“The more I’m around this guy — I knew him as a kid when we signed him, being with him through the course of my time here — I didn’t realize just what all this guy brings to the table,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “His professionalism, the preparation. … I mean, he’s just solid, one of those boring pros that just does everything daily. He’s invested in the pitchers.
“He was a big, strong guy from the get-go obviously; I remember in spring training guys would talk about him just launching balls when he was a kid. And, you know, a lot of times guys mature and their better years are later in their careers. It’s been really fun to watch because it’s great when guys who are so dedicated to their craft and have success. It’s good to see.”
After the Braves signed Flowers at the 2015 Winter Meetings in a deal completely overshadowed by a trade the same day that brought Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte to the Braves from Arizona, Flowers went out last season and set career-highs last season in batting average (.270), on-base percentage (.357) and slugging percentage (.420) in 325 plate appearances and 83 games.
By midseason he’d taken over as the Braves’ primary catcher when aging A.J. Pierzynski struggled and got hurt. Even then, many of us wondered if it was a one-year surprise and whether Flowers was good enough for the Braves to pencil him in as their main catcher for 2017.
The Braves scoured the free-agent and trade markets for someone to either be a primary catcher or to platoon with Flowers, eventually settling on veteran Kurt Suzuki on a one-year deal after options such as left-handed hitters Jason Castro and Brian McCann were deemed too costly.
They’d go with a pair of right-handed veterans in Flowers and Suzuki and at least be confident they had two solid pitch-framers and game-management catchers.
Well, surprise: They’ve gotten more than expected from the duo and particularly from Flowers. Again.
Suzuki hit just .200 before Saturday, but had a .345 OBP and eight RBIs in 45 at-bats, including a decisive three-run homer and go-ahead eighth-inning RBI single in consecutive games April 27-28.
Flowers, meanwhile, has continued to show the Braves made a wise decision signing him to a deal that included salaries of $2 million in 2016, $3 million this season and a third-year $4 million option for 2018 with a $300,000 buyout.
And while Freddie Freeman is obviously the proverbial straw that stirs the Braves’ drink, how about this startling statistic: In the eight Braves wins he played or pinch-hit in before Saturday, Flowers hit .556 (15-for-27) with two doubles, a homer, 12 RBIs, a .613 OBP and .741 slugging percentage (1.354 OPS).
In the 17 losses he’d played or pinch-hit in, he hit .237 (9-for-38) with no extra-base hits, one RBI, .396 OBP and .237 slugging percentage (.633 OPS)