Now that the Atlanta Braves season is over, it's time to look at which hitters had the biggest impact on the team and which ones were the biggest drag on the team. Today we'll tackle the top and bottom hitters, tomorrow the pitchers.
This is a tough one, because there are three really good candidates. Brian McCann was the MVP of last year's team (according to Talking Chop), and he had another good season this year. He is totally deserving of the team MVP, he continued to put up great offensive numbers, and added to his value behind the plate by posting a caught stealing percentage six points higher than his previous season high. The 30% CS mark was right at league average, and a definite improvement in a part of his game that needed the most improvement.
Martin Prado was a catalyst for much of the Braves offensive transformation this year, and he led the team's resurgence when he was moved to the leadoff spot in May. He stumbled at the end due to several nagging injuries, and a double-injury of a hip pointer and a torn oblique finally ended his season in the midst of the postseason chase of late September. He's clearly a choice that many Braves fans would chose for their MVP.
But this year Talking Chop will award the Braves team MVP to the kid, Jason Heyward. Heyward hit .272/.398/.505 up until his June 10th collision with Nate McLouth. From June 10th until he went on the disabled list on June 28th, Heyward hit .186/.238/.271. When he got back from the DL, Heyward once again went on a tear, hitting .302/.419/.457. Take away the time when he was playing injured and Heyward had one heck of a rookie season, and was clearly the most important hitter in the Braves lineup. Yes, he faded a bit at the end, but every hitter in the Braves lineup faded at the end.
He is truly the bright light in the Braves future, and to think that he's already their most valuable player in his first Major League season is even more remarkable. With a year of experience under his belt, he should be one of the most dangerous hitters in the National League next year ... as a 21-year old.
#22 / Right Field / Atlanta Braves
Aug 09, 1989
|2010 - Jason Heyward||142||520||83||144||29||5||18||72||91||128||11||6||.277||.393||.456|
The LVP after the jump...
Like the hitting MVP, there are three really good (or bad) candidates for this award. When the Braves acquired Melky Cabrera I remarked that the team had just re-acquired Jeff Francoeur, only not quite as good, and boy was I right. Frenchy posted a slash line this year of .249/.300/.383 (bolstered only by the friendly confines of The Ballpark at Arlington), and Melky posted a slash line of .255/.317/.354 -- Melk had more patience, but not as much power ... how exciting! He was terrible. I count the days until his unconditional release.
Matt Diaz really only has value against left-handed pitching, and in 2010 he once again did pretty well against them (.830 OPS), but he got into 68 games against right-handed pitching and stunk up the joint (.633 OPS), especially in games where he faced a right-handed starting pitcher (.577). Like Melky, Diaz will hopefully be non-tendered at the end of the year. He's a fun guy to watch, if only for his completely unorthodox style of hitting, but we've seen enough of him and it's time to move away from the left field platoon of terror.
Two good candidates -- and really we could also select the Yunel / Gonzalez combo as another LVP -- but Nate McLouth wins this dubious honor. Nate hit below .200 for the season. He was pitiful beyond the pale, and only saved from utter humiliation by a return to some type of career norm in September, after spending the better part of two months in the Minor Leagues, all the while sucking up valuable salary space. Add to his horrible hitting the fact that he caused the MVP of the team, Jason Heyward, to miss several weeks and suffer a decline in production because of an injury caused by a collision where it looked like McLouth wasn't calling for the ball as he should have been.
Odds are McLouth will be around next year because his contract is guaranteed and highly untradeable, so the only glimmer of hope for our LVP is that he did manage to post an .887 OPS in September and October once he was recalled from the minors. Whether McLouth can post those kinds of numbers in 2011 will go a long way towards determining if the Braves will be successful next year.
#24 / Center Field / Atlanta Braves
Oct 28, 1981
|2010 - Nate McLouth||85||242||30||46||12||1||6||24||33||57||7||2||.190||.298||.322|
Pitching MVP and LVP coming up tomorrow.