The Atlanta Braves got their 2012 campaign off to a fine start with a record of 14-9 and currently sit in second place in the National League East. Despite in inauspicious four-game losing streak to begin the season against inferior competition, the Braves have battled back to win 14 of their last 19 games. Let's take a look back on the month of April and see who stood out -- for better and for worse.
Hitting MVP: Michael Bourn
|2012 - Michael Bourn||23||90||13||31||5||1||0||4||10||14||7||4||.337||.400||.411|
Michael Bourn, who may be playing his final season in Atlanta, did everything and more the Braves could have possibly hoped for from their leadoff man. His stellar on-base percentage ranks him among the best in baseball and he is already near the top of the leader board with seven stolen bases. Bourn has the highest batting average of anyone on the Braves and posted a wRC+ of 140 (read more here; 100 is average), which is elite for any hitter, especially a center fielder.
Bourn was worth 1.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement; read more here), tying him for fourth-best in baseball and tops on the Braves. Given his stellar performance at the plate, on the base paths and in the field, the decision to make Bourn MVP for the month of April was a no-brainer.
Pitching MVP: Brandon Beachy
|2012 - Brandon Beachy||2-1||4||4||0||0||0||0||25.2||18||7||3||1||7||20||1.05||.97|
This was a close two-horse race leading up until monday between Beachy and Mike Minor, but a poor start from Minor against a bad offensive club all-but-eliminated him from consideration. While Minor (and Tommy Hanson) were certainly qualified to take home the pitching MVP award for April, simply neither can touch what Beachy did.
His ERA and WHIP rank him in the top-five in baseball. Beachy has allowed two earned runs or fewer in all of his starts, including a shutout of a talented Diamondbacks team. Many pegged the young righty to have a breakout season, and if this past month was any indication, Beachy is more than on his way to becoming a household name across the league for years to come.
Hitting LVP: Jack Wilson
|2012 - Jack Wilson||14||26||2||3||0||0||0||3||0||7||0||0||.115||.111||.115|
Want to know something awesome? Despite their slow start to the season, there really isn't an everyday starter who qualifies for LVP in the month of April. Everyone with 50 or more plate appearances -- basically your eight starting players -- posted a wRC+ of 97 or higher, with Tyler Pastornicky being the lowest of the bunch. Given him being a 22-year-old rookie shortstop and all, you really can't fault the kid for being average at the plate.
That brings us to the bench, where Jack Wilson was absolutely awful. He did not draw a walk or produce an extra-base hit, and he had just three hits in 29 plate appearances. His OPS is a meager .226, placing him near the bottom of the league. Not much was expected from Wilson at the plate, but these numbers are just too bad to ignore.
Pitching LVP: Jair Jurrjens
|2012 - Jair Jurrjens||0-2||4||4||0||0||0||0||16.1||30||17||17||5||10||8||9.37||2.45|
It's tough to say much about Jair Jurrjens that hasn't already been said. He was sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett after just four starts after getting pounded in each one, taking the demotion professionally and without incident. While he claims that his knees are healthy you have to believe that he adjusted his mechanics on the mound due to previous discomfort, which was undoubtably hindered his ability to get outs in a timely fashion.
Braves fans can only hope that Jurrjens gets back to doing what he did a few seasons ago and return to the starting rotation sometime during the summer. At this point, it's likely either that or be traded before the July 31 deadline.
For more on the Braves check out Talking Chop. For more news and notes from around Major League Baseball head over to Baseball Nation.