Russell Branyan is back in Milwaukee with some extra pop in his bat. He has homered in three straight games, and four out of his last five. And the thing that's different is his batting average; he actually has one!
He came to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2004 by way of the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. Back then, Branyan did one of two things at the plate, strikeout or hit a home run. Needless to say, he had many more "Ks" than round-trippers.
It was a home run off of Greg Maddux at Miller Park which travelled a still stadium-record 480 feet that earned him the nickname Russell "The Muscle." He also has three of the five longest in Miller Park history. Brewers fans cheered when he crushed the ball and booed whenever he went down on strikes, which happened a lot.
It happened so many times that after one such strikeout, Branyan snapped his bat at the handle over his knee; a la Bo Jackson. Here's a look at his stats during his two years in Brew Town.
2004: 158 AB, 20 BB-68 K, 11 HR-27 RBI, .234/.324/.525
2005: 202 AB, 39 BB-80 K, 12 HR-31 RBI, .257/.378/.490
In 2006, Branyan made his way to San Diego, but his stay lasted 27 games and he was shipped to Tampa Bay, where he hit 12 home runs, but had 62 strikeouts with only 19 walks.
During the 2007 season, Branyan spent time with Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Diego again, where he compiled 10 home runs in 163 at-bats. He still struck out a lot too.
Fast forward to present day, and we see that Branyan has already matched his 2007 home run total. In just 62 at-bats since being called up May 25 for a soft platoon with Bill Hall, he has 19 hits, 10 of which are home runs, and he is batting .306.
The reason that he's even back in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform is an interesting story too. Nobody gave him a contract, as if no one wanted him in their lineup.
Enter Doug Melvin. Branyan agreed to a minor-league deal partly because of where the Brewers' Triple-A club was located; Branyan's hometown of Nashville, Tenn.
He wasn't even invited to spring training, but Branyan was okay with that because he knew that he would be playing baseball everyday and wouldn't have to leave his family behind to do so.
In Nashville, Branyan had 12 home runs, 36 RBI, with 29 BB and 49 K. However, the new Russell was hitting .359. These numbers confused Brewers fans as they thought that it was a different guy with the same name. So now he's either striking out, hitting a homer, or getting on base.
Now that Billy Hall has been struggling beyond belief, Branyan got the call and rejoined the Brewers to serve as a left-handed power threat against right-handed pitching.
Combine his minor league stats with the majors and Branyan would have 22 home runs and 53 RBI. That would give him more HR's than Ryan Braun, and we all know how good he is.
How long can Branyan stay this hot? All I can say is that I hope "The Muscle" doesn't go home anytime soon.