They say that April showers bring May flowers, and in the case of the 2016 Braves, April showers replete with losses and poor performances culminated in a managerial shakeup in May. Let me apologize for that, that was terrible. Ahem. In any case, as some of you "helpfully" pointed out, the May recap could really be summed up as "Fredi got fired," as that particular moment of catharsis for many a Braves fan may end up being the highlight of the 2016 season.
But hey, in reality, a lot of baseball was played, and not all of it was entirely dreadful. So let's take a stroll down short term memory lane and look back on a month with ups, downs, and lots of stuff in between.
Overall, the Braves went 10-18 in May. Not great, but they doubled their win total from April, while losing the same amount of games. Progress is progress. Two whole teams (Twins, Reds) had worse months than the Braves, and the pitching rebounded to be surprisingly, impressively strong. The position players on the roster, hampered by injury and ineffectiveness, continued to plod along, putting up worse production than a hypothetical replacement level team. But the pitching!
Series by Series
- Won the tail end of a series in Chicago against the Cubs (lost the first game, middle game rained out)
- Lost two of three in New York to the Mets
- Swept by the Diamondbacks at home
- Lost two of three to the Phillies
- Lost two of three in Kansas City
- Lost three of four to the Pirates (farewell, Fredi Gonzalez)
- Finally won a series at home by taking two of three from the Phillies
- Swept at home by the Brewers
- Won a home series (two of three) against the Marlins
- Won a game, then lost a game, against the Giants at home (four game series in total)
No obnoxiously long losing streaks in May, just two four-game skids. Almost like a tuft of relief, that.
May Team Stats by the Numbers
- 10-18 record (15-36 overall, on pace for a better record than the '62 Mets or the 2003 Tigers, so not as interesting as the dire prognosis in April)
- Current Pythagorean Expectation (overall) of 17-34, leading the Reds by a game.
- Amazingly once again, not last in runs scored, despite the terrible offense. Thanks to the Phillies for the assist.
- Offensive production: not the worst in the majors (!) with a 74 wRC+ and a .235/.300/.346 line for non-pitchers. At least the slugging was above .300 for the month, even if the OBP somehow fell by .009 from April. Thanks again, Phillies.
- Defensive production: we're still operating somewhat blind here with small samples and lags in updating the metrics, but the Braves were squarely towards the bottom here, but not egregiously bad, with about -6 runs total (good for 25th in the league).
- Total position player value: once again, below replacement level, and worst in the league for the second month in a row, this time at -0.9 fWAR. It's no good when the stats suggest your entire team's production could be superseded by replacement level players, but that's what we saw in May. To be fair, I find it hard to argue this, as the combination of bad defense and abominable offense leads to that conclusion fairly well.
- Rotation: a bright spot! 5th-best ERA and 10th-best FIP among MLB teams. The xFIP is fairly low at 20th, so there may have been some homer suppression luck dragons flying about, but there were a lot of positive strides taken.
- Bullpen: much like the rotation, considerably improved from the fire-and-brimstone that rained down in April. While the relief corps were about average at giving up runs (18th in ERA, 10th in NL), the FIP was a very shiny 3.23 (5th in MLB, 3rd in NL) and the xFIP was 6th (again, 3rd in NL) at 3.61. Overall, by leverage-weighted value, the bullpen clocked in at 9th in MLB (4th in NL), which is not so surprising given the team's overall performance.
- Total pitching value: 9th in MLB, 7th in NL. A huge turnaround from the bottom-five-ish performance in April (mostly due to the bad relief pitching that month).
So, there you have it. The position players were again, really bad, but the pitching improved and was very respectable.
Biggest May Impact - Position Players
It feels a little weird to type this, but Gordon Beckham really carried the day (well, the month) in this regard for the Braves, being one of the few bright spots during the extended 2016 stay in Atlanta's offensive doldrums. Not only that, but he managed to do so while missing the first week-plus of the month with a hamstring injury. On the topic of things that feel weird to type, Beckham put up a 144 wRC+ in May, despite the fact that he's been a well-below-average hitter for his career (84 wRC+), and was even worse in 2014 and 2015 (71, 63, respectively). Still, his .299/.405/.478 line was nothing if not shiny, and it appears the Braves will miss him once again as he may have suffered another hamstring injury as soon as the calendar turned to June.
I've mentioned Beckham's strange batted ball and contact profiles this season before, but he walked more than he struck out in May and seemed to generally deliver hits in situations where other hitters failed and flailed. He had four big games in the month, including his first game off the DL (bases-clearing double, would then score the tying run) and a pinch-hit go-ahead two-run homer against the Brewers.
A special shout-out here also goes to Chase d'Arnaud. A potentially quintessential AAAA player, d'Arnaud made hay of his .390 BABIP in the month to hit .320/.414/.440 with a 137 wRC+. Unfortunately, a lot of those hits came in fairly garbage time instances, and he somehow managed to score just three runs and drive in none despite being on base 24 times in the month. This is why runs and RBI are unreliable at best to measure stuff.
Biggest May Impact - Starting Pitchers
Biggest May Impact - Relief Pitchers
Five Moments I liked from May 2016
Ten wins is more than five, so finding these was much easier than doing the same for April. But really, this was a month for pitching. It may be kind of hard to appreciate some of these in the moment, but we were privy to some phenomenal pitching performances in May. Let's re-live them!
Julio Teheran Dominates the Best Team in Baseball - May 1 @ Cubs
The Cubs series was really exciting, and that was even with rain taking away one of the games. And through May, the Cubs had only lost 14 games, with one of them coming at the hands of the lowly Braves. A huge reason for that loss was the way Julio Teheran straight-up dominated them on May 1. Seven innings, three baserunners, nine strikeouts. Sure, the bullpen blew it, but the Braves came back. In any case, Teheran just dazzled.
Three Cheers for Folty - May 14 @ Royals
I am including Jeff Francoeur in this list - May 8 vs D-backs
One hit, one win, one Wisler - May 3 @ Mets
Teheranosaurus Takes a Bite out of the Pirates - May 18 @ Pirates
Irrationally Irritating Moment of May 2016
Chris Herrmann has eleven career homers. He hit two in the same game against the Braves. I think I've said enough. But, in case I haven't, you should know that one of them came with two outs, on an 0-2 pitch, in the 11th inning of a tie game. A game that the Braves had rallied back to tie thanks to the silly Francoeur double noted above.
Thanks for nothing, Chris Herrmann. Thanks for nothing, Jim Johnson. Thanks for nothing, Chris Johnson, just because I accidentally typed your name since it's a composite of the two guys that combined for this irrationally irritating moment.
Seriously, look at that 0-2 pitch! It was the worst pitch ever! Argh!