Ryan Braun, the reigning MVP, is once again among the leaders in every statistic category. He leads the National League in home runs (29) and ranks third in runs batted in with 75.
Despite all of this, Braun is underachieving in 2012.
Braun's batting average has tremendously dipped from a year ago. He hit .332 during his MVP campaign, but he has only managed a .304 mark this season.
This could be a result of Prince Fielder's departure, but I'm not buying it.
The thought was that Braun would see fewer pitches to hit without the big boy in Fielder protecting him. But with Aramis Ramirez having an effective season batting behind Braun, opposing pitchers aren't pitching around the slugger as much as many people thought.
The most glaring issue for Braun is that his patience has seemed to evaporate.
He continuously swings at pitches miles out of the strike zone—which is why his strikeouts have risen. Braun struck out 93 times in 563 at-bats in 2011.
This year, the California native has whiffed 90 times in only 395 chances. It's safe to say that Braun will easily surpass his strikeout totals from his memorable MVP season.
To go along with Braun's low batting average and high strikeout numbers, he hasn't produced in clutch situations as he has done his whole career.
His production with runners in scoring position is average at best (.298 this year, .351 last year). His failure to produce in clutch situations is not because pitchers are pitching around him—it's because the pressure of producing is paralyzing him.
The Milwaukee Brewers have been a disappointment. It's very difficult for them to score runs, especially when their lineup consists of only two players batting over .300 - Braun and Lucroy.
As a result, Braun feels that if he doesn't come through every night, his team is going to lose. That's a lot of pressure to put on one's shoulders. That blistering pressure would cause anyone to fold.
Ryan Braun will surely receive his share of MVP votes because he is just that good, but he isn't having a typical Ryan Braun season.
His strikeouts, batting average and mediocre production with runners in scoring position is keeping him from having another extraordinary season.