The biggest moment for Travis d’Arnaud in 2023 came in, unfortunately, the Braves’ final win of the year. In Game 2 of the NLDS against the rival Phillies, “Lil D” stepped up to the plate against ace righty Zack Wheeler in the seventh inning with one on, one out, and the Braves down by three runs. What came next sent the Atlanta crowd into a frenzy that evening.
That was the only hit in eight plate appearances during the four-game series against Philly, but he made it count, as he so often has in clutch situations across his four seasons in a Braves uniform. In fact, it was his seventh home run to go with six doubles, 20 RBI, and a .492 SLG over 35 postseason games in that span. Simply put, d’Arnaud gets it done in October.
As far as his entire 2023 campaign goes, it certainly wasn’t his best overall, particularly considering that he was an All-Star the year prior. Compared to 2022, d’Arnaud saw a drop in batting average from .268 to .225 and in OPS from .791 to .685. It’s worth pointing out that the veteran backstop got off to a red-hot start, going 11 for 33 with three doubles over his first eight games while seeing time at catcher and DH. Then, a concussion - the fourth of his career - knocked d'Arnaud out for the next month.
By the time d’Arnaud returned to the lineup on May 10, Marcell Ozuna had begun to get hot in the DH role while Sean Murphy was crushing it as the everyday catcher. The catcher-DH rotation that had been instituted between Murphy and d’Arnaud at the beginning of the season was a short-lived thing of the past, and the latter was relegated to the No. 2 catcher gig.
""He's one of those guys that leads by example." "- Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker
That said, d’Arnaud did play a good bit more than most “backup” catchers typically do. He made 57 starts and got into 66 of the Braves’ 136 games from May 10th forward. Though he did rip 11 homers and drove in 34 runs over that time, his .209/.282/.393 slash line was well below career norms. Injuries have been a recurrent thing for d’Arnaud during his 11-year career, and it’s reasonable to believe that his early-season concussion threw his performance off for quite a while last summer.
There is some evidence to suggest that d’Arnaud experienced more than his share of tough luck with the bat in 2023 too. Despite seeing an uptick in several underlying metrics compared to the prior year, the numbers lagged well behind expected outcomes. One might even say that d’Arnaud had great fortune in 2022 before dealing with an overcorrection in 2023.
AVG / xBA
SLG / xSLG
.268 / .247
.472 / .412
.225 / .253
.397 / .441
Showing definite signs of decline on the defensive side, d’Arnaud saw a drop in fielding percentage, pitch-framing measures, and percentage of base stealers caught. Still, his immense experience behind the plate and how well he works with the pitching staff cannot be measured statistically. Murphy is by far the better defensive catcher, but d’Arnaud is still a great complement behind him and provides critical clubhouse leadership, being "one of those guys that leads by example" according to Manager Brian Snitker.
The Braves front office completely understands the value d’Arnaud still brings to the club. This past July, GM Alex Anthopoulos inked him to an $8MM deal for 2024 that includes a team option for the same amount in 2025.
Set to turn age 35 about a week before pitchers and catchers report to spring training next month, d’Arnaud could wind up finishing out his career as a Brave. Atlanta fans should not mind that one bit.