Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Missing: Ryan Braun

Despite starting the mid-summer classic in Anaheim, Ryan Braun has not been an all-star this season. After Wednesday's 1-4 performance, Braun has seen his OPS drop to .791. Although a .791 OPS isn't terrible, it's pretty incredible just how far it has fallen.

On May 10th, Braun's OPS was an incredible 1.048. That included a .445 OBP and .603 slugging percentage. Then, Braun just stopped hitting. Here are his numbers since that day.

May 10-31: 72 AB's, .236/.267/.403/.660, 2 HR, 7 RBI
June: 110 AB's, .264/.299/.409/.708, 3 HR, 16 RBI
July: 98 AB's, .204/.233/.388/.621, 5 HR, 15 RBI

Since May 10th: 280 AB's, .236/.268/.401/.669, 10 HR, 38 RBI

Throughout his career, it would have been tough to find months where Braun struggled to hit .300. This year, it is tough to find months where Braun's on-base percentage surpasses that mark. If you are looking for a reason why nearly every one of Prince Fielder's home runs have been solo shots, look no further than Braun.

With his current struggles, Braun's value to the team has completely vanished. On May 10th, he already was a 1.4 WAR player. He current is a 1.0 WAR talent, or -0.4 WAR below what he was 280 at bats ago.

Okay, I understand Ryan Braun is a really good player, but his recent trends are very worrisome. Since 2007, Braun's isolated power has declined every season.

2007- .310
2008- .268
2009- .231
2010- .187

One encouraging sign for Braun has been his ability to keep his strike outs down. Over the last four years, Braun has seen his K rate fall more than 7%. Here are Braun's strikeout percentages each of the last four years.

2007- 24.8%
2008- 21.1%
2009- 19.1%
2010- 17.7%

Even more encouraging has been the development of his plate discipline. Even though he has regressed in 2010, Braun's walk rate has improved tremendously since his rookie season.

2007- 5.9%
2008- 6.3%
2009- 8.1%
2010- 7.1%

So why is Braun struggling so much considering he's making more contact? Well, the contact he has made has not been very solid, as evidence by his declining ISO numbers. Also, Braun has seen the amount of fly balls he hits greatly reduce over the past four years.

2007- 44.9%
2008- 44.1%
2009- 34.1%
2010- 35.9%

There's really no rhyme or reason as to Braun's struggles. The fans can just hope Braun returns to his rookie form. I wonder if substituting contact for power is what is holding Braun back. If you ask me, I'm willing to stomach 150+ strikeouts if it means Braun's power being rediscovered. Sure strikeouts can be frustrating, but so can a player not playing up to his full potential.

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