Adam Duvall, the good soldier who rediscovered himself in Gwinnett last season while whining not one little bit, didn’t make as much money these past seven days as Dustin Johnson, but great potential is there. He is on the final year of a contract that will pay him a prorated portion of $3.2 million this season. All he need do to knock any arbitrator or negotiator out of his leather-bound seat is produce the evidence of his three-home run games Sept. 2 against Boston and Wednesday against the Marlins. On Game 43 of the season Wednesday, his nine RBIs increased his season total 45% to 29.
The Braves offense had been averaging 5.4 runs per game entering Wednesday. Then, on the night Ozzie Albies returned from a month-long injury absence, its scores 29. Clearly, the 5-foot-8 Albies must be biggest difference-maker since the wheel.
Let’s pause for one moment and think how one game, especially in a 60-game season, is bound to shape the statistical profile of an entire team.
Take a personal favorite, run differential. By going plus-20 on Wednesday, the Braves went from plus-32 to plus-52 this season, increasing that total by 61% overnight. Just as quickly, they jumped over four American League teams that led them in run differential the day before, and trail just the Dodgers (plus-101) and San Diego (plus-65) and the White Sox (plus-59) in all of ball.
On Tuesday, the Braves didn’t lead the majors in team OPS. By the close of business day Wednesday, seven home runs later, they did (.836). They made instant gains in team batting average (T3 in majors, .270, going up seven points in a day), home runs (third, 75) and runs (second, 255).
This single game will stand as this spectacular outlier in the shortened 2020 Braves season. Whenever the offense struggles – as every lineup is bound to do – this game must be sacrificed for statistical purity when explaining the struggle. Prepare yourself for the sentence that begins: “When you factor out the 29 runs scored against the Marlins Sept. 9 ...”
This one 29-9 victory is the perfect litmus test for how you as a fan basically regard this team.
Either you’re fired up about a Braves offense now as whole as it has been all this confused summer, the 29 runs emphasizing its ability to lay waste to an opponent.
Or, you looked into your half-empty glass of Cran-Apple the next morning and noted that the Marlins scored nine themselves. And that Tommy Milone has made two starts for the Braves in which he has been supported by at least a 10-run inning and doesn’t have the first win to show for it. The Braves do not have solutions in their rotation, they have anomalies.
They are not going to score 29 every night, and thus, the concern over the starters remains intact.
But when they do score 29, you also must enjoy a good chuckle, given that amusement is so hard to come by now.