Darrell Evans: An Overlooked Season

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Darrell Evans was one of the more underrated power hitters of his time. He is definitely underrated in Atlanta Braves history. During his career, he averaged 25 homers and 20 doubles per season. While never one to hit for a high average, Evans created worth through his patience at the plate. He only struck out over 100 times in a season three times and put up five campaigns of 100 walks or more. A career WAR of 22.9 as a Brave places him in the top 30 all-time. He holds a higher mark than Rafael Furcal, Felipe Alou, Jeff Blauser, and Ron Gant. However, as impressive as all of this is, nothing would have been possible without his 1973 season. He put up spectacular numbers, leading to a bronze medal on our list of best Braves offensive seasons.

In 1973, Evans made his first All-Star Team and finished in the top 20 of MVP voting. He hit .281, launching 41 homers and tallying 104 RBI. Both of the latter marks were good for third in the league. His WAR of 9.0 was second to Hall of Famer Joe Morgan for best among position players, and third overall. He was also graded as the second-best defensive player by WAR, finishing a tad behind Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Bill Russell. Sealing all of this were his league-leading 124 walks and 143 runs created. Yes, Darrell Evans created more runs than both Willie Stargell and league MVP Pete Rose. Let’s dive in and see how.

April: A Rough Start for Darrell Evans

Ironically enough, Evans would not have a good start to his season. Through his first 20 games of the campaign, he hit a lackluster .229 (16-for-70). His power was somewhat on display, as four of those hits were doubles, and five left the yard. He scored 11 runs and notched a triple to boot. However, a concern that contemporaries may have been partial to had to do with his strikeouts. He whiffed 11 times, leading to a strikeout percentage of over 15. Translated over the rest of the season, this would not have been welcome news. He also hit a mere .200 on balls in play. So, it seems that luck and skill were not on his side, at least for this stretch.

May: Rebounding

Fortunately, Darrell Evans managed to find some of what he’d been missing. May brought new life to the slugger. He hit .274 (29-for-106) and slugged .519. His power had not abandoned him either, as he cracked six more homers and six more doubles. He was something of an RBI machine, posting 17 for the month. 16 walks and a .369 on-base percentage speak to a much more patient approach at the plate. He still struck out 14 times, however, this presented a near 2% decline in his strikeout percentage. Overall, things were looking up, and they were about to absolutely explode.

June: Darrell Evans Explodes

In June, Evans posted spectacular numbers as his power finally mixed with consistent contact. He terrorized opposing pitchers to the tune of a .330 average (35-for-106), crushing nine home runs. In terms of production with runners on base, Evans was as good as anyone. He drove in 22 runs during the month and scored 24 of his own. His patient approach continued, notching 31 walks in 140 plate appearances. This translates to a walk percentage of 22.1%. These are definitely Player of The Month type statistics, but one baffling thing remains. He struck out 24 times, raising his monthly percentage to 22.6%. Frankly, when he whiffed, he whiffed hard. Nonetheless, his other statistics did more than enough to cover this blemish.

July: Another Terrific Month

As July rolled around, the Braves found themselves on the outside looking in. A 33-45 mark placed them 18 games back in the NL West. None of this did anything to deter Darrell Evans, however. He put up a terrific slash line of .278/.414/.635 with 10 homers and 25 RBI. A staunch 25 more walks helped fuel an OPS of 1.049. He had 32 hits and 29 runs scored to go along with seven doubles. Luck turned on him a bit, as he hit a mere .250 on balls in play. However, he did manage to lower his strikeout total to 19, dropping his monthly percentage to a tad over 16%. This, combined with the aforementioned slugging and OPS numbers, proves why he continued to be a valuable commodity in the everyday lineup.

August: A Hard Decline

In August, the Braves had their best month, going 17-8. Ironically, Evans had one of his weakest. He slashed .253/.430/.451 with an OPS of .880. These are sharp declines from the previous months, and they weren’t the only ones. His power fell away, leaving him with only four homers and two doubles. He still managed 23 hits, 15 RBI, and 29 walks in 25 games. That said, he also found his penchant for strikeouts again, whiffing 19 times in 91 at-bats. This translates to a strikeout percentage of a tad over 20%. Sustainability had to have been a concern at this point, as Evans and the Braves went barreling towards the finish line.

September: A Return

September brought another losing record for the Braves. For Darrell Evans, it brought a return to form. A slash line of .299/.372/.514 is reflective of this. Not only that, but he hit .298 on balls put in play as the hand of Lady Luck turned in his favor once more. He launched seven homers with 13 RBI and 32 hits in 26 games. His normally patient approach at the plate was different this month. He only walked 13 times in 122 plate appearances, leading to a percentage between 10 and 11. While this isn’t the worst ever, it was far off of his terrific numbers from earlier in the season. This is, thankfully, overshadowed by his other work during the month.

Summary: An Ageless, Underrated Campaign

All in all, Darrell Evans wrapped up 1973 with a WAR of 9.0. Even during his notable seasons with other teams, this mark remained nearly untouchable. He approached it rather succinctly in 1974, as he put up yet another season of 20-plus homers and 120-plus walks. However, his average slipped to .240 and he only mustered 79 RBI. He also never came close to breaking the 167 hits he put up in 1973. It would take over a decade before he broke 150 on the OPS+ scale again. Even his years with the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers fell short. Simply put, Evans had his career season in 1973. It now ranks as one of the least talked about greatest seasons by one of the least talked about power hitters in Braves history.

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Players Mentioned:

Darrell Evans, Rafael Furcal, Felipe Alou, Jeff Blauser, Ron Gant, Joe Morgan, Willie Stargell, Pete Rose, Bill Russell