Ryan Braun is a very good player. According to the MLB Network, he's the top left fielder in the game today.
In fact, Braun's numbers have been so good for the Brewers since joining the team in May 2007 that the argument can easily be made he's off to a Hall of Fame start to his career.
However, Braun's numbers have declined steadily since winning the NL Rookie of the Year award that season, and he needs a strong bounce-back in 2011 to re-establish himself as one of game's best players.
His rookie campaign measures up against the very best in the history of the game. In only 113 games, he hit .324 with 34 home runs and 97 RBI, stole 15 bases and led the league with a slugging percentage of .634.
For his career, Braun has averaged 32 home runs and 105 RBI, but he's never been able to duplicate that combination of power and average since his rookie season.
Braun's career batting average of .307 fits very well into the Milwaukee lineup, especially hitting right in front of Prince Fielder. His slugging numbers are another story altogether. He suffered an 80-point drop in 2008 to .553. He remained steady in 2009, slugging .551, but 2010 saw another significant drop of 50 points to drop his slugging down to .501.
In 2008 Braun finished with 83 extra-base hits, including seven triples. By last year, those numbers dropped to 71 and one, respectively.
Is Ryan Braun the best left fielder in baseball?
Those numbers indicate that Braun has lost the power in his game, but he is definitely capable of putting up statistics to rival his rookie year. On July 31 last year, he was hitting just .274 with a .460 slugging percentage. Raising those averages to .304 and .501 over the final two months proves he possesses the talent to put up mind-boggling numbers.
People that follow the team closely know Braun has and never will shy away from the spotlight. He is constantly engaging himself in projects outside the game to raise awareness of his name, including his own clothing line and restaurant and numerous photo shoots. Perhaps a step back from those outside interests and a renewed focus on the game is what Braun needs to change his declining trends.
As much as fans have called out Prince Fielder for having a down year in 2010, they need to do the same thing with Ryan Braun. At one time, the duo of Braun and Fielder was considered by some one of the top pairs of hitting teammates in the game.
Even with the additions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, the Brewers don't have a shot at the playoffs in 2011 without Braun getting back on track as one of the game's premier power hitters.
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