With the month of May now in our backseats, let's hope that we don't see another eight game losing streak for the remainder of the season. June is the month of Interleague, and this year, the Braves get to take on the American League East, the popularly believed "toughest division" in baseball. Such a claim is up for debate, but for the record, at the time of writing this, the NL East has 141 combined wins, three more than the AL East, in the same number of games played. Regardless of perception, June serves to be a very interesting month for both Eastern divisions.
Considering the combined circumstances that are usually present in the dredges of an eight-game losing streak, there definitely were some bright spots to shine through. So without further ado, we present to you Talking Chop's May MVPs and LVPs for the month of May, as decided by a majority vote between TC's staff.
Most Valuable Pitcher
Credentials: Made six starts, and pitched 40.1 innings, including the first complete game shutout of his career against the Miami Marlins on May 17. Held 157 batters to an ineffective .176/.242/.268 batting line, whiffing 31 of them versus just 12 walks. Beachy's 2.23 ERA and 0.92 WHIP were the best among starters, and his 3.42 FIP and 2.58 K/BB were only behind Tim Hudson. Overall, Beachy's +0.7 WAR was second, again to Tim Hudson.
What do CC Sabathia, David Price, C.J. Wilson and James Shields all have in common? They all make a lot of money. What else do they have in common? In terms of WAR, they were less valuable than Brandon Beachy was, a guy plucked out of a podunk Shenandoah Valley league just a few years ago, and is making the league minimum. For the second month in a row, Beachy takes TC's pitching MVP. Tim Hudson also garnered some interest, due to his leading the rotation in WAR and excellent peripherals, so quickly after returning from the disabled list. But Beachy's superior strikeouts and propensity to limit baserunners outright garner our favor. And personally, it's hard to not put a lot of weight on the magnificent complete-game shutout that couldn't possibly have come at a better time.
Most Valuable Player
Credentials: Played in 28 games, and in 122 plate appearances, Martin put up an absurd .381/.455/.543 (.997 OPS) batting line. Prado's 40 total hits in May wasn't just the best on the Braves, but it was second best in all of baseball. 13 of those hits were for extra bases, including a homer, and he drove in nine RBI while crossing home plate 19 times himself. Prado also walked 13 times versus just 11 strikeouts, and got on base to an excellent clip of .441 wOBA. Martin came through in the clutch to the tune of an absurd +1.626 WPA, and in terms of overall WAR in the month of May, Prado ranks second in the majors with +2.1 WAR. If not for Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins' own absurd May, Martin Prado could have easily been NL Player of the Month.
Not to be ignored would be Michael Bourn and Dan Uggla, who both put up very good months in their own right, with each of them smacking five home runs and driving in 12 and 16 RBI respectively, while putting excellent WAR totals of 1.5 and 1.2. But Martin Prado was on another planet throughout May, hitting pretty much everything in sight, and simply not making outs.
Craig Kimbrel Award for Excellence Out of the Bullpen
Credentials: Appeared ten times, and pitched approximately 10.0 IP. Converted seven of eight save chances, holding 38 total batters to a flailing .088/.184/.088 slash line, striking out 14 of them, which is good for a still-absurd 12.60 K/9 rate. Although he finally allowed some runs to score, his ERA was still just 1.80, his FIP 1.42, and a WHIP of just 0.70. Craig contributed +0.398 WPA, and was worth +0.4 WAR throughout May.
Overall, it was a pretty tumultuous month for Atlanta's bullpen, especially the typically reliable Jonny Venters, but Craig Kimbrel managed to stand above everyone else. After starting May with a blown save and then an earned run in Colorado, Craig really put the clamps down over the next eight outings, allowing just one hit, two walks, and striking out 11.
David Ross Award for Excellence Off the Bench
There is no David Ross Award for May. With all the injuries that bit the Braves in May, there were ample opportunities for someone to rise up and help keep the team afloat. The only "backup" player to notch anything higher than a 0.0 WAR was Jose Constanza, and he did that in two games, and he started. Matt Diaz was probably the least offensive bench contributor, but doing enough to not be considered bad simply isn't enough for this award. As for David Ross himself, his home run off of David Price was certainly a key hit, but through the rest of the month, he wasn't his usual excellent presence off the bench.
Least Valuable Pitcher
To say "the wheels fell off" is to put it lightly. Not only have the wheels fallen off, the spare is flat, and the tow-truck towing Mike Minor has blown a tire as well now. Since his last start in April, it's been pretty rough going for Mike Minor, including all of May. In five starts, Minor pitched just 25.1 innings, and did not get out of the fifth in two of those outings. 124 batters hit him to the tune of a .324/.398/.667 (1.065 OPS) line, and Minor allowed ten home runs in the process. 28 earned runs equates to an unsightly 9.95 ERA, and his FIP and WHIP were 8.15 and 1.89 respectively, all of which were worst on the squad. His poor performance quite literally cost the Braves nearly two entire games, indicative by his -1.670 WPA score, and he was worth -0.8 WAR in May.
There's really nowhere to begin with Mike Minor's performance throughout May. Pretty much everything went wrong. Strikeouts down, walks up, a large jump in FB/HR rates, meaning anything hit up into the air was leaving the park more frequently. The worst part is that the Braves were still scoring runs; only in one of his May starts did the Braves fail to score at least four runs with Minor starting. Frankly, at this point, the only reason Minor has managed to stay on the major league roster was due to the perceptions that Jair Jurrjens still wasn't on track, Julio Teheran is not ready, and for whatever reason, Todd Redmond will never see the light of the majors ever. But with more recent reports that Jurrjens' velocity is returning, and the "promotion-demotion" of Kris Medlen, Minor's time to figure it out is officially ticking.
Least Valuable Player
Freddie Freeman's eye injury thrust a lot of extra playing time for Eric Hinske in May. Unfortunately, he didn't make the most of it. Hinske played in 23 total games, starting in 11 of them, and in 56 cumulative plate appearances, hit a dismal .180/.250/.260 line. Pretty much all of his production came from one game in Colorado where he hit a mythical three-run home run. As for the rest of the month, he collected just eight more hits, with one of them being for extra bases. As the pinch-hitting bench bat he's primarily supposed to be, Hinske went a woeful 1-for-10 with a walk in May. Eric Hinske struck out 19 total times, and hurt the Braves to the tune of a -0.438 WPA and his -0.4 WAR was second worst amongst batters.
This was probably the most difficult category of the month as there were several votes for the freshly-jettisoned Tyler Pastornicky. Based on WAR alone, Pastornicky was the worst position player with -0.7 WAR, which was absolutely murdered by his defensive problems (seven errors), but this is one of those cases where we look beyond the numbers. Eric Hinske is the veteran who knows what he's supposed to do in a limited, or backup capacity, and he simply failed to deliver. This doesn't mean poor performance was going to be tolerated from the young Pastornicky, but frankly, there weren't lofty expectations for him either. His defense ultimately became his undoing above all else, and at this point, it's kind of moot, since he's headed to AAA-Gwinnett, and the Age of Andrelton is upon us now. Let's remember good things about Tyler Pastornicky, like the night he was so inspired by Chipper Jones' return, that he launched his own home run into Houston's Crawford Boxes.