Braves One Year Wonder: Josh Donaldson

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Braves One Year Wonder, Josh Donaldson aka The Bringer of Rain. Fresh in our minds, the fact of him now being a one-year wonder may sting a bit if the season ever gets started. As the Braves reminisced on a 2018 season that seemingly exceeded everyone’s expectations, they knew a move had to be made. On November 26th, 2018, the Braves signed Josh Donaldson to a one-year deal with high hopes and star aspirations. Rob wrote about the signing here.

The Back of His Baseball Card

The week before the 2019 season got under way, Donaldson brought hope to many with his confidence when he told everyone to take a look at the back of his baseball card. This baseball card he referred to had a number of accolades: an MVP award, 2 silver sluggers, and 3 All-Star appearances to go along with over 200 career home runs. After struggling with injuries that shortened his 2017 and 2018 seasons, the Braves were hoping to get his career back on track in 2019.

Braves One Year Wonder, Josh Donaldson: 2019 Season

Excitement filled the air. The Braves had shown a glimmer of what they could do the year before, now they were ready for another push with playoff experience and a retooled roster. The young kids, Ronald Acuña Jr, Ozzie Albies, Max Fried, Mike Soroka, and more were all ready to show the MLB they had what it takes. In steps newly minted Braves third-baseman Josh Donaldson. Donaldson finished the season with a .259/.379/.521 slash line, good for a .900 OPS, with 37 home runs and a whopping 100 walks.

Ryan wrote a phenomenal player review of Donaldson’s 2019 season here, but I’ll summarize it a bit. While JD got off to a slow start, leaving many fans quick to jump on the “waste of money” bandwagon, he quickly changed back into the MVP caliber player we all once knew. Ryan pointed out 3 stretches where Josh was a man with his pants on fire!

  • July 3-15: Braves won 8 of 9 and Josh carried a 1.324 OPS
  • August 17-25: Braves won 8 straight and Josh carried a 1.033 OPS
  • August 30-September 7: Braves won 8 straight games and Josh carried a 1.472 OPS

It can be argued that Donaldson “flipped the switch” at various points throughout the season, but I personally like to point to his fight with Joe Musgrove on June 10th (video below). It seemed to fire him up and send his bat to a new level. It certainly broke him out of a big slump, as he was 3-32 to start the month and then went 19-51 with 7 home runs over the next 12 games.

Let’s not forget one of the most important aspects of a third baseman: defense. JD garnered high praise for his defense, which was simply miraculous. He finished the year with +15 defensive runs saved, good for 3rd place among MLB third baseman behind Matt Chapman and Nolan Arenado, some very good company.

Raining on Our Parade

All in all, Donaldson was able to put up a 6.0 WAR season and earn 11th in MVP voting. I believe that without Donaldson the Braves don’t make the playoffs in 2019. Even though the season ended in disappointment, it wasn’t until Donaldson signed with the Twins that I felt the real loss. Whether we get baseball any time soon or not, I wish the best for Mr. Donaldson, but hope the Braves don’t come to regret sending the Spring showers away from Truist park.

I’m going to miss this…

Thanks for reading on Braves One Year Wonder, Josh Donaldson. If you enjoyed this piece, you can find all our One Year Wonders and Wankers in our Braves history category here!

Author: Matt P

Hello, I’m Matt Pocza! I am a 4th year finance and economics student at the University of Florida and I love the Atlanta Braves. I’ve played baseball my entire life, and I am a sidearm pitcher for the club team at Florida. I also enjoy scuba diving, football and business. Follow me on twitter @braves_rumors!

12 thoughts on “Braves One Year Wonder: Josh Donaldson”

  1. JC’d


    Thanks for this one, Ryan. I was glad when they rid themselves of Boone, but that really was a lousy return they got.

    I’m with you coop. And when my aging body occasionally manages to sleep a little later, my aging dog wakes me up.

  2. Matt writes over at Outfield Fly Rule and is a great Twitter follow. This is an interesting debate and one I hadn’t considered until now.

  3. What a deal they got…fools.

    Did you know that alongside the new Maserati for his mother he also bought a diamond choker. For her, presumably.

  4. hindsight is 20/20, (or in this case 2020?), but that contract may wind up being a bad deal for the Twins. I guess it’ll come down to how JD ages. Maybe a year off will be good for his body and he puts up 12 WAR in those 3 years. Who knows.

  5. @4 Right, and that’s my issue with simply saying that if guys don’t play this year, they’ll simply continue to follow their aging curve. One would think players’ careers will look much different than they otherwise would if they got a full year to rest their body.

    Anybody see this?

    EDIT: I originally posted the wrong tweet.

    Uhh, aren’t the contracts guaranteed? The only party that loses if the season isn’t played is the owners.

  6. I’m not a fan of criticizing teams who spent money on player contracts because they wanted to win in 2020, then saw the season hugely shortened due to a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. I’m proud of the Dodgers for pushing their chips to the center of the table. Good for the Twins for taking a 100-win team and wanting to improve it by getting the best 3B on the market! Literally everyone in baseball is going to suffer as a result of the pandemic; everyone in the world is suffering.

    I don’t think it makes much sense to say that a team like the Twins who spent a bunch of money on a 34-year-old who’s really good at baseball did something dumb, just like I don’t think it makes sense to say that the Pirates, who basically did nothing to improve their embarrassingly bad team, were “smart.”

    Sometimes life rolls you snake eyes. That happened to all 30 teams. I still think that every team that made a win-now move that was justifiable in December deserves praise, not blame, for having done so, even if they won’t reap the benefits they thought they would. All moves have some amount of risk, but the people who have the courage to take reasonable risks are the ones worth rooting for.

  7. I know Matt well, and he’s not the critical type. However, he makes a valid point. In that scenario, the Donaldson deal for them is less than ideal because the thought was that he’d put up the numbers the first 2 years to justify the AAV of the 4.

  8. But once again, that assumes that taking a year off doesn’t affect the aging curve, which we don’t have any evidence to say that it does or doesn’t. Will Donaldson have a much better age 35 through 37 because he didn’t have a age-34 season? I don’t know. Players continually talk about the grind of 162 being the reason their bodies break down over their careers. What if you get a reprieve halfway through your decline phase?

    And once again, I refer back to the Roger Clemens situation where he specifically didn’t play April and May of 2006 so that he’d be better in a shortened season (and, indeed, was). Chipper Jones missed most of August, and then September and October of his age-38 season with a torn ACL, and then came back in his age-39 season and had an even better year while playing the entire season. Did the torn ACL actually help? There are lots of anecdotes, but I don’t think people can confidently say one way or the other whether this won’t have a positive impact on their careers, so I’m not sure it’s fair to say that a missed season hurts this team or helps this team, and I see a lot of people trying to make that point.

  9. @7 Thanks for the share, Alex. Gosh, I hope that is indeed what is happening. If everyone put a little bit on the table to make sure a season happens, I know I’ll be very happy. At a time like this, America needs baseball, and I would think baseball needs America.

  10. Donaldson was a terrific player for the Braves–much better than anyone could reasonably have anticipated. In addition to his booming bat and stellar glove, many credited him with bringing needed swagger to the team. I’m thoroughly agnostic on the value of such things to team performance, but I do like to see players having fun. My
    wife the traditionalist, on the other hand, really didn’t like the umbrella. She prefers the quiet dignity of an Aaron or the cool calm of a Glavine.

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