The two deepest rosters are usually the last ones standing in the World Series. With the additions of Josh Donaldson and Austin Riley, the Braves have a significantly better lineup from top to bottom than they did a year ago. It’s also allowed them to turn Johan Camargo into a weapon off the bench. But his move to a super-utility role hasn’t gone as well as either side would have liked, showing that not every player is made to be a pinch-hitter. Those who are shouldn’t be taken for granted.
I won’t have to convince anybody in Braves Country to appreciate Charlie Culberson. Dansby Swanson’s doppelganger has rightfully earned the name “Charlie Clutch” for his late-game heroics. That name was given to him last year, probably around the time he hit a walk-off homer in consecutive games. He hasn’t provided the storybook endings yet this season but has been even more productive at the plate in his pinch-hitting role.
Culberson’s slashing .362/.404/.638. He has three homers and 12 RBIs in 47 at-bats. There isn’t a player on the team Brian Snitker should feel more comfortable with in the ninth inning. Aside from that, Culberson is the definition of a super-utility man. We’ve all seen his success on the mound; he’s also the emergency catcher and is often asked to play first if Freddie Freeman needs a day off. Charlie Clutch is what every team competing for a World Series needs on their roster.
But contenders need more than one of them. The Braves have been fortunate to have two so far. Matt Joyce signed with Atlanta right before the start of the season to fill the final spot on their bench after Adam Duvall continued to struggle in spring training. A journeyman of sorts, he has put up some quality stat lines in his 12-year career, including a 25 home run campaign with the Athletics in 2017.
Like Culberson, Joyce appears to enjoy the scrappy role of coming off the bench and doing a particular job. Last Tuesday night against the Pirates is the perfect example. Joyce came up in a run-scoring situation with the Braves down a few – desperately needing a hit to get things going. Quickly, he found himself down two strikes. Understanding the situation, Joyce choked up on the bat and peppered one through the left side of the infield where the shift left a hole for an RBI single. That got the wheels churning for the Atlanta offense, as they went on to route the Pirates 12-5.
These kinds of plays may go unnoticed, but throughout a 162-game season, they can be the difference between a 90-win team and 80-win team. The Braves are not only deep one through eight in the lineup; they have multiple game-changing weapons they can turn to off the bench and have the opportunity to add another if Johan Camargo can begin feeling more comfortable in his new role.