One of the perks of following the peaks and valleys of a baseball season is to assign numbers, often starting and ending at arbitrary points, to lend context to an argument or narrative.
For instance, Dexter Fowler has a .392 on-base percentage over the last calendar year. That's better than Ryan Braun, Robinson Cano and Jose Reyes. For pitchers, Doug Fister (3.07) and A.J. Burnett (3.29) have better FIP's over the last 365 days than CC Sabathia, Chris Sale and Zack Greinke.
When looking at the ebb and flow of a season, the beginning, middle and end tend to stand out more than the heart of the baseball calendar. In other words, stats from April, the All-Star break and final totals are what fans remember.
Perhaps we should take more of a month-by-month look at players, teams and narratives rather than just look at the sum of the parts.
With May in the rear-view mirror, let's assign winners and losers for the month, based solely on the action from May 1 to May 31.
St. Louis' Player Development Staff
With a nod to Jeff Luhnow (former vice president of scouting and player development in St. Louis) in Houston, the staff and player development team in St. Louis deserves credit for the volume of impact, season-changing young players, particularly pitchers, who have emerged through the system and thrived.
While Shelby Miller (1.99 ERA in May) burst on the scene last September and exploded into a front-line starter in April, last month was a showcase for the depth behind him in the future of the Cardinals rotation.
As Adam Wainwright continues to post legendary K/BB rates as the ace of the staff, the kids behind him are setting St. Louis up for a pennant chase in 2013.
Between Tyler Lyons, John Gast and Michael Wacha, the Cardinals have coaxed 39.2 innings of 3.18 ERA out of the trio of 25-or-younger arms.
Add in the contributions of Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal in the bullpen, and the best staff in baseball has an average age of 27.1.
In other words, they're going to be good for a long, long time.
Tampa Bay's System
On May 1, the Rays were sitting at 12-15, seven full games behind Boston in the AL East standings and sporting a 4-11 road record.
As per their usual, the organization didn't panic, dramatically shake up the roster or have Joe Maddon turn over tables in the clubhouse. Instead, they stayed the course, trusting their offseason plan would come to fruition over the long haul.
Patience, as usual, paid off in Tampa.
During May, Maddon's group went 18-9, posted a plus-27 run differential and made up four games on the Red Sox in the AL East standings.
Considering that David Price went on the DL with arm trouble during the month, Tampa is exactly where it needs to be and poised for a big run at another postseason berth when its ace returns.
Believers in Patience
When it comes to drafting, developing and cultivating talent, fans and media members expect and demand instant gratification. The moniker of "bust" or "overrated" is thrown out far too often during the development of young players in the game of baseball.
Unlike the NBA, NHL or NFL, it's very difficult to master the game enough to excel consistently during a player's early 20s. While Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are great, they are the exception to the rule.
May was another reminder of this facet of the game in cities like Baltimore, Milwaukee and Philadelphia.
Chris Davis, leading the league in home runs, posted a .364/.442/.768 slash line in May. If that looks like something out of Barry Bonds' FanGraphs page, it's not your eyes mistaking you.
Amazingly, Baltimore was able to acquire Davis in a 2011 trade deadline deal, along with bullpen maven Tommy Hunter, for relief pitcher Koji Uehera.
While Uehera is one of baseball's most underrated bullpen arms, Baltimore secured a monster power hitter with untapped potential. Texas parted ways with its former prospect partially because of his slow development into a professional hitter.
In Milwaukee, center fielder Carlos Gomez posted a .551 slugging percentage in May. If you've been paying attention to the former all-glove, no-hit prospect over the last calendar year, this probably isn't too surprising.
According to FanGraphs' WAR, Gomez has been the 12th-most valuable player in baseball over the last 365 days. During that span, his .504 slugging percentage is seventh among all outfielders in the sport, topping names like Bryce Harper, Jay Bruce and Justin Upton. Not bad for a guy that failed to crack the .300 OBP mark during any of his first five seasons in the big leagues.
When considering organizational philosophy, perhaps no franchise is more confounding than the Philadelphia Phillies.
The organization desperately needed to add young, impact everyday players to its lineup. It did almost everything in its power to not allow Domonic Brown a chance to develop at the major league level.
In May, he showed them, and the rest of the MLB, what he could do with extended playing time by slugging .668, bashing 12 home runs and posting a .419 wOBA.
While it's easy to forget now, perennial MVP candidate Joey Votto had a hiccup in his development before becoming one of the best hitters on the planet. In Toronto, Edwin Encarnacion had similar issues in Cincinnati before emerging in Toronto as a feared, middle-of-the-order bat.
Kansas City Royals Fans
Royals fans woke up on May 1, took a look at the AL Central standings and basked in the glory of a first-place team, sporting a plus-15 run differential and oozing with potential.
Over the next 30 days, their team went 8-20, hired George Brett to save the offense and had every move in the Dayton Moore regime questioned and scrutinized once again.
In reality, that first-place team entering May wasn't great. On that note, the team isn't as bad as its May record suggests, but is also not good enough to make the postseason.
Once again, October will likely come and go without the Royals. They'll probably rebound, come close to or exceed .500 and give the fans something to watch this summer, but it won't be the end of their playoff drought or give true, definitive answers on this group of young players.
Time to change? The Royals playoff drought dates back to '85, the same year Back to the Future hit the big screen. http://t.co/G0taUTf1Fs— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) May 29, 2013
The future is still brighter than the past in Kansas City, but far dimmer than it looked a month ago.
Milwaukee's Wasted Stars
From Jean Segura to Ryan Braun to Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee's lineup had three of the top 50 hitters in wOBA for the month of May. Factor in Norichika Aoki's .364 OBP, Jonathan Lucroy's above-average bat and the return of Aramis Ramirez, and the 2013 Brewers should profile as a dynamic offense capable of winning games and competing in the NL Central.
Due to a 4.55 May ERA, the continued disappearance of Rickie Weeks and Yuniesky Betancourt crashing back down to earth, the franchise didn't come close to contending last month.
In fact, it went 6-22. That's exactly how many games Miami won, two fewer than Kansas City and a whopping four games worse than Houston.
For a team that had postseason aspirations, May could be the tipping point for an organization evaluation and direction at the upcoming trade deadline.
Philadelphia's Player Evaluation Team
I've been accused of picking on Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., failing to give him credit for his best moments and highlighting his worst.
While the emergence of Brown should be a big plus for his regime, it's impossible to understand what his judgment and player evaluation team missed on this kid for just 433 at-bats to be awarded to him over the last three seasons.
Of course, it's not all Amaro.
His decisions to spend millions of dollars on Laynce Nix and Delmon Young speak volumes about the coaches and executives who looked at Brown over the last two years and decided those players were better.
Brown's a real player, but the brass in Philadelphia spent millions telling fans he wasn't.