With a 17-11 May now in the books, it's once again time to hand out the awards for the Atlanta Braves best and worst performers of the month. Some new faces adorn the awards this month, and two names make an encore appearance. Regardless, it's the key performances from all names mentioned that led to the outcome of the month, which I am personally pleased to see above .500, as opposed to Mar-April.
Selections are voted on by Talking Chop authors, and we look at a variety of numbers when making our choices, from games played, batting averages, to win-percentages added/subtracted. This month was pretty clear cut whom our winners (and losers) were, and at the time of me writing this, I didn't even have to wait for the last two ballots to come in before the first seven were all concurrent with the same six names, easily winning majority landslides.
Most Valuable Player
Credentials: Appeared in 24 out of 28 games, starting in 23 of them. Collected 28 hits in 92 at-bats, with 11 doubles, 4 home runs, 15 runs batted in, and hitting a keen line of .304/.371/.554, with a BABIP of .312, .250 ISO, and .386 wOBA. He accumulated +0.536 WPA to lead all starters, and contributed positive WPA scores in 11 of the 24 games he appeared in, including a monstrous +0.862 WPA accrued in the game against the Houston Astros, where he came off the bench to deliver a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth, before delivering the walk-off home run in the bottom of the eleventh.
Good ol' Heap runs away with the award, but it shouldn't go without mention, the outstanding play of Martin Prado as well, who hit a shade under .300 for the month, but also delivering five homers and driving in 20 runs. His cumulative +0.455 WPA score was second on the team, but McCann's consistency and power throughout the month were just a little bit better.
Most Valuable Pitcher
Credentials: In six starts, Jurrjens, and the Braves went 5-1. Jair pitched 43.2 innings, with an ERA of 1.65, struck out 24 batters while only walking eight, and allowed just two home runs and eight earned runs. 170 batters hit just .238/.269/.325 off of Jurrjens on the month, with a .269 BABIP, 3.47 xFIP, and an outstanding 1.01 WHIP. Jurrjens accumulated a bloated +1.463 WPA on the month, and shut down the vaunted Phillies in consecutive starts.
Jurrjens' impressive month, and the simple fact that the Braves were so successful in his starts was probably the only reason why Tommy Hanson didn't repeat as pitcher of the month. But he gets an honorable mention for leading the team in strikeouts (31), holding 121 batters faced to a paltry .189 batting average, and putting up solid 3.28 xFIP and 1.09 WHIP numbers.
The Jonny Venters Award
Credentials: Appeared 16 times, chewing up 19.0 total innings, and pitched 2.0IP four times. Held 73 batters to a pathetic .164/.271/.197 slash, with a ridiculous 0.89 WHIP and 2.98 xFIP. Jonny yielded just one earned run on the month. Struck out 16, versus seven walks, induced four GIDPs, and stranded 94.7% of base-runners. Just for giggles, he also garnered three vulture wins and four holds. And as for his WPA, it was an astronomical +1.897 on the month, to give you a glimpse at just how often, and how successful Jonny had been with high-leverage situations.
Although Jonny Venters is clearly from another planet, an honorable mention should go out to the Braves bullpen in its entirety (yes, even Scott Linebrink). Almost every single member of the Braves bullpen turned in a positive cumulative WPA score for the month, and such a feat deserves some recognition, because WPA is extremely easy to fluctuate for relievers. Eric O'Flaherty accumulated an excellent +0.698 WPA, Craig Kimbrel with +0.288 WPA with nine saves, and Cristian Martinez should not go ignored for turning in 13.0IP of long relief, accumulating +0.246 WPA while holding batters to an inept .114/.152/.136. If not for two recent losses of George Sherrill and rookie Cory Gearrin, they too would have ended the month as part of the positive WPA club as well, but that's the thankless life of relief pitching.
The David Ross Award
Credentials: Appeared in 26 out of 28 games, made 18 starts, and played in left field, right field, and first base. The Braves went 16-10 in these games. Hinske hit .308/.329/.500 in 78 at-bats, delivering three doubles, four home runs, and 10 runs batted in, with a .192 ISO and .361 wOBA. As a pinch-hitter, Hinske delivered 3-for-6 batting, with a home run. WPA was not kind to Hinske on the month, as he turned in a -0.483 score, but this is one of those instances where you can kind of throw it out the window based on the simple fact that the Braves were winning with him playing regularly.
Honorable mention goes to none other than Brooks Conrad. He didn't have a particularly good April, but made up for some of the lost time in May. In 19 appearances, Conrad started four games, and played mostly second or third base, and the Braves went 10-9 in games in which Brooks appeared. In 13 pinch-hit opportunities, Brooks did not make an out six times, walking three, and hitting one key game-winning home run in Pittsburgh. WPA liked Brooks Conrad overall, as he accumulated a +0.637 WPA in May; +0.421 was on the home run alone, but overall, he still contributed positively 10 times out of 19.
Least Valuable Player
To those whom thought that after April, things for Dan Uggla couldn't possible have gotten worse, well... they did. His line of .194/.250/.380 from April fell to .160/.241/.260 in May, 5 HR / 9 RBI / 21 K in April dropped to 2 HR / 7 RBI / 24 K in May, and he got even unluckier going from a .195 BABIP down to .187. To put is simply, something just isn't working, and Dan Uggla is severely hurting the team. And if you need a number to make tangible that notion, his -1.088 WPA in the month of May says that the accumulated result of all his actions have literally cost the Braves over one loss.
I'd say I hope we don't have to go for the trifecta next month, but I honestly didn't think he'd actually be worse than he was back in April this past month.
Least Valuable Pitcher
The irony of this is that it's not that Derek Lowe was Mark Redman-bad in May, because he really wasn't. But a combination of a solid bullpen all month, with the fact that the Braves are genuinely rich with pitching, kind of leaves Derek Lowe as the odd-man out with his mediocre numbers and the oft-brought up salary he's not coming close to producing up to, and the fact that someone has to be given this distinction.
In his six starts, the Braves did go 5-1, while Lowe himself went just 1-1. In 33.1 innings, Derek Lowe handled 144 batters to a .238/.329/.413 line, with a BABIP of .271, xFIP of 3.72, and 1.383 WHIP. He had an unsightly 4.86 ERA, and walked 18 guys to his 26 strikeouts, and 18 earned runs with four homers allowed. As I said, he wasn't terrible, but he wasn't great either. Go get ‘em in June, Derek. Or save it for another September run.