There was little question coming into this season that Ryan Braun was a very good hitter. He has always shown an ability to hit for high average, high slugging seasons. However what Braun has been able to do so far in 2011 is only expanding his reputation as one of the game's elite.
The biggest knock on Braun throughout his career at the plate has always been his inability to so elite patience. Sure, no one is saying Braun never walked, but to be on the level of baseball's best, Braun had some work to do. In his first four pro seasons, Braun posted walk percentages of 5.9, 6.3, 8.1 and 8.2 in order. While trending up in the base on ball category is always a good sign, Braun has taken it to a new level this season. Through his first 24 games, Braun is walking 14.8% of the time. What makes this even more impressive is the way Ryan has accomplished this.
In 2011, Braun is seeing first pitch strike at a higher rate than any other point in his career (67.6%). What Braun has been able to do to combat that is go deeper into counts and foul more pitches off. Only 59.9% of pitches that Braun has seen have gone for strikes. In 447 pitches this season, Braun has swung at just 42.2% of them. That again is a career low.
Even better, Braun has done incredible damage in the limited number of times he has swung the bat. His line drive percentage sits at a staggering 25.7%, which is more than 6% higher than any other point in his career. Of the 26 fly balls Braun has hit, nine have left the yard for an unbelievable 34.4% HR/FB ratio. Can he maintain those numbers, obviously not, but Braun has some things going for him.
His BABIP in 2011 currently sits at .353. While that is surely high, it's not that far off his career average of .336. His pitches per at bat currently sits at 4.14, which again is a career high. These are numbers that Braun could maintain and would continue to mean incredible success at the dish.
All said, in the month of April, Ryan Braun, along with Prince Fielder have carried the Brewers offense. In just 90 at bats, Braun has already produced a 1.4 WAR. While that is pretty unheard of, think of how tough that is with the defense Braun plays. According to UZR, Braun's defense is already four runs under league average this season. If he was just producing at a league average rate, the Braun's WAR would be right near two. Wow. If Braun is even a shell of what he produced this month, Brewers fans are in for quite a show.