Daulton Varsho Is on a Second-Half Tear

Daulton Varsho

Daulton Varsho Is Having a Monster Second Half

It was Sunday, July 11, 2021 — the last day before the All-Star Break. The site was Dodger Stadium. Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Daulton Varsho stepped to the plate in the top of the seventh with then-teammate Stephen Vogt on first, nobody out, and Scott Alexander on the mound. The night before, the Dodgers had embarrassed the Diamondbacks, 22–1. Varsho, at that point, was 0-for-2 in the game, which had dropped his 2021 slash line to .134/.245/.171. He was 11-for-82 on the season with three doubles and had not homered since September 15, 2020 in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels.

Alexander opened with a sinker down the middle that Varsho bunted foul. The next pitch was another sinker, slightly farther outside. Varsho took a full swing this time, getting under it enough to send a deep drive to left-center. Cody Bellinger tracked it to the wall but ran out of room. Gone.

Although a late-inning meltdown — capped by a three-run walk-off home run by Max Muncy — handed the Dodgers a 7–4 victory, the game gave the reeling Diamondbacks something positive heading into the All-Star Break. “We were in that game against one of the best teams in the big leagues,” Varsho said. “I know it didn’t work out. We lost that game…(but) it was a good game. It was a quality game for all of us all around.”

Turning Point of the Season for Daulton Varsho

That home run was the beginning of a gigantic turnaround for Varsho. From that game forward, Varsho has slashed .288/.373/.613 (32-for-111) with seven doubles, a triple, nine homers, 20 RBI, 15 walks, three stolen bases in three attempts, and 22 runs scored. His wOBA (remember — read this on the same scale as OBP) is .406. By comparison, Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper, San Diego Padres utility man Fernando Tatis Jr., and Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jesse Winker are each having offensive seasons for the ages. Here is the season-long wOBA for the three, respectively: .422, .411, .406. To put it bluntly, Varsho has had an incredible second half.

This is all despite cooling off since leaving Denver at the beginning of his team’s recent 10-game road swing. That trip — which ended Sunday — took them to Denver for three games before going to Pittsburgh for three and Philadelphia for four. Had this article run on Monday, August 23, Varsho’s slash line would have been .338/.436/.738 with a .476 wOBA since July 11. Regardless, Varsho is raising eyebrows all over the place.

“I Can Play up Here”

This all means a lot to Varsho. The great stretch he’s had has done a lot for his confidence in the sense of knowing that he can play in the majors. “I can play up here, and that’s pretty cool, but knowing that I can stay up here and play who I am and be the player that I am is the biggest thing.”

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He can definitely play “up here.” Phillies manager Joe Girardi, in the dugout prior to the August 17 series opener against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix, marveled at Varsho’s play. Seeing Daulton play this well had a deeper meaning for Girardi. When Girardi entered the majors as a player in 1989 with the Chicago Cubs, Girardi’s first roommate was Gary Varsho, Daulton’s father. Girardi remarked to reporters before the first game that he came into the league rooming with Gary and then the next thing he knew he was trying to figure out how to get Gary’s son out.

Speaking of Gary — he has played a role in Daulton’s strong second half. Over the All-Star Break, Daulton went to see his parents, who live in Marshfield, Wisconsin. While there, he worked with his dad — who played eight seasons in the majors and has coached ever since — on mental approach strategies as well as some body exercises, both of which Daulton can do every day.

The Second Half Begins

After the break, Daulton Varsho returned to Phoenix for a six-game homestand against two teams that his father played for — the Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the four games he started, he batted .417/.563/.750 with a wOBA of .532 — 5-for-12 with a double, a homer, four walks, two stolen bases, two RBI, and four runs scored.

He rode this momentum into a five-game road trip. The trip ended with a pair against the Texas Rangers, but the first three games were a homecoming for Varsho — Wrigley Field, a four-hour drive from his parents, against the Cubs. Not only did his parents get to see him play, but it is a ballpark Varsho visited several times while growing up. In the three games at Wrigley, Varsho repeated his numbers from the recent homestand — 5-for-12 — but hit for more power, slashing .417/.462/1.000 with a double, two homers, a walk, six RBI, three runs scored, and a .594 wOBA.

Varsho was happy to do well again, of course, but this meant a little bit more. “It’s nice to do it in front of family and friends,” he explained. “This game’s all about family. Knowing that they were able to come there, and that I can do well for them, I think that’s a cool thing for any guy who comes up here.” He continued, “It’s stressful. This whole year has been stressful, but it is stressful throughout any season, whether we’re winning or losing. But knowing that family is always going to be there — I think that is one thing that we don’t talk about enough. It was awesome that my family could experience it. Even though my dad played and coached for a long time, my parents can now kind of relive it again through me, so it’s pretty cool.”

“Running on Straight Adrenaline”

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Three weekends after the second Cubs series, the Diamondbacks hosted a four-game series with the Padres. Varsho had a Friday and Saturday for the ages. On Friday, Varsho hit his first major league walk-off home run, a laser to right field off Craig Stammen. The following day, Varsho caught Tyler Gilbert’s no-hitter. “For two days, I was running on straight adrenaline. That was nothing that I’ve ever felt like in my baseball career, from when I started as a little kid on to now. Going from the walk-off to the no-hitter was (a) special feeling, and it was awesome.”

The Future for Daulton Varsho

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Going forward, the coaches have told him to “Keep going the way you are, (and) everything will fall into place,” according to Varsho. He wants to keep doing well as an individual, but contributing to the success of his team is more important to him. That was another great lesson he took from the aforementioned series at Dodger Stadium. “We can compete with the best teams in our division. In our division, our top three teams are amongst the top three teams in all of baseball.” He mentioned that the team’s inconsistency at closing out games was frustrating, given how many games they had played well enough in to win.

If Varsho can make his play since the All-Star Break be commonplace, that should go a long way toward turning the Diamondbacks around. As mentioned before, that is more important to Varsho than individual success.

And to think it all started with a simple home run in Dodger Stadium the day before the All-Star Break.

Main Photo:
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Players mentioned:

Daulton Varsho, Stephen Vogt, Scott Alexander, Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Bryce Harper, Fernando Tatis Jr., Jesse Winker, Joe Girardi, Gary Varsho, Craig Stammen, Tyler Gilbert

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