Stephen Vogt’s numbers while with the Atlanta Braves weren’t eye-catching, but he apparently played a substantial role behind the scenes in the team’s late-season run. Atlanta acquired Vogt shortly before the Trade Deadline in hopes that he could help bridge the gap until Travis d’Arnaud was ready to return from the Injured List. What they got was a key clubhouse presence that got hurt and couldn’t stick it out on the field, but stuck around in the dugout all the way through the title clincher.
Vogt began the season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he appeared in 52 games as a backup catcher. Atlanta acquired Vogt on July 17 in exchange for minor league first baseman Mason Berne and immediately added him to their active roster, replacing Jonathan Lucroy, who had just replaced William Contreras a few days earlier.
The bar was low coming in given how little production the Braves had received from the catcher’s position. Vogt paired with Kevan Smith and didn’t produce much offensively but did a good job with the pitching staff and behind the scenes in the clubhouse. Vogt did have a fine 0.4 fWAR in 151 PAs in Arizona, and the 85 wRC+ (.300ish wOBA and xwOBA) he carried into the trade actually seemed pretty appealing for a team that had a .251 wOBA and .271 xwOBA from its catchers to that point.
2021 Season results
ESPN’s Jeff Passan outlined the impact that Vogt had behind the scenes following Atlanta’s World Series win. Vogt along with Joc Pederson played a huge part in lifting the team’s spirits as they struggled to turn things around. As outlined by Passan, Vogt’s alter ego, “The Ref”, made an appearance prior to a game on September 9. Somehow fittingly, Vogt pumped himself up as much as anyone else, as hit the only two homers of his Braves tenure before suffering a season-ending hip injury later in the game. Despite his injury, the Braves kept Vogt with the team throughout their postseason run. He was DFA’d on October 8 to make room for Terrance Gore on their NLDS roster.
Stephen Vogt 2021 Stats
|2 Tms - 78||.195||.283||.333||10.9||23.5||64||.270||.289|
Vogt actually did terribly as a Brave, clubhouse stuff aside. Including his two-homer game, he only managed a 29 wRC+ in 87 PAs, which dragged his Braves tenure into -0.2 fWAR territory. The Braves wanted an offensive upgrade in addition to whatever else Vogt could provide, but they didn’t get it, except in that one fateful game. While that poor hitting was the result of substantial xwOBA underperformance (.215 wOBA, .270 xwOBA), even on an inputs basis, all Vogt offered the Braves was pretty much what they were already getting.
What went right? What went wrong?
Vogt’s season could be an example of a player having value beyond his numbers. His injury was unfortunate, but his addition apparently helped change the tone of a clubhouse that had to deal with a number of obstacles throughout the season.
On the field, though, not much went right. Vogt at least framed okay, and he’s another guy with a huge DRC+/wRC+ gap (like Kevan Smith) — his DRC+ as a Brave was 83 compared to the 29 wRC+ that suggests there might have been something else going on offensively, but in the end, he didn’t give the Braves much between the lines. The clubhouse may have been another story.
Road to the Title
Vogt actually had a few big games for the Braves, though unsurprisingly given his horrible batting results, he still finished with negative WPA and cWPA after the trade. Nothing, however, tops his September 9 affair — from the performance as “The Ref” before the game, to the two homers, and the unfortunate season-ending injury. At least Vogt went out on top, with a pretty epic 0.32 percent cWPA game where he homered in his first two PAs before exiting for the season, in a game the Braves ended up winning by just a run when Joc Pederson walked them off in the 10th.
Outlook for 2022
Vogt is a free agent again and just turned 37 years old. He hasn’t said publicly whether or not he will seek another opportunity but seems like a good bet to stick around the game, even if his playing days are over. The Braves are likely set with their signing of Manny Piña and extending of Travis d’Arnaud, but Vogt should have a role somewhere — a .288 xwOBA for a backup catcher that doesn’t kill you framing-wise isn’t good, but it’s not horrendous, either.