Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Best (and Worst) of June

Hey, cool, I made it a month.  The Braves finished off a 13-12 June with a 7-5 victory against the Nationals in the oven known as Turner Field today.  Despite the win over the revered Stephen Strasburg, Atlanta remains one of baseball's disappointing clubs.  After opening the season with four consecutive loses, the Braves righted the ship and were 14-8 after 22 games, but since April 29th, Atlanta is a weak 27-28.  June started with a 6-1 record, but they only were able to win seven of their remaining 18 games of the month.

Regardless, with the month over, it's time to look at who made the best of a mediocre month and who helped drag Atlanta down.

Top Rookie of the Month - Andrelton Simmons - Simmons arrived on June 1st after a superb run in Mississippi to replace the struggling Tyler Pastornicky and has only been awesome.  He's hit .333 this month with an RBI today, Simmons actually drove in the second most runs this month with 14.  His ISO has been around .200 for the month with six doubles, a triple, and three homers.  Oh, and by the way, he's damn awesome defensively.  While he has made a couple of careless mistakes, he posted a 5.9 UZR.  Now, obviously, defensive statistics lose whatever value they may have in a shortened sample size, but if you have watched even a couple of Braves' games this month, you notice how much of a lift his glove, range, and arm have provided Atlanta so far.  In addition, when you compare him to Pastornicky (-12.3 UZR, still worst in among MLB shortstops), what Simmons has provided is even more notable.

Worst Pitcher of the Month - Mike Minor - It's becoming a recurring theme every time the lefty pitches.  While two of the four runs charged to him today scored after he left the game, Minor continues to struggle to reach the potential that made him the seventh overall selection a few years ago.  I do think that Minor, at times, is a victim of bad luck and sometimes, gets killed by his manager's quick hook.  But the results simply haven't been there for Minor.  His ERA actually was sitting under 4.00 for the month coming in today's game, but his FIP (5.84) and xFIP (5.03) showed a clearer sign of how he was performing.  For a guy who essentially made it clear that the Braves should pitch him or trade him, you'd like to see more than a HR/9 rate hovering around 2.0 and a walk rate climbing toward 4.0 per nine.  This second half could go a long way to help the Braves decide if Minor is closer to the prospect they thought they were drafting or closer to Kyle Davies and Jo-Jo Reyes.

Others - Tommy Hanson, Eric O'Flaherty

Worst Position Player of the Month - Brian McCann - At a certain point, McCann has to really start to put it together, right?  After an 0-for-4 today, McCann hit a miserable .193 for the month with an ISO nearly .100.  There was a brief point there when we thought McCann was finally coming out of season-long slump when he strung together three consecutive two-hit games with a pair of homers June 12-15th, but since that day, McCann is 7 of 49.  When people start asking if McCann is a player the Braves should extend, they'd like to see some performance.  McCann has been a weak point for this offense almost all season, but eventually he has to start putting it together.  His .297 BABIP will get closer to his career .357.  I hope.

Others - Matt Diaz, Eric Hinske

Best Pitcher of the Month - Craig Kimbrel - Today, Kimbrel ended his month with a pair of nasty sliders to put away a couple of Nationals hitters.  If you ever want a picture on domination, Kimbrel provided it in June.  For the month, he faced 36 batters.  THREE of them reached base.  One of them homered, another singled and stole two bases, and the other was wiped out on a double play.  20 of the 36 struck out.  Oh, and he nailed down all eight save attempts.  Suffice it to say, he was pretty damn awesome.

Others - Tim Hudson

Best Position Player of the Month - Jason Heyward - This was oddly a tougher choice than I assumed it would be.  With the month that Andrelton Simmons had, he could easily have taken this from him, but you cannot deny what Heyward did in June.  Heyward hit nearly .350 with a slugging percentage approaching .700.  He's earned a spot in the top three in the lineup and it seems unlikely that Heyward won't stay there if he continues to come close to the month he had in June.

Others - Andrelton Simmons, Michael Bourn

A few fun monthly notes...
  • Michael Bourn stole his 7th and 8th bases of the month...four more than the rest of the team. 
  • Chad Durbin appeared in 15 of 25 games in June.  
  • The only bench player who had a remotely good month (and he had a great one) was David Ross who went 9 for 23.  Combined, the usual bench like Eric Hinske, Jack Wilson, Juan Francisco, and Matt Diaz went 17 for 100.  

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