Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers: #8 Ryan Braun

Not much desire or time for a poetic open today.

We’re eight days away and that jersey wearer had quite an eventful 2011.

He is the Brewers starting left fielder:

Ryan Braun.

When Spring Training opened in 2011, much was said about the off-season training program of the 6’1″, 200 pound right-handed hitter from Mission Hills, California by way of the University of Miami.

The positive results of that training showed in his early Cactus League numbers. He was 5 for his first 15 with two home runs. The negative results then reared their ugly heads…or should I say their ugly intercostals?

Ryan Joseph Braun was pulled from a game on Saturday, March 12 with a strained rib cage muscle. It was the same injury that had cost Braun time in 2010 and Brewer Nation was beginning to worry that it would be a chronic issue for the rest of his career.

Braun would return to the lineup two days later. There’s nothing quite like overreacting.

He would end up playing in 150 games in 2011, posting a stat line of:

563 AB, 109 R, 187 H, 38 2B, 6 3B, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 58 RBI, 93 K, 33 SB, .332/.397/.597, .994 OPS

Braun led the National League in slugging percentage and OPS. He was second in runs scored and batting average. Fourth in doubles and RBI. He ranked fifth in total hits and on-base percentage. And he finished sixth in home runs, seventh in stolen bases, and twelfth in triples.

Those numbers did not go unnoticed.

The accolades for Braun during and as a result of his 2011 season were numerous and significant.

  • National League Player of the Week in late April (4/25/11)
  • National League Player of the Month for April
  • Elected starting outfielder for the National League All-Star team
    • Fourth consecutive election
    • Was the top vote-getter in the entire league
  • National League Player of the Month for September
  • 2011 NL Silver Slugger
    • Fourth consecutive win
  • 2011 National League Most Valuable Player

It was quite the season for quite the ballplayer.

As any Brewers fan knows, Braun has been a well-respected and accolade-laden player throughout his career. He was a Rising Star as a minor leaguer, the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year, a two-time NL Player of the Month prior to 2011, and as mentioned above prior to 2011 Braun had won three Silver Sluggers as well as three All-Star Game starts.

He had become wildly popular around the country both for his good looks and due to the popularity of fantasy baseball. As a contributor across numerous categories, fans in all parts of the nation knew name because he helped them “win”.

Vastly more importantly is that he helped the Brewers win, a lot. 96 times in the regular season, in fact, with another five victories in the postseason.

It was a franchise record. Braun was justly rewarded with the NL MVP, the franchise’s first MVP Award since Robin Yount won his second in 1989.

The day the announcement came down about who had won the MVP was a great day for Brewers fans. There was much rejoicing, sports talk shows in the city of Milwaukee were blowing up with wall-to-wall praises for Braun, the Brewers, and a feeling of validation for the 2011 season despite a finish two wins shy of the World Series.

But what should have been a storybook off-season for Braun turned into a horror novel the likes of which Stephen King would pen.

Okay, perhaps that’s being a bit melodramatic but when irresponsible journalism led to a bombshell rocking the baseball world, it certainly felt like the world was caving in around Brewers fans.

It was reported that Braun had failed a urine test taken during the NLDS and that performance-enhancing drugs were the cause. ESPN decided to make the uneducated leap and several of its on-air personalities started saying that Braun had tested positive for steroids. No PED was not ever detected in Braun’s urine.

I’m not going to get into everything again in this space because enough has been said about the situation, but for the purposes of a review/preview of Braun, it needs to be made mention of.

That’s because Braun was suspended for 50 games because of the urine test. Under the suspension, Braun would miss every game from Opening Day (reminder: 8 days away!!) until May 31st.

Braun appealed the suspension claiming his innocence and telling reporters that the reports were “b.s.”

As you know, Braun won the appeal by basing what we know of his argument on something that if proven to be questionable would mean that the suspension could not be upheld. The independent arbitrator ruled in Braun’s favor making the three-member panel vote for Braun by a 2-1 margin.

(If you want to read my other thoughts on the Braun situation, I wrote them back in February. You can get to them by clicking here.)

That means that Braun will be in the lineup on April 6 when the Milwaukee Brewers take on the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park for Opening Day 2o12. The reigning NL MVP will lead the defending National League Central Division Champions into battle.

That’s great news for the Brewers and not so great news for the redbirds.

Spring Training this year hasn’t been great for Braun. He started the Cactus League by playing only every other day while, apparently, nursing a bit of a sore groin that finally flared up and cost him a few days at one point.

Braun is just 4-for-28 in 2012, but he’s started to come on lately with hits in three of his last four games (3-for-11, 2 walks). He is confident that when the bell rings in eight days, he’ll answer it the same way that he always has.

After all, Spring Training isn’t about results anyway for someone with Braun’s pedigree. It’s about the process to get oneself ready to play. So long as Braun remains confident, the results will be there in the end.

That’s not to say that there won’t be some differences to Braun’s numbers this season. Many people will claim that lineup protection is overrated at best and non-existent at worse, but Aramis Ramirez is not Prince Fielder. That means that in certain situations, you can expect that total of two intentional walks to skyrocket by comparison.

If the lineup produces around Braun, and that production should be less concentrated which should help Milwaukee more than hurt, the left fielder will see plenty of success.

With a full season on tap in Brew City Braun will see an increase in on-base percentage, and if he can stay patient and attack the mistakes he sees (something he’s always done phenomenally well throughout his career), the bottom line for Braun is that he’ll put up the numbers he can control.

The numbers that are reliant on his teammates? We’ll see how that all shakes out when the time comes.

But eight days from now, when we’ve filled Miller Park and are screaming our collective heads off for our guy during team introductions, just enjoy the moment. And if Braun goes 0-for-4 in the game, don’t worry. After all, there’s 161+ to go.

Something tells me Braun will be just fine when those games are in the books.

3 Comments

I cannot wait for Braun’s standing ovation on Opening Day, definitely going to be something to remember.

You can add “corageous” to the list of accolades. Go get ‘em Brauny! Have one helluva opener.

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