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

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The Beatles once sang about a universe which had eight days in a week. Unfortunately for us, we’re still a day and a week away from Opening Day at Miller Park, but regardless of how you quantify the number, it is eight days away.

That means that it’s time to take a look back at 2012 and forward to 2013 for the face of the franchise and national lightning rod…

Ryan Braun.


Let’s tranquilize the elephant first.

Ryan Braun has been in the headlines again this off-season after his name surfaced in documents belonging to the owner of a “wellness clinic” in Florida. I’ve said what I have to say about that topic when it first came up and I’m simply not going to rewrite it all here now. Suffice it to say that the reasons Braun gave as to why his name appeared in the records of Tony Bosch are plausible and with that they reinforce that the burden of proof belongs to those who would have you believe that Braun is guilty of wrongdoing. Nothing that was “uncovered” in relation to Biogenesis as it applies to Braun should have been enough to change your opinion of what you believe about Braun from his successful appeal back in the spring of 2012.

Moving on.

As the 2012 season got underway — with Braun starting on Opening Day in left field — there were questions swirling. The biggest of which was how Braun’s offensive output might be affected by the loss of his lineup “protection” after Prince Fielder skipped town for the dilapidated and trash-filled pastures of Detroit. That’s a knock on the city itself, not Prince’s signing there. After all, they made it to the World Series in his first season as a Motor City Kitty.

Well, not only did the Brewers fill two holes (one in the lineup and one defensively at third base) by signing Aramis Ramirez as a free agent, but during Ramirez’ customary slow start, Braun proved that he doesn’t need lineup protection to put up numbers. Braun hit 14 home runs by May 31st, drove in 36 RBI, stole 10 bases, walked 22 times, and tallied eight doubles and two triples. Those numbers, in 210 plates appearances, resulted in a .309/.395/.608 line at the end of May.

All told for 2012, Braun posted a .319/.391/.595 (.987 OPS) line with 191 hits, 36 doubles, three triples, 41 home runs, and 112 runs batted in. He scored 108 runs and stole 30 bases against seven caught stealings to post a 40/30 season for just the 11th time in the history of Major League Baseball.

Don’t let that slip past you. Eleven times. Eleven. That’s some elite company. As a result despite the Brewers 83-79 record and third-place division finish, Braun’s historical campaign, excellence down the stretch (August: .312/.367/.642, Sep/Oct: .355/.407/.554), and presence of a viable alternative were great enough to allow many voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America to not hold anything against Braun when voting for the Most Valuable Player in the National League. Braun was still somehow voted only fourth-best by a couple of scribes who have refused to defend their vote, but people love to hold a baseless grudge.

The bottom line about 2012 for Braun is that even with all of the boos, doubters, haters, and naysayers … even with the loss of Prince Fielder in the lineup behind him … even through tabloid rumors of engagements … through it all, Ryan Joseph Braun still posted one of the best statistical seasons in Milwaukee Brewers history and in league history.

Looking ahead to 2013, Braun enters with a modicum of doubt swirling above his head. There’s clearly a vendetta against him in the commissioner’s office of MLB, despite their claims to the contrary. They are appearing desperate to find cause to suspend Braun, and we simply have to hope that they are above inducing false testimony by offering immunity to others. It certainly appears that nobody is cooperating with MLB’s investigation which has led them to filing suit in Florida against the clinic at the center of all of this in a weakly veiled effort to gain access to the documents which they haven’t been able to otherwise acquire. It’s certainly an interesting way to go about things.

But for the play on the field itself, which I would expect Braun to participate in between 145 and 162 times in 2013, things are looking like the normally do. Braun isn’t usually a tremendous spring training hitter (though he was something else in 2011), but despite his .231 batting average, he’s slugging .692 entering play today and “OPS-ing” over 1.000 so far.

Braun has said numerous times that Spring Training is about “the process” for him. Things were a little thrown off this year due to Braun’s participation in the World Baseball Classic, but for the most part he’s where he needs to be to start the year.

Ultimately, there’s nothing to suggest that Braun will do anything other than post another stellar season both at the plate and in the field where he’s become a quality defender. He improves every year on defense, and has really learned to utilize his speed and throwing while taking better routes to the ball and covering ground much more efficiently.

Could another top two finish in MVP voting be on the horizon? Perhaps, but as has been proven many times over the course of baseball history, team success often factors in when considering individual awards.

Time will tell how the Brewers do as a whole in 2013, but I think counting on Braun to produce is something we can rely on happening.

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

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