Travis D’Arnaud is an unsung hero for the Braves
The Atlanta Braves are fortunate to have one of the best catching duos in the majors in William Contreras and Travis d’Arnaud. A catcher is often a leader in the clubhouse. The catcher is the one who calls the big throws in crucial games, throws out runners that can make or break a run and does his part in the batter’s box. When d’Arnaud got the last out in this year’s NLDS, it was a bittersweet end to a great year for the veteran catcher. Here’s a dive into how important Arnaud has been to the Braves and beyond.
Travis in 2020, the start of a postseason powerhouse.
D’Arnaud arrived in Atlanta after a decent year with the Rays along with mostly average offensive numbers. He had some breakout moments in the summer of 2019 including a three-run game. However, when the pandemic-shortened 2020 season arrived, so did d’Arnaud and his bat. During the 60-game season, D’Arnaud batted .321/.386/.533 with 9 home runs in 165 plate appearances. In the 2020 NLDS against the Marlins, d’Arnaud posted a .600 batting average with 7 RBIs on six hits and a 2.092 OPS. If there was an NLDS MVP award, D’Arnaud would easily be top three in the voting. The 2020 NLDS would be the start of d’Arnaud’s story of consistency in the playoffs. The Braves lost the 2020 NLCS to the Dodgers in seven games, but it wouldn’t be the last time we saw Travis make the postseason.
Travis in 2021, from the IL to the World Series
The Braves had a very slow start to the 2021 season, as did d’Arnaud. The bat was there at times, but d’Arnaud was limited by his body for most of the regular season. A torn thumb ligament suffered on May 1 kept Arnaud out for three months and lasted for the rest of the year. During his absence, the Braves rode a rollercoaster of a season, losing Ronald Acuña, adding several new free agents and barely cracking a postseason berth. When Travis returned on August 11, he was greeted with a three-year extension that extended through the 2024 season.
D’Arnaud’s final stat line for the year was .220/.284/.388 with 7 home runs and 26 RBI. While that was down considerably from his previous year, d’Arnaud returned to playing for the Braves when he appeared in October. While he wasn’t the most important offensive contributor during the 2021 NLDS and NLCS, he was behind the plate every game from the first pitch of the playoffs to the last. He most famously names Tyler Matzek’s dominant relief outing in Game 6 of the NLCS and Ian Anderson’s five-inning no-hitter in the World Series. d’Arnaud also hit some timely home runs in the World Series in games one and three. His postseason stat line was .292/.292.583.
Travis in 2022, a year of hits and home runs
Just like 2021, the World Series champion Braves got off to another slow start. So slow, in fact, that it led to one of the tightest divisional races in recent memory. The Braves sank below .500 through the first two months of the season and looked like a much different team than we previously saw. However, as we all know, things changed for the Braves on June 1 after manager Brian Snitker called a team meeting. D’Arnaud helped start all 14 games won hit streak with a two-run game on June 2 which included a Grand Slam and 6 RBI. The Braves slowly closed in on the Mets throughout the rest of June. He eventually finished 4.5 games back of the division lead. The Braves played excellent baseball in the second half down the stretch as did Travis. He and William Contreras put up the best offensive numbers for a catching duo in the majors during that time as well.
The battle for the NL East only intensified over the final months of the season, with several ups and downs for Atlanta along the way. It all came to a head in the penultimate series of the year against the Mets at Truist Park, where the division will likely be decided then. After the Braves had won the first two games of the series, the Mets took a 3-1 lead in the second inning of Game 3. However, as the bottom of the third inning progressed, d’Arnaud displayed one of the most disciplined and professional hitting of any Braves hitter to date. With the bases loaded and two out, Mets pitcher Chris Bassit walked Matt Olson to make it a one-run game. D’Arnaud arrived in a crucial place with the opportunity to turn the match completely. After an 8-pitch 2-2 count, d’Arnaud hit a single up the middle and drove in two runs to make it a 4-3 game. The Mets never recovered from that inning and lost 5-3. The Braves won the NL East later that week.
D’Arnaud quickly returned to work in the NLDS against the Phillies in Game 1, with two hits, including a home run, and three RBI. The Braves lost Game 1 7-6 and looked to redeem themselves in Game 2. In the bottom of the sixth with two on with two outs and the count tied, D’Arnaud showed extreme discipline at the plate. Finally, d’Arnaud was able to single up the middle and add another insurance run similar to his performance against the Mets. In a 9-1 loss in Game 3, d’Arnaud went 2-4 with two hits and raised his postseason average over .300. Finally, in the fourth game, d’Arnaud hit another home run raise his postseason average by .375/.375.938. The highest stat line for any player on the team. Unfortunately, the Braves lost the game and the series 8-3 with Travis making the final out in painful fashion.
A final word about ToD
Despite this loss, it shouldn’t take away from the fact that d’Arnaud has been one of the Braves’ most consistent, on-point and hard hitters over the past three years. Through seasons of injury, off days and all the hardships of a 162 game season, Travis has been one of the mainstays of the team. Offensive catcher is a dying breed, but d’Arnaud stands out both at the plate and in the clubhouse. He’s an unsung hero for Atlanta deserving of much more recognition than he’s been given.
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