Chipper Jones and Ben Sheets Headline Talking Chop's Atlanta Braves July MVPs and LVPs

He rose from the dead and did nothing but dominate throughout July.

In case you missed it, the Atlanta Braves just had their best individual month (18-8, .692) since May of 2010. And that team had Troy Glaus, Nate McLouth and Melky Cabrera on it. Since the start of the official second half, the Braves have been playing .722 ball. This is very pleasant to see and read.

Here are the guys that have led the charge, as well as some of the guys who have done their best to derail it in spite of all the winning. As usual, these MVP and LVP awards are voted on by Talking Chop admins, and we do our best to look at not just the numbers, but occasional other intangibles and factors.

So without further ado, the awards.

Most Valuable Player


Chipper Jones

#10 / Third Base / Atlanta Braves

6-4

210

B

R

Apr 24, 1972


Credentials: Appeared in 21 of the 25 games throughout July, starting in 19 of them. In 86 total plate appearances, Chipper Jones hit like it was 1999 all over again, turning in a pretty slash line of .364/.419/.636 and whose 1.055 OPS for July was second on the team among regular starters. Jones hit four home runs in July, driving in 15 RBI while scoring 12 times himself. He struck out just 11 times while coaxing the free pass seven times. Chipper's .441 wOBA and 182 wRC+ were highest among starters, and his +1.3 WAR throughout July was tied for best on the team.

If people ignored the fact that Chipper Jones was 40, and was on the retirement trail, some might just look at Chipper's numbers for the month of July and just simply think "what else is new?" Regardless, Chipper is putting up one last good hurrah in the fight against Father Time and in spite of creaky knees and the need to sit out periodically, he put up a pretty beastly July.

An honorable mention goes out to Brian McCann, who rebounded from a dismal June and had himself a pretty monstrous July in his own right. The new father hit .296/.354/.704 and his 1.058 OPS was tops amongst starters, with a mind-boggling .408 ISO. Additionally, he stroked a team-high nine homers, drove in 21 RBI and scored 15. McCann also had +1.3 WAR to tie with the old man for the team lead.

Most Valuable Pitcher


Ben Sheets

#30 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

6-1

220

R

R

Jul 18, 1978


Credentials: On July 15th, Ben Sheets emerged from the dead and made three July starts in which both the Braves and Sheets posted a 3-0 record. Sheets pitched six innings in each of his starts, and faced a total of 70 batters, who hit a woeful .200/.257/.262 against the right-hander. In those 18.0 innings, Sheets yielded just one earned run while striking out 15 versus just five walks, for a sparkling ERA of just 0.50 and a tidy 1.00 WHIP. Based on his 2.24 FIP, 3.78 SIERA and just a BABIP of .260, Sheets appears to be legit. Despite making just three starts in the month, Ben Sheets notched a WAR total of +0.6, which was the highest amongst Braves starters.

What ended up turning into one of the best stories of a low-risk, high-reward scenario, Ben Sheets signed a minor-league deal with the Braves to prove that he could return from a litany of elbow injuries, and then immediately showed up to the big club and won all three of his starts in July. With inconsistency plaguing the Braves' rotation throughout the year, Sheets' return has provided some much-needed stability, and we can only hope that he continues his great work throughout the remainder of the season.

A brief honorable mention goes to Mike Minor, whom despite the 2-2 record the Braves posted while he was on the mound, in his four July starts, actually had a pretty solid month in his own right; 97 batters fared just .172/.206/.333 against Minor in 27.1 innings, and he turned a tidy 1.98 ERA 3.52 FIP and 2.97 SIERA on the month. He was also a strike-throwing machine, hurling strikes at a 63% clip, while whiffing 8.56 K/9 which is almost one K higher than his season average and closer to his career average. His +0.5 WAR on the month was second among starts behind just Ben Sheets.

David Ross Award for Excellence Off the Bench


Juan Francisco

#25 / Third Base / Atlanta Braves

6-2

240

L

R

Jun 24, 1987


Credentials: Played in 17 games, started in six. In 31 total plate appearances, Francisco hit an absurd .407/.484/.778 (1.262 OPS, .370 ISO) with three home runs and nine RBI, scoring three times in the process. Juan got on base to an absurd clip of .515 wOBA, and had a surprisingly high 232 wRC+. His +0.7 WAR on the month was fifth highest on the team overall throughout July, and tops among part-time players.

Yeah, I'm as surprised as anyone else when I looked at these numbers. Juan Francisco is a funny guy, no matter how critical of him I am. As a pinch-hitter, he's about as automatic of a strikeout as they come, as he whiffed out seven times in his nine pinch-hit appearances. But when he starts, which is fairly regularly due to Chipper's knees, he's a completely different ballplayer. As a starter, he's a .477 hitter, and he struck out just twice in 21 plate appearances.

Overall, he still can't take a walk (9K vs. 2 uBB), but when as long as he's starting, he's a pretty veritable force, but as a pinch-hitter he's pretty terrible. But being a bench bat does include the irregular spot-start, and as far as July was concerned, there was nobody better on the Braves than Juan Francisco was.

Craig Kimbrel Award for Relief Excellence


Craig Kimbrel

#46 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

5-11

205

R

R

May 28, 1988


Credentials: Blah-blah, 15.30 K/9, same old excellent 17.00 K/BB, routine .094/.094/.188 from 32 batters, struck out 17, walked zero, typical 0.90 ERA, 0.98 FIP, 0.00 SIERA, 0.30 WHIP.

Geez, Craig, you're such a one-trick pony, striking everything out and putting up these fake numbers. Ho-Hum.

Most Valuable Reliever NOT Named Craig Kimbrel


Cristhian Martinez

#50 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

6-1

185

R

R

Mar 06, 1982


Credentials: Appeared ten times, pitched 12.1 total innings. Three times, pitched beyond just one inning. Held 48 total batters to a line of .244/.277/.267 and struck out 14 while walking just two. Notched a 2.19 ERA, was a tick unlucky with a 1.30 FIP and .355 BABIP, and a solid 2.18 SIERA. Minimized base runners with a 1.05 WHIP, and flashed some excellent peripherals, with a 10.22 K/9 and a 7.00 K/BB ratios. His +0.4 WAR was best among relievers not named Craig Kimbrel, and tied for third-best on the entire pitching staff.

Let's face it, this award had to be created, because since we've been doing this, no reliever not named Craig Kimbrel or Jonny Venters has ever been mentioned at the end of the month (except EOF in Sep '11), and we would all be remiss if we didn't give the very due credit to some of the other stellar performances out of the bullpen, especially the long-men.

I really wanted Kris Medlen to get this award, but he had to go and become a competent starter to end the month to essentially eliminate him from this running. It doesn't really matter though, because Cristhian Martinez was about as valuable out of the bullpen as reliever-Medlen was throughout July. Whether it was on zero days rest or as much as ten days, C-Mart proved himself to be versatile and ready to go whenever, and in a month when Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson had some less-than quality outings, is where Martinez and reliever-Medlen really shined.

Least Valuable Player


Dan Uggla

#26 / Second Base / Atlanta Braves

5-11

205

R

R

Mar 11, 1980


Dan Uggla did not have a very good June. Unfortunately, Dan Uggla had a much worse July. Sadly, I can recall typing these similar words last year, when Dan was having a few-month rough stretch before his torrid stretch, but the sad truth is that it is happening again. And the fact that Uggla is an everyday player, makes his production, or lack-of, that much more impactful to the team.

Dan Uggla played, and started in 24 of the Braves' 25 games in July. In 96 total plate appearances, Uggla produced a woeful .115/.281/.179 slash line for a paltry OPS of just .460. He did improve a tick on reducing his strikeouts, but his walk rate dropped too, and his overall K/BB was a season's worst 0.50. He hit just one home run in July, and drove in six, but amazingly in spite of getting on base just 27 times in the month, he came around to score 10 times thanks to some savvy baserunning. Overall, his -0.2 WAR was the worst on the team.

Hopefully such horrific droughts aren't going to be annual tradition for Dan Uggla during his tenure with the Braves, but to some degree, if he can replicate his torrid streaking from last year to some degree this year, it would make this LVP seem inconsequential later on.

Least Valuable Pitcher


Jair Jurrjens

#49 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

6-1

200

R

R

Jan 29, 1986


For the second time this year, the former All-Star has the dubious distinction of once again being named TC's Least Valuable Pitcher, for the month of July. Much like the pattern shown in April, Jair put up a so-so start, followed by an improved start, before falling into a massive chasm throughout his last two starts of the month. In spite of the poor numbers, the Braves and Jurrjens both managed to come out of July with 2-2 records in his starts. In Jair's four starts, 88 batters averaged a Mike Trout-like line of .386/.414/.566 in just 17.2 innings, leading to a horrendous looking 8.66 ERA. One could say he was unlucky in July as indicative of the .392 BABIP, but a 5.17 FIP and 5.20 SIERA is still unsightly. He wasn't striking anyone out (3.57 K/9), which makes his K/BB ratio of 1.75 look that much worse. Groundball rates were down, line drive rates were up, flyball rates were about the same, except for the fact that the rate in which some of those flyballs leave the park was of course, up.*

*All stats exclude one relief appearance on 7/31

At the end of the month, Jair Jurrjens was demoted to the bullpen in place of Kris Medlen, but with the recent acquisition of Paul Maholm, Jurrjens very well could be headed back to AAA-Gwinnett for the month of August after his first-ever relief appearance. Hopefully by the September roster expansions, Jair will have gotten a little bit of grasp of his bearings again.

Houdini Hanson Report for July


Tommy Hanson

#48 / Pitcher / Atlanta Braves

6-6

220

R

R

Aug 28, 1986


After the month of July, Tommy Hanson notched his career-high 12th win, to sit at a pretty 12-5 after 22 starts. Overall, he went 3-1 in July, with the Braves going 5-1 in Tommy Hanson starts.

However, look at the following trends:

  • K/9 skyrockets to 9.45, the best rate of the year, but BB/9 unfortunately follows proportionately to 4.86. The corresponding 1.94 K/BB is the worst rate of the season.
  • 4.25 FIP is the best mark since April, but ERA is at a season's worst 6.21.
  • Hanson cut the homers down to a 1.08 HR/9, down from 2.27 in June, but he notched a season's worst 1.71 WHIP, and allowed the highest number of earned runs (23) in one month of the season.
  • 151 batters hitting a .300/.389/.485 clip is the highest slash-per-month rate Hanson has allowed this season.

Once again, it was a puzzling month for Houdini, whom in spite of some conflicting stats throughout July, the Braves just keep winning whenever he takes the mound.

This is actually a pretty good place to stop and compare to Tommy's 2009 rookie year, where he pitched in four months of the season after getting called up in June.

2009 (June-Sept)

2012 (Apr-July)

GS

21

22

IP

127.2

126.0

K/9

8.18

8.14

K%

22.2%

20.9%

BB/9

3.24

3.86

BB%

8.8%

9.9%

HR/9

0.70

1.36

BABIP

.275

.307

HR/FB

6.9%

12.9%

ERA

2.89

4.29

FIP

3.50

4.61

SIERA

3.89

4.20

WHIP

1.18

1.44

WAR

2.6

0.6

I'm pretty sure at this point, nobody is surprised to see every single one of these categories headed in the wrong direction, compared to just three years ago. Ultimately, many won't care what Tommy Hanson does on the mound, as long as the Braves simply keep winning whenever he takes the ball, but like all magic acts, it's only a matter of time before it gets figured out. Eventually something's gotta give.

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