Braun Finds Power To All Fields

Announcers and hitting coaches love to talk about hitting the ball to all fields, and especially hitting the ball to all fields with power. Not every elite hitter uses such an approach — Jose Bautista uses left field almost exclusively, for example. But Bautista’s way of hitting — pure pull power, with tons of fly balls — has it’s drawbacks; it is a finely tuned system available to a select few specimens.

After the 2010 season, it wasn’t clear Ryan Braun would become the elite power hitter suggested by his explosive 34-homer, .634 SLG, .310 ISO debut season. Every season after he came up, his ISO dipped by at least 34 points until he slugged just .501 with 25 homers in 2010. Braun was never the kind of pull power hitter Bautista embodies, but much of his power away from left field came in the form of doubles (45 in 2010), not home runs.

And that Braun was just fine — a consistently All-Star caliber even considering his deficiencies in the field, and one of the better hitters in the league. But when the Brewers extended his team-friendly seven-year, $45 million deal with a five-year, $105 million rider, the club was signaling an expectation of more. That is beyond All-Star money, it’s the money reserved for the best.

The Brewers certainly were not paying Braun for his improvements in left field. For Braun to take a step forward from great hitter to franchise carrying, league-leader hitter, he needed to find power beyond his pull stroke. In 2010, just three of his came right of center field. his lowest since his 492 plate appearance rookie campaign.

Once Braun returned to the field after signing the contract, the power it demanded — the power that made his rookie season a spectacle (beyond his third base defense, which fluctuated between morbidly and hilariously awful) — returned. Observe, all of Braun’s career home runs mapped out by true landing spot (per ESPN Hit Tracker).

The darker the dot, the later the season. Although left field is peppered with dots of varied saturation, right field is populated by darkness. His 2007 exploits are visible, but dominated by the work he’s done in the 2011 and 2012 season, such as these works:

He goes up the middle:

To right-center (you’ll have to wait through about 10 foul balls for this one):

And down the line:

After hitting 31 home runs to the opposite field in his first four years in the majors, Braun has equaled that total in his past two. Although his team’s failures will likely preclude him from MVP consideration, he’s been nearly as good as in 2011′s winning season — .311/.388/.605, a 167 wRC+ and 7.0 WAR through the first five months and change of this season. In pushing his power from foul pole to foul pole, Braun has grown into the perennial MVP candidate the Brewers expected when the made him their franchise player back at the start of the 2011 season.

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30 Responses to “Braun Finds Power To All Fields”

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  1. TKDC says:

    Yes, his team failures are the only thing that will keep him from MVP consideration. Nothing else. Nothing at all.

    +16 Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Tim says:

    Even though his team isn’t going to make the playoffs, I still believe that he’s the most sensible candidate for NL MVP. The Mets and Pirates probably aren’t going to make the playoffs either, which put the other two best candidates, Wright and Mccutchen in the same category as Braun.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • NoWayJose says:

      I completely disagree.

      Buster Posey is having just as good of a year as Braun is and IS playng for a contender. This all without the help of Herpes medicne juicing his production.

      -12 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Dustin says:

        How exactly is Posey having just as good a year as Braun? The number aren’t even close.

        .418 wOBA to .394
        5.5 WAR to 7.1

        Just about every category you can think of Braun is significantly ahead.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy says:

        I took this post as a joke because last year it was Kemp who had better numbers on the losing team and Braun was on the contender with Fielder alongside him. I think this guy is actually saying Braun should win for being the better player regardless just like Kemp should have last year. Playing on the bad team probably makes their cases stronger

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  3. gonfalon says:

    An entire article about Ryan Braun finding power to all fields after the 2010 season, and not one mention or speculation of its source? :scratch:

    I realize you’re a Brewers fan, but the proverbial elephant in the room should at least be acknowledged.

    -6 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Justin says:

      I wonder how many times Braun’s been tested this season?

      How does he keep hitting the ball without the steroids???????

      +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • NoWayJose says:

        The answer is that he has been tested at least two different times by mandate. No reason to believe any less or more. And he can be just as lucky as he was unlucky last season when his test turned up dirty on the day he most likely took his juice (Victor Conte stated that his off the charts results were most likley because he used that very day).

        The masking agents are so dang good that if you are tested even 2 days away from usage you dont get caught for the PED or the masking agent.

        And the whole “hes doing just as good” theory does not hold water regarding his dirty test from last year. All of the big name players over the years who either used or got suspended for PED usage never had huge drops in production after using.

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    • Kris Gardham says:

      I welcome baseball articles written about baseball. Fangraphs readers can use their own judgement to interpret Braun articles and the results they’re based upon as they see fit. There’s no reason to address the elephant, the elephant’s already been addressed numerous times. It’s not like it’s sneaking around undetected; it’s a goddamn elephant, everyone knows about it.

      +15 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • gonfalon says:

        Braun was acquitted on a technicality, not exonerated. But by all means, keep trying to sweep that elephant under the rug!

        -13 Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Chris says:

    Sounds like the haters are gonna hate. Everyone just wishes Braun was on their team.

    He is easily the best overall player in the NL this year hands down.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Cecil Cooper's Love Child says:

    McCutchen, and possibly Posey, Molina if you give catchers extra credit, are the only valid contenders to Braun this year based on the numbers. All of the other contenders have been injured Votto, Kemp, Ruiz….

    I will be surprised if the voters have him in the top 5. Although, there is still a ‘just a bit OUTSIDE’ chance that the Brewers could push towards the second wild card spot. That would change the landscape dramatically.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. DowntownChico says:


    Nice Graph.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. fergie348 says:

    .294 ISO with under 20% K rate is pretty monster. He can play on my team..

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • B N says:

      Mine too. The Red Sox have some openings now… ;) Not that there’s any chance of THAT happening. But who would have thought Los Doyers would pick up Crawford’s contract? Stranger things have happened.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy says:

    The experts came out and said a sample left out over the weekend could give you the results they got for him to test positive. So he didn’t just get off on a “technicality”

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • SecondHandStore says:

      More or less the same thing happened to an Olympic runner named Diane Modahl. Her sample was left in a lab, not refrigerated, and bacteria in the sample caused the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone to be greatly skewed. Same with Braun’s sample. His ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone was skewed. It’s called science people.

      -6 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • payroll says:

      It wasn’t left out. It was in a refrigerator at the house of the guy who’d been testing players for years.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • foamtopper says:

        actually no, Dino Laurenzi, the guy who’d been testing players for years, released an official statement saying the sample was left on his desk in his basement, unrefrigerated and basically just sitting there. let’s keep in mind that virtually everything we know about the case is from a leaked source, and the tester’s statement (one of the only “official” anything we know) is openly discrediting one of the leaks.

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    • B N says:

      Which leads me to wonder: what kind of dude brings a pee test or a blood test home with him? Like… really? “Sorry man, we can’t crash in my basement and watch some games and drink some brew, it’s like… chock full of athletes’ bodily fluids.” That is one time when taking your work home with you has gone WAY wrong.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Cheapskate says:

      I had to take a pee test for a government job about 10 years ago after a night of drinkin’. The first 2 cups I filled registered at 0 degrees Celsius. I was told they couldn’t send in the sample with such a low reading, but that I also couldn’t leave or it would be recorded as a failed test. Nevermind the fact that my warm-to-the-touch pee cup was not a block of ice – logic need not apply.

      With much strain and a few cups of coffee I managed to fill a third and register at normal temperature levels and prove to them that I wasn’t tampering.

      Somewhat irrelevant story, but shows that there are all kinds of things that can go wrong during a simple test. I’m willing to bet that there have been plenty of hiccups we haven’t heard about with the amount of tests that MLB is potentially doing over the course of a year. I try to keep that story in mind when these kinds of poopstorms start whirling.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Phantom Stranger says:

    He could hit 60 homers, he’s never going to win another MVP award again from the media after the failed steroids test.

    +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • CJ says:

      The interesting point will be if he nearly wins a Triple Crown; ESPECIALLY since he might be robbed of it because of Melky Cabrera’s batting average.

      That’ll be very, VERY interesting; especially since one can imagine if a “feel-good” player (like Posey who has people rooting for him after last year) were to lead the league in HR, RBI and come second to Melky’s average, that you’d have sportswriters saying “Well, I mean, he essentially won the Triple Crown! Give the man an MVP!”

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • TKDC says:

      It’s not just the failed test, but he won last year and the media looked like doofuses, which they are, but for different reasons.

      Also, Matt Kemp was clearly better last year and lost because his team was mediocre. There really isn’t any persuasive argument that Braun deserves MVPs for both 2011 and 2012.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Craig says:

    Thank you placidity! People seem to keep forgetting that Braun was the better hitter last year and even had better fielding numbers. The only thing Kemp was better at was 40 more PA. Tie goes to the playoff team.

    This year Braun is easily the best player in the NL.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Doug B says:

    as a Brewers fan I will admit I would not be surprised at all if he was doing small doses of testosterone in 2012. It is not easy to catch someone doing that. And obviously even if you DO catch them they may still get off on a technicality.

    but it’s hard to ignore that Braun should be top 3 for MVP if you ignore his positive test history. As it is… I will be fascinated how the writers handle this. I imagine he’s going to lose a ton of votes he would have otherwise had. I think he’s likely to finish 3rd behind Posey and McCutchen. But with writers cracking down to get back at him maybe even Cueto, Chapman, Wright, or (pick a Cardinal) could catch him.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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