Why Ryan Braun Is the Undisputed Second-Best Hitter in the NL

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Why Ryan Braun Is the Undisputed Second-Best Hitter in the NL
(Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

The routine: adjustment of the Nike batting gloves, tug of the No. 8 jersey, pointing of the bat towards the pitcher, the cocking of the slightly angled bat just above his head.

The eyes are filled with fire and determined intensity, reminding the pitcher not to make a mistake.

The swing is elegant yet so violent, leading to well-hit ball after well-hit ball. The stroke bedazzles onlookers and sprays balls all over the field.

The bat is 35 inches and has knocked 87 balls over the fence, posted a .307 batting average, and driven in 260 runs.

The face is recognizable throughout baseball, making him a fan favorite. He was asked to be "The Bachelor" on ABC's hit show.

The man is Ryan Braun. A 200-pound former first-rounder from Mission Hills, Calif.

The accolades collected are amazing: 2007 NL Rookie of the Year, 2008 (and soon-to-be 2009) All-Star starter, 2008 Silver Slugger, third in 2008 NL MVP voting, 2009 USA World Baseball Classic team member, 2008 Brewers Player of the Year, and fan favorite at Miller Park.

He is a mere 25 years of age, yet posting numbers similar to those of Hall-of-Famers. Through 339 games his home run total of 87 dingers is reminiscent to the numbers of guys with the names the Splendid Splinter and Phat Albert, just to name two.

To put his numbers into comparison, all-time home run king Barry Bonds did not reach 87 homers until his fifth Major League season (though Barry's numbers clearly were tainted).

If Braun continues to hit at this rate, he will reach 600 home runs in his 15th Big League season. Bonds only had 494 home runs after he completed his 15th season.

But Ryan Braun possesses many more assets to his game then pure power.

Braun gets on base. His career batting average is .307, a good mark for any hitter. He hits the ball where it is pitched, often poking the ball to right field, to reach base. His career on-base percentage is .364, but in 2009, he has reached base .416 of the time.

In 2008 he led the league in extra base hits with 83. Braun hits .521 when he pulls the ball and .378 when he hits it to right field, which has happened 188 times. He hits .610 to the outfield, .341 when he puts the ball in play, and .411 when he hits the ball fair.

Braun is comfortable in any count. He has 31 career home runs with two strikes on him. He has seven homers with an 0-2 count, and still gets on base more than 20 percent of the time in those situations. When pitchers fall behind, Braun crushes them, hitting .340 with 32 homers after a 1-0 count.

He hits .363 on the first pitch. Braun is also patient in waiting to get a good pitch. Ryan has never put a 3-0 pitch into play, instead either taking a free pass or waiting for a 3-1 count. Braun is very comfortable with two strikes, as 689 of his 1,346 career at-bats have come with two strikes.

Braun is clutch. Ryan Braun is not rattled by pressure. He consistently gets the big hit, coming through in the clutch time-after-time. When the team is within one run, he has 40 home runs, obviously pulling the game to a tie or a Milwaukee lead. Braun hits .350 in the ninth inning and his OPS is 1.027 in the inning.

During the final week of 2008 he hit a walk-off grand slam and a Wild Card-clinching game-winning home run against Chicago. He has continued this year with go-ahead home runs and base hits to go along with a walk-off hit on the Home Opener against the Cubs. This year alone, Braun has 12 go-ahead hits to boost his career total to 56.

He destroys rival pitching. Not only is he clutch against rival pitching, he destroys it.

Braun hits .325 with seven homers and 27 RBI against the Chicago Cubs, has 10 dingers against the Cincinnati Reds, is .385 with 10 homers and 26 RBI against the Cardinals, bats .331 with 11 homers and 33 ribbies against the Houston Astros, and hits .306 with seven home runs and 30 RBI against the Pirates (including the walk-off grannie).

Combined, he's hit .314 with 45 home runs, and 137 RBI against NL Central opponents.

Braun hits anywhere, anytime, and in any conditions. Ryan Braun has hit a home run in every current National Leauge ballpark except Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. (he has only started three games there) and Chase Field in Phoenix. Only three percentage points separate his night average from day average.

He hits .307 on grass and .293 on artificial turf. Braun especially heats up along with the weather, hitting a career .325 in June and .355 in July. Braunie has a combined 39 home runs in those two months.

He hits the best pitchers well. We'll just let the numbers speak for themselves: .462 with two home runs and seven RBI in 15 at-bats vs. Tim Lincecum. .455 with two homers, five ribbies, and one triple vs. Roy Oswalt. He's hit .538 with five batted in and two doubles against Johan Santana.

In 12 AB's against Cole Hamels, Braun is .333 with two home runs and three RBI. Against Kyle Lohse, he hits .417 with two doubles and three RBI in the same number of at-bats as against Hamels. Ryan is .500 with a double and a .583 OBP versus Edinson Volquez. He is .555 with an RBI off of Tim Hudson.

He is 3-9 with one double, one triple, and two RBI against Matt Cain. Braun has three home runs in 19 at-bats against Aaron Harang. He has a .462 average with two home runs against Ted Lilly and two long balls off of Josh Beckett in only three at-bats.

Braun can catch fire on any given day. Ryan Braun was hitting .222 with one home run and five RBI on April 19. He went 5-5 with two home runs and 4 RBI that day in Philadelphia to spark his hitting that hasn't died off since.

He has had absolutely incredible days at the plate on April 25 in Houston, May 6 in Cincinnati, June 7 at Atlanta, June 11 vs. Colorado, June 15 in Cleveland, June 20 at Detroit, and June 30 vs. the Mets. What did each of those performances have in common (besides the obvious facts that he was on fire for the entire game)?

The previous game, Braun had no more than one hit.

Only in his third Big League season, Ryan Braun has established himself as one of the premier hitters in Major League Baseball.

In the National League alone, he is the second-best hitter behind The Machine, Albert Pujols.

Ryan Braun will be a force on the Major League level for years to come, even more dominant than now.

Just as he has engulfed the city of Milwaukee, soon the rest of the nation will not be able to take their eyes off of Braun and he will rise to be an elite superstar.

It is what he deserves.

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