part, right now, I just try to stay in the middle part of the field and not try to do too much.

“My approach kind of depends on the pitcher. With different pitchers I’ll look in different spots and for different speeds. That’s something I’m doing a little bit more of this year. I’m doing more research on pitchers, both with video and reports.

“I try to look at a lot of video. We watch every pitcher before every series, trying to get an idea of what they’re bringing to the table. I’ll pay specific attention to what he does against right-handed hitters.

“I hope I’m getting better. I think I am. Every day, I just try to be as consistent as I can. I’ve made a few adjustments, physically and mentally, but mostly it’s a matter of getting more comfortable. I’m seeing more pitches and getting to know the pitchers better, and that helps make you better. Like I said, all I can do is try to put the ball in play — hard — and hopefully they keep falling in.”