Jason Heyward was flying over the rest of the Braves pack all throughout the month of June.
Well, at least the Braves managed to stay over .500 in June for a change. At 13-12, the Braves barely stayed afloat, and I suppose we should take solace in the fact that the team didn't end up suffering a cliched June swoon like the Marlins did (8-18).
But anyway, as we bid farewell to another June and good riddance to another Interleague month, without further ado, Talking Chop presents to you our choices for the Braves' most valuable, and least valuable players and pitchers throughout the month of June, as voted by the site staff.
Most Valuable Player
Credentials: Played in 24 games, starting in 23 of them. In 95 total plate appearances, Jason hit .348/.379/.674, leading the team in all three categories (min. 50 PA), OPSing 1.053 on the month. Over half of his 31 hits were for extra bases, knocking out six home runs on the month, flashing an insane .326 isolated power (ISO) score. Heyward drove in 15 RBI while touching home plate 18 times, also leading the Braves in both those categories as well. Jason Heyward's weighted on-base average (wOBA) was .443, wRC+ of 185, flashed excellent fielding, solid base running, and his WPA score of 1.132 on the month says he also came through in the clutch. His 1.7 WAR in June wasn't just the highest on the Braves, it was also tied for second best in all of the National League.
Although it was a unanimous decision that Jason Heyward was our Most Valuable Player, we would be remiss if there was no truly honorable mention towards Andrelton Simmons's fantastic first month of big league ball. He hit .333/.365/.522 throughout June, which I will have to be skeptical to believe he could sustain as the book on him develops, but his 1.6 WAR was second-best on the Braves and tied for third best in the National League. But most importantly, Simba was brought up primarily for defensive reasons, and he did not disappoint. Fielding scores are controversial due to their oft-criticized subjective nature, and variable by position, but for all intents, we're looking at FanGraphs' Fld scoring (based off of UZR), and that being the case, Simba's score of 5.7 not only says he was the best fielder on the Braves, he's the best among all Major League shortstops, and wait for it, highest in all of Major League Baseball. Not bad for a first month. Even if his offense comes back to Earth, as long as contributes such stalwart defense, he will always have value on the Braves.
Most Valuable Pitcher
Credentials: In four starts, Tim Hudson pitched a total of 28.0 innings and went 3-1 with one of those wins being a complete game shutout against the Miami Marlins. 113 batters hit just .214/.277/.301 (.578 OPS) against Huddy, and managed to scratch together just six earned runs for a sparkling 1.93 ERA. As always, Huddy's groundball percentage was excellent, at a team best 52.6%, and his 1.11 WHIP was very efficient despite the contact style he plays. Oddly, despite walking just nine batters, the 23 strikeouts in 28 innings equates to an uncharacteristically high 7.39 K/9, noticeably higher than his career average of 6.00 K/9, so he was fooling a lot of batters in June. Regardless, his +0.6 WAR was the best amongst Braves starters, so it was a unanimous choice that Huddy earns Talking Chop's June Most Valuable Pitcher award.
What can be said that hasn't already been said about the awesomeness of Tim Hudson?
Craig Kimbrel Award for Relief Excellence
Credentials: Appeared in 11 games, and faced 36 batters, who hit just .083/.083/.167. Craig was on the verge of a perfect month, until he had a hiccup on June 28th, when he allowed a solo home-run in a non-save situation to Arizona's Chris Young which would be his first home run forfeited and first loss all year, and the first earned run allowed in 18 innings. Overall, Kimbrel still dominated all of June, striking out 20 of those 36 batters faced, for an ungodly 16.36 K/9 ratio, and even more impressive was the sparkling clean 0.00 walks allowed in the entire month. Looking at all of Kimbrel's June advanced metrics is even more fun, because his 0.27 WHIP is absurd, his 0.60 FIP says that his 0.82 ERA was unlucky, and according to SIERA, which is Skill-Independent ERA, which adjusts for batted balls and park factors, Craig Kimbrel has a -0.15 SIERA; that's right, a minus. He's so good he's almost capable of erasing the score, which in some case, he sometimes metaphorically does, when he strikes out the side and completely makes an inning vanish.
All I really have to say is that Chris Young should track down the fan who caught his home run off of Craig Kimbrel, pay for it, and then pay to varnish and bronze it. Because we're witnessing something special in Craig Kimbrel, and those really aren't going to happen very often.
David Ross Award for Excellence Off the Bench
Credentials: A ho-hum .391/.462/.522 slash line in 26 plate appearances over 10 games played, with a homer and two RBI. Ross's cumulative WAR rating of +0.4 for the month is tops in the NL from backup catchers (50 PA or less).
The good news is that David Ross brought some credibility to the much-maligned Braves bench in June. Unfortunately, he was really the only one who did, as the rest of the bats combined for a woeful -0.7 WAR in June.
Least Valuable Player
Brian McCann played in 22 games and collected 94 plate appearances where he hit an abysmal .193/.245/.330 (.574 OPS), collecting just 17 hits in the month, with six doubles and two home runs, driving in just seven runs. He walked (unintentionally) just four times, while striking out 19 times, and ground into two Jose Vidro specials. He got on base to the tune of a paltry .243 wOBA, and only created 48 wRC+. His overall WAR on the month was exactly zero-point-zero, and ‘ol Heap vanished in the clutch all June, dinging the Braves to the tune of a -0.549 WPA.
Just as there's a reason why Juan Francisco's 34.8 K%, Eric Hinske's .130 batting average and Matt Diaz's -0.4 WAR are on the bench, there's a reason why Brian McCann is a starting position player. Despite the terrible attributes from the aforementioned bench trio, they're not nearly as impactful to a game as Brian McCann is in a full-time role. That being said, such a poor performance in as big of a spectrum throughout the month of June, unfortunately warrants Brian McCann the dubious dishonor of being our Least Valuable Player.
Least Valuable Pitcher
In five starts, Mike Minor pitched in 27.2 innings, and failed to complete at least six innings in four of those outings. 121 batters hit .233/.339/.447 against Minor, and he allowed 14 earned runs in June altogether, for an ERA of team-worst 4.55. He was also the worst starter on the team in WHIP (1.48), and his team-worst 5.73 FIP actually says he was even a little lucky altogether in the month of June. Minor allowed five home runs, and despite striking out 21 batters, he also issued 17 walks, for a dismal 1.24 K/BB.
For the second month in a row, Mike Minor takes the unfortunate dishonor of being the Braves' least valuable pitcher on Talking Chop. It looked like there was some instantaneous improvement at the start of the month with two solid, 1 ER outings against the Marlins and Yankees, but he failed to impress with three straight outings with 4 ER and less than six innings pitched in the next three. However, Mike Minor's -0.2 WAR in June was amazingly NOT the worst amongst starters, because of...
BONUS AWARD: The David Blaine Award for the Greatest Magician of the Galaxy in Unbelievably Awesome Magic Wizardry on the Planet
Tommy's June was the kind of month that really justifies the existence of the advancement of baseball statistics. If someone said to you that Tommy Hanson went 4-0 in five starts, pitched in 31.2 innings, and had an ERA of 3.13, you might think "wow, Tommy Hanson had a pretty good month!" But then the nerds had to go and throw a wet blanket on the whole situation, because truthfully, it is kind of a head scratcher to how it all happened.
Hanson's last start against Arizona was actually a perfect microcosm of how his June went: dominated the Diamondbacks for 6.1 shutout innings, gives up three-run home run, removed from game.
The aforementioned stats are all true and valid, but delving deeper, the makeup comes off of the prom queen. Hanson's 6.25 K/9 is the lowest among the Braves starters who made more than a start, lower than even contact-pitching Tim Hudson, and the 35.8 GB% says that Hanson was generating an uncomfortable amount of fly balls. And the 17.8 HR/FB% and 2.27 HR/9 says that a little too many of those fly balls were sailing over the fences in June. Despite the solid .213 BABIP in June, the 93.0 LOB%, 5.90 FIP and 4.54 SIERA says that Hanson was pretty lucky overall. And when all else fails, Hanson's -0.3 WAR, worst amongst starters, really reveals that he didn't pitch that well at all, but let's face it, it's hard to knock a guy that keeps on winning.