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Waiting to declare Ryan Braun back to his old form

Braun has been looking very good at the plate lately. But he looked good at the start of 2014, too.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Braun has been very good lately after being very bad for the last couple years. I've noticed a lot of people talking after a very good May that Ryan Braun is, perhaps, back to being somewhere close to what he once was. The past two years he's been plagued by nerve damage in his thumb, but a round of cryotherapy this past winter hopefully fixed the issue.

So far the early returns have been promising. There's only one thing that concerns me: The early returns were promising last year, too.

April 204 .318 .361 .591 6
May 2014 .323 .354 .548 2
April/May 2014 .320 .358 .573 8
April 2015 .254 .293 423 4
May 2015 .272 .369 .563 8
April/May 2015 .264 .340 .506 12

That's not encouraging! Ryan Braun was even better at the start of last year than he was this year, even with a stint on the disabled list thrown in. Of course, Ryan Braun got worse month-over-month and ended up being pretty putrid over the final couple months of the season. Let's look at some other Braun's success in 2015 so far similar to that he saw at the beginning of 2014? Any takeaways on why he's hitting well?

Time BB% K% BABIP LD% GB% FB% Pull% Cent% Oppo% Soft% Med% Hard%
April 2014 7.2 18.6 .333 19.7 38.0 42.3 43.1 33.3 23.6 16.7 45.8 37.5
May 2014 3.1 12.3 .346 25.9 48.1 25.9 27.8 33.3 38.9 14.8 51.9 33.3
April 2015 4.0 22.3 .275 14.5 43.6 41.8 27.3 32.7 40.0 12.7 41.8 45.5
May 2015 13.8 18.7 .270 17.1 51.2 31.7 35.4 36.6 28.1 17.1 41.5 41.5

The good news is it seems like Braun was substantially luckier in 2014, if we're going on batting average on balls in play. However, Braun's career BABIP is .334, so really his 2014 numbers are perhaps closer to what his career norms had been. That could be a good sign -- if Braun's BABIP rises, so too should his batting stats, one would figure.

Of course, his BABIP might be down because he's not hitting as many line drives as he did at the beginning of last year. Then again, he's also hitting balls harder which should be a good sign.

I don't know, though. You could look at these numbers all day and try to find trends and reasons why, but the biggest factor in whether Ryan Braun is, well, good again is whether his thumb stays healthy. That's the noticeable thing. He said he felt good at the beginning of 2014 and his numbers showed it before his thumb became a big problem again.

Similarly, Braun has looked pretty good in 2015, especially in May -- that right there is a good sign, the fact that he's gotten better from one month to the next. But we can't know if he's going to continue feeling no pain in his thumb. If that recurs, there's a good chance he goes back to the Ryan Braun of the last two years rather than the Ryan Braun of May 2015 and the years before the injury.

What I'm saying is it's a risky proposition to say Ryan Braun is back,  that he's good again, just yet. It's too early. It's possible, but until we get at least a full season of him hitting well, I'm not prepared to call him 'back'. I just hope he is.