It is probably in the best interests of Ryan Braun that he maintain a low profile this season. After all the fireworks resulting from his leaked positive drug test/botched test result snafu, that Ryan Braun just came out and played baseball was a good choice.
Any extra “DRUGS made him good!” scrutiny quickly went away as Ryan Braun promptly starting posting Ryan Braun numbers. Somehow the defending NL MVP doesn’t get the same amount media attention devoted to the Giancarlo Stanton’s or Mike Trout’s of the world yet here Braun sits: the best offensive player in baseball.
By Fangraphs WAR, Braun is the best player in the entire league since the start of last year. He leads everyone with 14 WAR and his 172 wRC+ is also best in baseball. His 68 home runs rank him third behind Jose Bautista and Curtis Granderson. Simple put: he’s an offensive force.
Ryan Braun currently toils for an also-ran club without the benefit of Prince Fielder’s protection/presence. Despite a conspicuously low profile, Braun is still putting up crazy numbers. .414 wOBA, 20 steals, 35 homers and a slugging percent a shade under .600 with a .294 ISO. Why doesn’t Braun capture our collective attention like other sluggers? He might be too steady, too “consistent”.
Consistent is a lazy term thrown around without much thought far too often. That said, there is something to be said for a player, especially a great one, who can maintain that high level of greatness for a prolonger period. Everyone will slump but the ability to snap out quickly and steadily add to his eye-popping numbers make him great – and rare.
The 10-day rolling wOBA trick is one you’ve seen before on Getting Blanked, largely used to make fun of the now-confirmed awesome Pedro Alvarez. What if we used the same method to examine Braun’s 2012? (Game stats from Baseball Reference, wOBA constants via Fangraphs Guts)
Zzzzzz. Boring. Settling into another .400 wOBA rut in early April staying there for six months. C’mon, Ryan, give us some excitement! But he will not. He will methodically march to another huge season, with 40-odd home runs, 40-odd doubles, and 25-or so steals. Ho. Hum.
For comparison, look at the rolling wOBA chart for the beloved Giancarlo Stanton. While Stanton grabs headlines (and three posts a month on Getting Blanked) for his Paul Bunyon-esque home run prowess, he is slugging at a nearly identical clip to Braun, posting a slightly worse wOBA on the year (.406) and nearly identical slugging/ISO numbers (.606/.314).
While not nearly as boom or bust as Alvarez, Stanton shows dips in production like any normal, mortal baseball player should expect. Not Braun. Such is the nature of the 24-hour news cycle that Braun’s greatness is shoved aside as other players grab the headlines. A hot start is the very best way to ensure the greater baseball world remembers how great a season you’re having.
Other than a 40 plate appearance swoon earlier this month, Ryan Braun methodically goes about his business. Still just 28, Ryan Braun should remain one of the finest players in the league for a few years yet. The Brewers might be reloading around him but they are very lucky to have a premier building block in their left fielder.