#17: Darrell Evans

See the 44 Greatest Atlanta Braves here.

Lefthanded Hitting, Righthanded Throwing Third Baseman
Seasons With Braves: 1969-1976, 1989
Stats With Braves: .246/.368/.426, 131 HR, 424 RBI, 453 RS

Longtime readers are hereby authorized to zone out.

Darrell Evans is, in the words of Bill James, probably the most underrated player in baseball history, because he (a) did a lot of things well, instead of doing one thing extremely well, and (b) what he didn’t do well was hit for batting average. He hit for power, and he drew lots of walks, so even though his batting average is 71 points lower than Ralph Garr’s, his on-base percentage is 18 points higher. His secondary average is fifth in Atlanta history, behind Aaron, Chipper, Justice, and Burroughs. Because of that, he created a ton of runs — tenth most in Atlanta history.

Darrell was drafted by the Royals in 1967, but for some reason was exposed to the Rule 5 draft in 1968 and the Braves took him. Stuck behind Clete Boyer, he only got into 12 games each of his first two seasons. In 1971 he took most of Boyer’s playing time, and hit what turned out to be a pretty typical .242 in 89 games. Playing full-time in 1972, Evans hit .254/.384/.419.

In 1973, Evans was one of four three Braves to hit 40 or more homers, with 41, and made the all-star team. He hit .281/.403/.556 overall, career highs in all categories. He really wasn’t a .280 hitter, and hitting that probably fooled the team into thinking that he should have continued to and thus they were disappointed in his production in the next two seasons.

He was still the best player on the team, by Win Shares, in those seasons, but a low average one, .240 and .243. He hit for power, he drew walks, he was a good baserunner and while he wasn’t Boyer with the glove he was damned good and blatantly robbed of the Gold Glove by inferiors such as Doug Rader and Ken Reitz.

Evans got off to a terrible start in 1975. As I’ve mentioned, the Braves in the seventies continually traded their best players when they were at their worst, and this was no exception. When hitting .173/.320/.194 after 44 games, Darrell was sent to the Giants (along with Marty Perez) for mostly Willie Montanez. Montanez was pretty good for a year and a half for the Braves but after that was pretty much done. Evans would play until 1989.

Darrell played in San Francisco until 1983, getting moved to first base to stay in the lineup that season, which was one of his best years. He then joined the Tigers, just in time to get a World Series ring. While he didn’t play well, he rebounded with his second 40-homer season in 1985. He was still a good player in 1987, at the age of 40, but fell apart the next season. The Braves brought him back in 1989, because they really didn’t have anything better. He hit .207/.303/.355, which is obviously pretty bad.

Darrell Evans Statistics – Baseball-Reference.com

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11 thoughts on “#17: Darrell Evans”

  1. Howdy Doody, as they called him, was definitely a pretty good ballplayer. And, as Mac mentions, he was a darn-good defensive 3B. His 1973 season will always be memorable with me.

    With Niekro, Aaron & Garr gaining most of the notice, Evans was never the fan favorite, but certainly recognized as a real solid ballplayer. Unfortunately, the only really good Atlanta team he was a part of came in 1974.

    Of course, he became one of many valuable parts on that 1984 Tigers WS team, one of the deepest rosters in memory. Everyone, it seemed, contributed to that title.

  2. I was never that high on Evans until I read a long diatribe that Bill James wrote about him in Baseball Abstract. He had a long and productive career. Whats funny is that he’ll never get a single Hall of Fame vote because of that career batting average. I didn’t realize that he came back to the Braves in 1989. Its ok Mac, I’ve been wondering when you’d get around to writing about Evans. With the 20/20 view provided by hindsight I share your deep respect for him as a ballplayer.

  3. Their pitching staff is going to be horrendous next year….Anytime your #1 pitcher is Oliver Perez or John Maine, you have major problems…They won’t have Pedro for most of the year, Glavine isn’t a lock, they already lost Trachsel and El Duque….so they have major problems.

    I’m sure they will go after Zito, but I think the Yanks will get him, they will probably go after Schmidt….they might get him, but still…

  4. James’ essay on Evans is one of the most outstanding things he’s ever written.

    One small correction: the ’73 Braves had three 40-HR guys (Evans, Aaron, Davey Johnson).

  5. Oops. I’ll fix it.

    The Braves were, for some reason, running a Tribute to Underappreciated Players in the late eighties. They brought in the washed-up Ted Simmons from 1986-88 and the washed-up Graig Nettles in 1987. Nettles and Evans are each other’s most-similar player; while Nettles was a better defensive player Evans’ offensive statistics are clearly superior. Both were career .248 hitters but Evans provided a lot more walks and a little more power.

    They should have figured out how to add Ron Cey, too.

  6. I can still remember the nausea I felt when we traded Darrell for Willie Montanez. Montanez, please tell me he’s not one of the forgotten Braves, because I haven’t forgotten or forgiven.

  7. Looks like it. He and Cox are both what I guess you would call, despite the connotations of the phrase, animal rights activists.

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