A deep bullpen was one of the biggest strengths of the Atlanta Braves in 2020 and Darren O’Day played an important part both on and off the field. O’Day entered the offseason as the only Braves player with a contract option for 2021 which the team officially declined on Thursday. The option would have paid O’Day $3.5 million for the 2021 season but the Braves will be instead for just a $500,000 buyout.
What went right in 2020?
O’Day didn’t see a ton of high-leverage situations in 2020 but he put up an excellent showing in the opportunities he did receive. He posted a 1.10 ERA and a 2.76 FIP in 16 1/3 innings across 19 appearances. O’Day’s K-rate jumped to just under 33% which is impressive given that he was 37 with a fastball that averaged 86 mph. He was primarily used against right-handed hitters and often to end an inning. He held righties to just a .143 average and was also effective against left-handers in limited opportunities. O’Day was also championed as the leader of the bullpen and the veteran that many of the guys went to for guidance.
What went wrong?
Honestly not much went wrong for O’Day in 2020. He was pressed into some higher leverage situations during the postseason where he allowed four hits and two runs in just 2 1/3 innings. Probably the biggest obstacle for O’Day was that he turned 38 on October 22. He has dealt with injury issues in the past and there could be a question as to whether he could hold up over a full season.
What to expect for 2021?
Before the season was over, I would have bet that the Braves would have picked up O’Day’s option. Upon a little closer examination, I think you can see why the decision was made. Perhaps Atlanta looks to bring him back at a lower number or perhaps he ends up signing elsewhere. Although, O’Day has good numbers for his career against left-handed pitchers, he hasn’t seen as many opportunities and the new three-batter minimum rule is certainly working against him.