At the start of May, we spent some time marveling over Dayan Viciedo's excellent April. He hit .348/.410/.528, showing an unusual amount of plate discipline and ratcheting down his huge swing when the situation called for it.
Yet we had to show similar restraint with enthusiasm:
Captain Obvious says it remains to be seen whether Viciedo can maintain this eye, but the officer has to underscore this point, because Viciedo has never strung together two months of even average OBP work. The two times he drew eight walks, he followed them with months of zero walks and one walk.
So, did Viciedo carry over his suddenly respectable strike-zone judgment into May?
On a micro scale, we can take Viciedo's total line -- .277/.332/.441 -- and say he can work with that. One great month, one below-average month, which looks like regression, ebbing and flowing, waxing and waning, fluctuations of human baseball players, etc.
On a macro scale, though, Viciedo missed another opportunity to string together two good months for the first time in his career. If Avisail Garcia were healthy and reasonably productive, Viciedo's career as a starter might be on the ropes by now. Instead, the lack of outfield depth will give him more leeway than he'd normally deserve.
Nevertheless, this month could say a lot about Viciedo's future, even if the reckoning is delayed. If he bounces back with an .800+ OPS in June, it'd be the first time he went 2-for-3 with quality months at any point in his career. But if his May form carries into June, and he keeps rolling over outside pitches instead of pounding them to right field like he did so well over the first month, then he's already halfway into another season without measurable progress.
And then there's Gordon Beckham, who stepped up as May's "Surprisingly Productive Under-the-Gun Starter." Or at least before he ran into San Diego's buzzsaw of a pitching staff.
Even with the flat finish, Beckham still managed to get one monkey off his back. Revisiting a post from the offseason:
It's not just that Beckham hasn't come close to matching the .808 OPS from his rookie season -- he hasn't even had one month with an OPS over .800 in any of his last three seasons. That's 17 consecutive months, or 18 if you count September of 2010. He barely played that month due to a bone bruise, which was a shame after two truly great months, so that seems unnecessary.
Get a load of this:
Beckham's May qualifies as his best single month since August of 2010. It couldn't come at a better time for him, because this is the first time the Sox have alternatives.
The conversation surrounding his success sounds so much like the quotes we hear every offseason. That's not really his fault, because there's only so much he can say in response to the questions. But there's a reason useful production out of Beckham is a newsworthy item, so it's hard to say he's out of the woods until "Gordon Beckham: OK hitter" isn't a headline.
Looking at the numbers, and that strikeout-to-walk ratio looks like a fault line ... or it could mark a sea change in his game. For instance, his Brooks data against fastballs is a departure -- he's swinging through a lot of them, but he's making good contact when he connects. Maybe he's cutting it loose more and trading strikeouts for infield popups.
Or ... maybe he was lucky in May, and his 1-for-12, five-strikeout series against the Padres is the start of a comeuppance.
Like Viciedo, Beckham has a track record that's going to take more than one good month to buck. Two months could change perceptions, but both players have shown just how difficult that is.