The Atlanta Braves are fortunate enough to have one of the best catching duos in the majors with William Contreras and Travis d’Arnaud. Often times, a catcher is a leader in the clubhouse. The catcher is the one calling the big pitches in crucial games, throwing out runners that can make or break a series, and doing their part in the batters box. When d’Arnaud made the last out in this year’s NLDS, it was a bittersweet end to a great year for the veteran catcher. Here is a dive into how important d’Arnaud has been to the Braves and beyond.
Travis in 2020, the beginning of a post season powerhouse.
D’Arnaud came to Atlanta following a decent year with the Rays along with mostly average offensive numbers. He did have some breakout moments in the summer of 2019 including one three homer game. However, when the pandemic shortened the 2020 season, so did d’Arnaud and his bat. Over the 60 game season, D’Arnaud batted .321/.386/.533 with 9 homers in 165 plate appearances. In the 2020 NLDS against the Marlins, d’Arnaud put up a .600 batting average with 7 RBI’s on six hits and an OPS of 2.092. If an NLDS MVP award existed, D’Arnaud would easily be top three in voting. The 2020 NLDS would be the beginning of d’Arnaud’s history of play off consistency. The Braves lost the 2020 NLCS to the Dodgers in seven games, but it wouldn’t be the last time we saw Travis come through in the post season.
Travis in 2021, from the IL to the World Series
The Braves had a very slow start to the season in 2021, 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 1st put d’Arnaud out for three months and lingered throughout the rest of the year. During his absence, the Braves rode a roller coaster of a season, losing Ronald Acuna, adding several new free agents, and barely squeaking out a post season berth. When Travis returned on August 11th, he was greeted with a three-year extension that expanded into the 2024 season.
D’Arnaud’s final stat line for the year was .220/.284/.388 with 7 home runs and 26 RBIs. While this was down considerably from his previous year, d’Arnaud yet again came through for the Braves when October showed up. While he wasn’t the biggest offensive contributor during the 2021 NLDS and NLCS, he was behind the dish every game from the first pitch of the play offs to the very last. Most famously calling Tyler Matzek’s dominate relief outing in game 6 of the NLCS and Ian Anderson’s five no hit innings in the world series. d’Arnaud also came up with some timely home runs in the world series in games one and three. His post-season stat line was .292/.292.583.
Travis in 2022, a year of clutch hits and homers
Just like in 2021, the World Series champion Braves got off to another slow start. So slow in fact, it leads to one of the tightest divisional races in recent memory. The Braves sank below .500 for the first two months of the season and looked like a very different team from the one we saw previously. As we all know however, things turned around for the Braves on June 1st after a team meeting was called by manager Brian Snitker. D’Arnaud helped kick start the eventual 14 game win streak with a two homer game on June 2nd that included a grand slam and 6 RBI’s. The Braves slowly etched closer to the Mets during the rest of June. Eventually finishing 4.5 games out of the divisional lead. The Braves played excellent baseball down the second half of the stretch as did Travis. He and William Contreras put up the best offensive numbers by a catching duo in the majors during this time as well.
The battle for the NL East only tightened during the final few months of the season, with several highs and lows for Atlanta along the way. Everything came to a head in the second to last series of the year against the Mets at Truist Park, where the division would likely be decided then and there. After the Braves had taken the first two games of the series, the Mets got out to an early 3-1 lead by the second inning of game three. However, as the bottom of the third inning rolled around, d’Arnaud displayed one of the most disciplined and professional at bats by any Braves batter to date. With the bases loaded and two out, Mets pitcher Chris Bassit walked in Matt Olson to make it a one run game. D’Arnaud came up in a crucial spot with a chance to flip the game completely around. After an 8 pitch at bat with a 2-2 count, d’Arnaud hit a single up the middle and drove in two runs making it a 4-3 game. The Mets never recovered following this inning and lost 5-3. The Braves won the NL East later that week.
D’Arnaud quickly went back to work in the NLDS against the Phillies in game one, with two hits including a home run and three RBI’s. The Braves lost game one 7-6 and looked to redeem themselves in game two. In the bottom of the sixth with two on two out and an even count, D’Arnaud displayed extreme discipline at the plate. Eventually, d’Arnaud was able to shoot a single up the middle and add on yet another insurance run in a similar fashion to his performance against the Mets. In a 9-1 loss in game three, d’Arnaud went 2-4 with two hits and raised his post season average above .300. Finally, in Game Four, d’Arnaud collected another home run to raised his post season average at .375/.375.938. The highest stat line for any player on the team. Unfortunately, the Braves lost the game and series 8-3 with Travis making the final out in painful fashion.
A final word on TdA
Despite this loss, it shouldn’t take away from the fact that d’Arnaud has been one of the most consistent, timely, and clutch hitters on the Braves for the last three years. From injury ridden seasons, no rest days, and all the hardships of a 162 game season, Travis has been one of the pillars of the team. The offensive catcher is a dying breed, yet d’Arnaud sets himself apart both at the plate and in the clubhouse. He is an unsung hero for Atlanta worthy of much more recognition than he’s given.