At 17-9 for the month of June, the Atlanta Braves played .654 ball throughout the month. It feels like just yesterday that the Braves were the .400 teams of 2008 and 2009 through Junes, limping their way through the month, while talking heads boast how great Interleague is, and how vastly superior the American League's talent is. That being said, it makes me feel good to see the Braves' 7-2 record against the Junior Circuit throughout June. Nuts to you, American League.
No need to adjust your monitors or rub your eyes, this is not a re-posting of May. Without further ado, here are your June most valuable, and least valuable Atlanta Braves, as voted by the Talking Chop authors. Like always, a variety of numbers and factors are examined when coming to these selections, and majority votes rule.
Most Valuable Player
Credentials: Played in 22 of 26 games, and in 92 plate appearances, trumped an MVP-caliber May by hitting a ridiculous .342/.435/.671 (1.106OPS!) with eight home runs, and driving in 18 RBI. Heap nursed out 12 walks while only striking out nine times, and collected 53 total bases. Flashed an impressive .329 ISO, with a weighted on-base average of .468 wOBA, while cutting down on his strikeouts to the tune of just 11.4%. His cumulative WPA score was +1.030, the highest on the entire squad.
Despite having a very good May, Brian McCann decides to make it look like a McDonald's hamburger by turning in a filet mignon of a June. Seriously, I know, and we all know that Brian McCann is easily the best catcher in the National League, but this kind of torrid stretch has to make even the staunchest Joe Mauer supporters turn heads and go "hmm..."
A very honorable mention should be warranted for Freddie Freeman, who continues to improve at the Major League level, turning in his finest month yet, hitting .287/.330/.489 with four homers, 17 RBI, and contributing a very good cumulative WPA score of +0.675.
Most Valuable Pitcher
Credentials: Five starts, Jair and the Braves went 3-2. Jurrjens pitched 30.0 IP, with an ERA of 3.30. Jurrjens struck out 17, while allowing 11 walks, and held 132 batters to an overall line of .265/.331/.342. As always, Jair was stingy with the longball, only allowing two. Some of his peripherals regressed a bit in June, to the tune of a 3.87 FIP, 1.40 WHIP, .287 BABIP, and a LOB% of 77.1%, but of starters completing five or more starts, Jurrjens still had the best cumulative WPA score of +0.376.
This was a tough choice for us this month, as it was not unanimous like in May. Tim Hudson received consideration, and justifiably so with his 2.98 ERA and 1.98 FIP, 1.14 WHIP, as did the entire core bullpen group (Kimbrel, Venters, O'Flaherty,
Moylan, Sherrill, Linebrink, Martinez) for all having positive WPA scores, and their general reliability in all the extra-inning games played thusfar. Tommy Hanson (+0.730WPA) and Brandon Beachy (+0.381WPA), although pitching magnificently, both were removed from the equation due to missed starts on the DL. Honestly, it was going 2-4 against the Mets in June that really did a number on the starting pitching, as Braves starters registered minus WPA scores in five of the six games against Jose Reyes the Mets. This must be rectified.
The David Ross Award for Reliability Off the Bench
Credentials: Appeared in 14 games, made three starts. In 22 plate appearances, Conrad hit a bonkers .421/.500/.842 (1.342!!OPS). As is his MO, Brooks delivered as many XBH as singles, with two doubles, two home runs, and walked twice, scoring three times while driving in four RBI. He contributed a cumulative WPA score of +0.512, making him de facto king of the bench in June.
Fun Fact: His pinch-hit home run off of Toronto's Jon Rauch on June 22 gives Brooks Conrad seven pinch-hit homers in his career with the Braves. This is the all-time best in Atlanta history (since 1966), and the next pinch-hit homer Conrad hits will surpass Joe Adcock (1953-62) as the all-time Franchise leader in pinch-homers.
Honorable mention goes out to Jordan Schafer, returning to the big leagues. Whether you love him or hate him, he's filling in at center field to debatable standards. But throughout the month of June, Schafer overall, turned in a cumulative +0.368 WPA score, so he's coming through more than you may or may not realize.
The Jonny Venters Award for Relief Excellence
Credentials: Made 14 appearances, and completed 14.0 innings. Held 56 batters to a paltry .140/.232/.200 batting slash, striking out 25, while walking just five. Eight of nine saves converted, 1.93 ERA, 0 HR allowed, and a ridiculous 0.66 FIP and 0.86 WHIP. The video game-like numbers emerged again, as Craig struck hitters out at an absurd 16.07 K/9. Second in relief WPA with a +0.834 cumulative score.
Craig Kimbrel without question, turned in his finest professional month yet, improving in just about every single standard and advanced statistical metric throughout June. Combined with the recent proof that Jonny Venters is indeed human, Craig runs away with the JV Award. That being said however, it should be noted that despite the hiccup, Venters still had a solid month which saw his own gaudy 12.5 K/9 rate, and still has an overall dominant 1.59 ERA. He finishes with a +0.072 WPA score which was essentially demolished in the blown save loss against the Padres, but is still positive overall, which goes to show how good he still was prior to.
Also, not to be ignored is the excellence of the Atlanta bullpen core, where everyone turned in positive WPA scores in June, indicating their overall reliability, in spite of all the extra-inning games played: Eric O'Flaherty (+0.632), Scott Linebrink (+0.841), George Sherrill (+0.143), and Cristhian Martinez (+0.104). You read correctly, Scott Linebrink led the relief corp in cumulative WPA.
Least Valuable Player
Finger pointing at: 24 games started and played, and in 97 plate appearances, hitting a paltry .176/.219/.308 slash. Struck out 26 times compared to just five walks taken, and had zero-hit days 11 out of 24 games played. Bottomed out in many statistical measures, .526 OPS, .222 BABIP, .234 wOBA, 28.6% K%. Worst cumulative WPA score of starting position players with -0.332.
I'll be the first to admit that a poor finish by Alex Gonzalez, and strong finish for Dan Uggla is the only thing that kept Uggla from notching his third-consecutive LVP dis-honor. Uggla is salvaged this month, only because there was a guy hitting worse than he was, but believe me, he wasn't much prettier (.179/.250/.379, 25/8:K/BB, -0.045WPA). We are aware that Gonzalez's glove is a thing of beauty, and are thankful for all the routine plays he makes look easy, but for all the runs he's preventing, he's not really contributing in creating any runs. In the end, the WPA scores favor Uggla, mostly because the difference pretty much paints the picture that Gonzalez's outs were way more consequential to the team's fortunes than Uggla's were.
But for what it's worth, this Braves fan is relieved that Dan Uggla is not LVP for a third straight month.
Least Valuable Pitcher
Finger pointing at: In 11 June appearances, Proctor gave up earned runs in four of them. Overall, he pitched 7.2 innings, with an ERA of 4.70, and one blown save. 33 batters hit .241/.303/.483 against Proctor, and he struck out six, while unintentionally walking two (plus one iBB). Cumulative WPA score of -0.824. Yuck.
In all fairness, pretty much of all of us know he doesn't belong here, so there's little elaboration needed to why this is the case.