As cruel as April has seemed for the Atlanta Braves, we find ourselves at the end of it only one game below .500. I guess that's not too bad, but it's also not too good. For a team that got off to a 5-and-1 start, we certainly showed our inconsistencies and lack of maturity the last three weeks.
Last year, for most of the year, I gave out hitting and pitching MVPs and LVPs for each month; this will the format for this year. It's a good way to dissect the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately generalities of baseball and see who is helping us and who is hurting us.
Hitting MVP: This was a tough one because no one really stands out. We had a lot of so-so performances, but nothing stellar in the hitting department. Jeff Francoeur leads the team in RBI's, but he has an OPS stuck in the low-700's -- not MVP worthy. Guys like Prado, Infante, and Ross are hitting really well, but they're playing time doesn't warrant MVP status. I strongly, strongly considered Jordan Schafer, even with a team high in strikeouts, his OPS is second among regulars. In the end, the old man won out. It's hard to ignore what Chipper Jones can do and the impact he has on the team when he's in the lineup; he's the Braves April MVP.
|2009 - Chipper Jones||16||59||12||19||3||1||2||8||9||11||0||0||.322||.420||.508|
Hitting LVP: It would be really easy to give this to Garret Anderson, maybe too easy. He has certainly not been very valuable. I considered Matt Diaz and his rough April, and I just about gave the LVP to Kelly Johnson, who has clogged up the top of the order. But then I came back to Garret Anderson and realized that for the 10 games he played while hitting in a run producing spot in the lineup he collected exactly zero RBIs, and I thought, that is 100% negative value, and so he gets the LVP (as he rightly should).
Pitching MVP: I'm glad there's a lot of competition here, including the majority of our staring pitchers. Some bullpen guys were also considered, including Jeff Bennett and especially Rafael Soriano. Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens could easily be called the pitching MVP of April, but the nod goes to Javier Vazquez. Despite some trouble his last time out, he has given us 4 out of 5 quality starts and he's done a better job than the other guys of keeping runners off base, not walking people, and getting key strikeouts. All of that screams ace, and earns Javier Vazquez the pitching MVP for April.
|2009 - Javier Vazquez||2-2||5||5||0||0||0||0||32.0||31||13||12||1||8||42||3.38||1.22|
Pitching LVP: Thankfully, this is a short list, headlined by some bullpen guys, including one who is no longer here, Blaine Boyer, but he shouldn't get it because he only made it into three games for the Braves in April. The other bullpen guys who started rough have settled down, so they're out of the running. The unfortunate and obvious choice for this dubious distinction is Kenshin Kawakami. He's allowed as many homeruns as the rest of our pitching staff combined, he's had poor control, and he hasn't been able to keep his baserunners from touching home. I give him easier treatment than most because he is learning this league and getting used to the differences of American baseball, but that grace period will only last a little while longer -- we need to see results, especially since he's being counted on to be a key contributor in our rotation.
|2009 - Kenshin Kawakami||1-3||4||4||0||0||0||0||21.2||24||20||17||5||11||18||7.06||1.62|
Overall there haven't been too many terrible performances in April, but aside from our top three starters, there also haven't been too many great performances. Perhaps a new month will bring better hitting and more consistent starting ptiching, not to mention a confident bullpen. Go Braves!