For Brooks Conrad, the 2010 season was one of extreme highs, as well as extreme lows. Quite literally, the 25th man to make the onto the Braves roster out of Spring Training, there was not a lot of expectation out of Conrad other than as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner, and the occasional utility infield backup role. However, the game of baseball is very much a marathon, and with a rash of injuries to the Braves' lineup, including the annual Chipper Jones injury, and a horribly timed injury to All-Star Martin Prado, resulted in a lot of playing time that Conrad normally wouldn't have seen.
What have you done for me lately? Although most will remember Brooks Conrad for the latest and last memory, the forgettable postseason defense which contributed to the demise of the Braves' playoff hopes, it very much should not be ignored that without some of the contributions Conrad made to what was an overall poor offense throughout the season, there wouldn't have been playoffs for the Braves.
Brooks Conrad was awarded a +0.7 WAR by FanGraphs (which factors in his supposed "bad" defense, putting him over Baseball-Reference's +0.5 WAR assessment), which is to say that Brooks Conrad statistically contributed to seven-tenths of a win throughout all of 2010.
Throw such statistical jargon out the window for a moment, and let's look at some game logs:
- May 20, 2010 - Bases loaded, one out, bottom of the ninth, Braves down, 9-6. Brooks Conrad hits a walk-off grand slam off of Francisco Cordero, to left-center, and the Braves win, 10-9.
- June 12, 2010 - Runners on first and third, one out, top of the ninth. Braves and Twins tied, 2-2. Brooks Conrad takes a gigantic home-run cut for strike one, but promptly drops down a squeeze bunt on the next pitch to score Gregor Blanco from third, and successfully reaches first base in the process. Braves go on to win, 3-2.
- July 24, 2010 - Bases loaded, one out, top of the eighth, Braves and Marlins tied, 5-5. Brooks Conrad hits a go-ahead grand slam off of Burke Badenhop, to deep right, and the Braves go on to win, 10-5.
- August 10, 2010 - Runner on first, no outs, top of the ninth, Braves down 2-1 to the Houston Astros. Brooks Conrad hits a go-ahead, two-run home run to deep right field off of Matt Lindstrom. Braves go on to win, 4-2. (This is also the game where Chipper Jones tore his ACL, thrusting Brooks Conrad into game as substitute)
- August 13, 2010 - Nobody on, one out, bottom of the seventh. Braves and Dodgers tied 0-0. Brooks Conrad hits a go-ahead home run to deep center field off of Hiroki Kuroda. This would be the only run of the game, and the Braves win 1-0.
And here we have five Braves wins, where the outcome was decidedly made by Brooks Conrad's bat. And this excludes the scenarios in which Brooks Conrad delivered a game-tying hit, a base hit with two outs in a close game, or the instances where he was inserted as a pinch-runner and subsequently scored. I'm not giving 100% of the credit to Conrad for winning these games single-handedly, because in many of these instances, teammates still had to get on base. But someone still has to hit the ball, in order to make a splash. Nor am I implying that the Braves would guarantee have lost the three games they were tied in, but the two of these in which they faced deficits, had they not been overcome, the Braves finish the season 89-73, and there's no playoffs.
In conclusion, Brooks Conrad contributed heavily to five Braves wins, to which without but two of them, would have prevented the Braves from even making the playoffs. It's okay as baseball fans to be upset with the errors in Game 3 of the NLDS, but try not to forget that the guy you're unhappy with, was a huge reason why the Braves were even there.
2010 as a whole, was Brooks Conrad's finest season ever. In mixed duty, Conrad finished out the season with a career-high slash line of .250/.324./487. Regardless of role, an .811 OPS is nothing to sneeze at. Mostly due to the fact that out of his 39 total hits on the season, 20 were for extra bases, meaning yes, Brooks Conrad hit more XBH than singles for the year. He drove in 33 RBI in 177 total plate appearances.
Power off the bench was his specialty, and his appropriate role, before the injuries thrust him into excessive duty. In his 64 total pinch-hit plate appearances, Conrad delivered seven extra-base hits, three of them being homers, and two of those, being the aforementioned grand slams. Simply put, he earned the moniker of "Clutch Conrad," with his outstanding clutch stats based on Baseball-Reference's designation, being a .313/.365/.750 hitter in late and close situations, and in overall high leverage situations, batting a cool .341/.420/.750.
Expect to see Brooks Conrad next year as he is still under team control. As long as the rest of the Braves can maintain healthy, Conrad can excel at his role of being the all-important, switch-hitting, clutch, power bat off the bench, and be used more sparingly to avoid being over-exposed.