Month in Review, National League Edition: June
We’re a week into July but it’s not too late to go back and look at the past month of the 2011 season. So, as I’ve done with both April and May, let’s take a look at the month in review. We’ve already looked at the American League, so let’s shift our attention to the National League.
Best Team: Atlanta Braves
With a 17-9 record in June, the Braves are the NL’s hottest team heading into July but still trail the league leading Phillies by a handful of games. Pitching has been the key to Atlanta’s success so far but the team is going to be on the lookout for some offensive help in the coming weeks if they hope to stay in the hunt for the NL East.
Best Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee
Lee absolutely dominated the competition in June, allowing just a single earned run in 5 starts (42.0 IP). He finished the month 5-0 with a 0.21 ERA, 29 strikeouts, 8 walks, and just 21 hits allowed. This past offseason’s biggest pitching prize continues to show why he was so highly coveted.
Matt Cain (4-0, 1.65 ERA, 43.2 IP) and Tommy Hanson (4-0, 2.16 ERA, 25.0 IP) also had respectable months.
Best Relief Pitcher: Brian Wilson
The Giants closer was nearly perfect in June, saving 10 of 11 opportunities while pitching to a 1.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, with 11 strikeouts in 14.0 innings pitched. Washington’s Drew Storen also saved 10 games in the month, but pitched to a 4.61 ERA and fewer strikeouts, giving the nod here to Wilson.
Best Hitter: Jose Reyes
The speedster continued what has been a phenomenal season in June, batting .385/.425/.598 in 117 at bats. He also had 14 extra base hits (7 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR) and 11 stolen bases over that time. Reyes had been on pace for some historic numbers (could be the first player to 30 triples since 1912) before a hamstring injury placed him on the DL in the past few days. It will be interesting to see how quickly he can return from the injury.
Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder also had a big month at the plate. He batted .337/.491/.747 with 10 HR and 27 RBI.
Disappointing Team: Florida Marlins
At one point in June many were wondering if the Marlins would win a game, let alone enough to avoid being the worst team in the league for the month. Yet, after going just 5-23 here the Marlins sit as the easy choice for most disappointing team in June. To make matters just a little worse, the team replaced managers mid-month but not because of a firing. Edwin Rodriguez simply quit on his team only to be replaced by a man old enough to be a grandfather to some of his new players.
Top Rookie Hitter: Danny Espinosa
A pair of NL rookie hitters had solid months. Washington’s Espinosa batted .274/.345/.472 with 5 HR and 15 RBI. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman batted .287/.330/.489 with 4 HR and 17 RBI. Each player had roughly the same number of at bats. But, the nod will go to Espinosa here due to the 5 stolen bases he had on top of everything above.
Top Rookie Pitcher: Craig Kimbrel
Atlanta’s rookie closer has continued his dominance in the month of June. In 14 appearances he saved 8 games with a 1.93 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 14.0 innings of work. The stocky right hander gives the team a formidable duo at the backend of their bullpen when paired with Jonny Venters.
Dillon Gee of the Mets did post another impressive month on the mound, going 3-1 in 5 starts (29.0 IP) with a 2.48 ERA but Kimbrel was better.