Milwaukee Brewers: 5 Reasons 2011 Will Be a Career Year For Ryan Braun
By most standards, Ryan Braun had an excellent season for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010. By his standards, he did not.
Braun scored 101 runs, belted 25 home runs, batted in 103 runs, stole 14 bases and hit .304 last season.
He earned his third straight All-Star Game start for the National League and was amongst the best NL outfielders in every offensive category.
Unfortunately for him and Brewers fans, none of those numbers matched his 2009 totals and the team—as well as Braun—took another step back from their 2008 Wild Card season.
GM Doug Melvin took an aggressive approach to reverse the team's downward spiral when he traded for veteran pitchers Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke.
Now, Ryan Braun will look to do the same, as the Brewers first full team workout is scheduled for Tuesday of this week.
With a rejuvenated atmosphere, a new manager and an all-or-nothing approach to the 2011 season, there is reason to believe Braun and the Brewers could have an historic season.
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Ryan Braun has avoided serious injuries thus far in his career and has played in at least 151 games in his first three full seasons.
However, Braun has not been able to avoid nagging injuries including sore ribs in 2009 and elbow pain in 2010.
On May 10th of last season, Ryan Braun was hit in the elbow by a pitch thrown from Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves. He missed the next three games, and when he returned to the lineup, he went 9-for-42 over his next 10 games with a .241 AVG, one HR and two RBI.
Although he didn't miss any more time due to the injury, it's unlikely he ever completely recovered. Braun hit more ground balls last season than he ever had before while both his line-drive rate and power numbers took a hit from previous seasons.
All signs indicate that Ryan Braun is healthy entering the 2011 season. Assuming he can protect his wrists, ribs and elbows at the plate, he should at least return his '09 stats or exceed them due to just entering his prime.
4. Table Setters
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The Milwaukee Brewers 2010 Opening Day lineup featured Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez hitting in front of Ryan Braun in the order.
Gomez wasn't as helpful.
Carlos Gomez hit .247 in 2010 and had his third straight season with a OBP below .300 (.298). In order to score runs in baseball, you typically need to get on base—something Gomez has failed to grasp thus far in his career.
Corey Hart had a .340 OBP and took over the second spot in lineup after the All-Star break. He went on to score 91 runs by the end of the season.
Weeks and Hart should be at the top of the lineup for the entirety of the 2011 season which should provide Ryan Braun with even more RBI opportunities and a chance to reach 120 for the first time in his career.
3. Prince Fielder
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Prince Fielder set the all-time Milwaukee Brewers record in 2009 with 141 RBI. Ryan Braun directly benefited scoring 113 runs that season for a career high.
Fielder's RBI production took a serious hit last season when he had a mere 82 from the cleanup spot. Therefore, Braun's numbers also took a dip, and he scored 12 less runs.
For no explicable reason, odd seasons have been much better for Fielder over his career. Thus far, his '07 and '09 have been his best, whereas both '08 and '10 were a little more forgettable.
Add that to the fact that he is playing for a little more than most on the team this season.
The 2011 season is a contract year for Prince Fielder and players of his caliber typically step up to the plate with a little more motivation when money is on the line.
Therefore, things are lining up for Fielder to have an excellent season this year. If all goes well, Braun should reap the benefits and score 110 times or more.
2. Ron Roenicke
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The Milwaukee Brewers fired manager Ken Macha immediately following the 2010 season. Macha was too old school on a new school team and never meshed with his players or the fans.
On November 4th, the team officially hired Ron Roenicke—longtime L.A. Angels bench coach—to replace Macha and lead the team back to the playoffs.
Roenicke comes with the reputation as a players manager and should provide Braun, Fielder, Weeks, Hart and the rest of the team with the support they felt they lacked from Ken Macha.
Also, Ron Roenicke brings a much more aggressive style of baseball to the team which should suit the speed of the lineup as well as Ryan Braun.
"The players, when you let them be aggressive, they have more confidence. That's what this game is all about—confidence," Roenicke said in a report on MLB.com.
Expect a lot of confidence from Braun this season and a lot more stolen bases.
Braun has stolen only 20 bases once in his career (2009) but projects as a 20-25 SB threat. Until this season, he had been held back from fear that he could be thrown out prior to Prince Fielder or Casey McGehee hitting a home run.
With no leash, he could run wild and could potentially become the first Brewers since Tommy Harper in 1970 to join the 30/30 Club.
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Ryan Braun was interviewed earlier this week by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and immediately indicated just how excited he is for the season.
"When you walk in here, you can literally feel the difference. We can all sense it and it's exciting. The more positive your work environment is, the more conducive it is to accomplishing anything you can to be successful," said Braun.
Braun and the team were not happy under Ken Macha or the inability to address pitching needs since CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets left following the '08 season.
All that has changed. There is a new sense of "excitement" as well as urgency and motivation for the 2011 season. Something that hasn't been felt in the clubhouse or in the city for years.
Braun appears ready to step out of the anonymity of his small market and take his talent to a new level.
"I think I can be so much better," said Braun. "I truly believe that I'm just starting to figure myself out as a hitter. I'm starting to figure out my routine.
"Every year, it's a constant game of adjustments. But I really think the future is bright and I have a chance to be a much better player."