Ryan Braun’s Constantly Improving Plate Discipline

Some idle Holiday Internetting has compelled the author of this piece to point his web browser in the direction of National League MVP Ryan Braun‘s player profile, which in turn has compelled the author to discover something about Braun’s plate-discipline numbers — namely, that they have improved in a decidedly regular fashion since his rookie season of 2007.

Here we can see that improvement in graph form:

In each of his four seasons since that rookie year, Braun has struck out less often and walked more often than the season prior.

It makes sense that striking out less often and walking more often would aid a player’s offensive production. By how much?, is the question.

Using Bradley Woodrum’s Should Hit Calculator, we can find out such a thing. Woodrum found back in August that hitting (as defined, in this case, by wRC+) was informed almost exclusively by four inputs: walks, strike outs, home runs, and BABIP. This is, more or less, FIP for hitters — except for that hitters are much more likely to have signature home-run and BABIP rates.

To find out exactly what sort of effect Braun’s plate discipline improvement has had, I’ve recast all five of his seasons with his career home-run rate (5.1%) and BABIP (.339). This allows us to isolate the effect of his improved plate discipline on his overall offensive production.

Here are those seasons (again, using career numbers for HR% and BABIP):

There are some caveats to make here. For one, Braun’s home-run rate has been up and down over the course of the past five years. For two, the changing offensive environment could possibly affect the Should Hit numbers.

Those comments made, however, it’s still very likely the case that Braun’s plate approach has both (a) improved and (b) improved Braun’s offensive production relative to the league by about 25%.



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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.


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Albert Lyu
Member
4 years 6 months ago

Clearly, I should not trade Braun to you, Sir Cistulli.

Eric
Guest
Eric
4 years 6 months ago

Miguel Cabrera’s done something similar twice in his career. First with the Marlins for 5 years he had fairly steady declines in K% and increases in BB%. Then those dropped off his first year in Detroit only to improve every year (both K and BB) since as he has adjusted to AL pitchers. This past year his BB rate actually surpassed his K rate for the first time. It will be interesting to see if he further improves next year.

Chones Figgins MVP
Guest
Chones Figgins MVP
4 years 6 months ago

He learnt off the best.

jirish
Guest
jirish
4 years 6 months ago

I love watching Braun hit. It’s a thing of beauty.

JSprech
Guest
JSprech
4 years 6 months ago

It’s rare to see Braun have a poor AB… battles back from pitcher’s counts, fouls off bad pitches until he gets something he likes, can pull or hit the other way… a very complete batter.

www.thehotteststove.com
Guest
www.thehotteststove.com
4 years 6 months ago

I’m a big fan of watching hitters who always swing with purpose. He seems to have a good understanding of the situations when he can cut loose and do damage, as opposed to when a strikeout would be more damaging than a groundout. The highest compliment I can give is that I can’t stand the Brewers, but still love to watch Braun swing the bat.

2r2d
Member
4 years 6 months ago

We will see how well he does next season without Prince Fielder.

HodgyBeats
Guest
HodgyBeats
4 years 6 months ago

I’m a good driver when Prince Fielder is sitting shotgun right next to me, but I suck when I drive by myself.

Dudley
Guest
Dudley
4 years 6 months ago

it’s less of a constant progression, but his fielding seems to be improving, too. UZR picks up some of this, but even observationally, he takes better routes the ball and is generally less of a Manny-type black hole out there than he was when he first made the switch from 3B.

Subtle
Guest
Subtle
4 years 6 months ago

The idea of batting protection was shown to be statistically insignificant by Bill James like 20 years ago and every time it has been tested since.

jpat
Guest
jpat
4 years 6 months ago

The idea of batting protection exists though. If pitchers publicly talk about pitching to hitters differently when he has “protection,” it exists.

Sandy Kazmir
Member
Sandy Kazmir
4 years 6 months ago

Imagine if he also provided gold glove defense at 3B:

That would be some kind of player.

DavidCEisen
Guest
DavidCEisen
4 years 6 months ago

That player would be mike schmidt. Longoria is not on the same level offensively as Braun and his 176 wRC+.

Dustin
Guest
Dustin
4 years 6 months ago

Longoria isn’t as good as Braun is offensively.

Nivra
Guest
Nivra
4 years 6 months ago

I wonder how many other sluggers trend like this, and what the trends are with age, as well. I wonder if there are indicators of this that we can find in a slugger’s minor league history or overall statistical profile.

Any thoughts?

CircleChange11
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

This is exactly what you want out of a young player with power, to keep improving on the skill aspect that allows you to maximize on your ability.

Pedantic
Guest
Pedantic
4 years 6 months ago

Unless wRC+ is on a logarithmic scale, I think you mean 25 percentage points, and not 25 percent. The latter is significantly larger given the base is above 100.

Dan
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

If I had to start a MLB team from scratch and I had my pick of any major leaguer… I’d take Ryan Braun. Longoria would be a close second.

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
4 years 6 months ago

What???? You’re not a Jose Bautista groupie too??

Spedmunki
Guest
Spedmunki
4 years 6 months ago

PEDs

Mr Sports Collectibles
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

Ryan can hit, but what is he taking to enable him to hit? He has duped the fans twice, not what we need in MLB. Just give him the boot.

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