Craig Kimbrel and the 5 Biggest Suprises This Season for the Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves have a commanding eight-game lead in the National League Wild Card race and look poised for a deep postseason run.
Solid pitching combined with timely, clutch hitting has given the Braves faithful reason to look forward to September.
Let's look at the six biggest surprises this season that have put them in a position to make a World Series run.
In 21 games at the Major League level, Constanza has 27 hits and an incredible .375/.423/.500 slash line.
He's also stolen six bases for the big league club, providing a much-needed spark.
As they always say, speed never slumps.
Vying for Rookie of the Year, Freeman has cemented himself as a premiere first baseman in the National League.
He's given the Braves a nice balance of power and average, belting 17 homers and driving in 62 while also posting a .293 average.
Freeman has played almost every day for the Bravos, only missing four games all year.
Look for this rookie to be a staple for the Braves for years to come.
Speaking of Rookie of the Year, Craig Kimbrel's case is also a strong one.
Rumors were rampant about this flame-throwing righty in the minor leagues, but no one would have predicted Kimbrel's 2011 numbers.
He leads the Major Leagues in saves and has a miniscule 1.75 ERA.
Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that Kimbrel hasn't allowed a run since June 11.
Unfortunately for the Braves, this is not a good surprise.
Jason Heyward posted phenomenal rookie numbers last season, and while most thought his numbers would dip in his sophomore season, no one thought they would be this low.
Heyward is hitting only .220 with an on-base percentage of .314.
He only got four hits in May, and from the beginning of July, he's only hitting .208.
With Heyward's decline and the surge of Jose Constanza, look for Jason's time on the bench to only increase.
Dan Uggla has been the subject of two surprises this season.
First, he was hitting a measly .173 on July 4th. When the Braves acquired Uggla, they knew they weren't getting a .300 hitter, but .173 for a starting player is atrocious. He seemed to ground into a double play at every opportunity.
That was all before his historic hitting streak, however.
Uggla exceeded expectations after July 4th, raising his average an incredible 58 points in just over a month.
His 33-game hitting streak set the Atlanta Braves record, and during that stretch, he hit .377 with 15 homers and 32 RBI.
Surprisingly bad and then surprisingly good.
Dan Uggla will certainly never forget this season.
Everyone knew Brandon Beachy was a great young talent, but his 2011 numbers have exceeded expectations.
He's become a constant in the Braves rotation, posting a 6-2 record and solid 3.32 ERA in over 100 innings.
With the Braves' staff currently in flux due to injury, look for Beachy to get the ball in the postseason.
Keep it up, Brandon.