After an outstanding season from the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011, the city and fans have their hopes set high coming into the 2012 year. A solid pitching staff that boasts aces Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo is backed by a lineup which includes many former, and potential, All-Stars.
However, this season could be very different for one key part of the Brewers offensive strike, and that player is reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun. Since bursting into the majors and claiming the 2007 Rookie of the Year Award, Braun has had the privilege to be protected in the lineup by one of the most feared hitters in baseball, Prince Fielder.
For those of you who have not heard, which I am sure all of us have, Braun is coming into the 2012 season with a steroid scandal looming over his head. After having his appeal accepted, the 50-game suspension that usually comes along with a positive PED Test was dropped for Braun. This, however, has not stopped individuals from speculating whether the test results were real or in fact a sample gone wrong.
Despite all of this controversy, Braun appears to be professional enough to keep his mind focused on the game and on keeping Division Titles rolling into Brew City. The biggest obstacle that Braun will have to overcome this upcoming season is going about life without Prince Fielder.
Fielder, who departed the only team he’s ever known to sign with the Detroit Tigers, has given Braun the protection that a young star needed since he came into the league. However, this year will require Braun to prove that he is in fact an MVP caliber player year in and year out.
In his MVP 2011 season, Ryan Braun narrowly claimed the award from Matt Kemp by hitting for a .332 average to go along with 33 home runs and 111 RBI’s. Braun had an incredible season that, along with Fielder, helped lead the Brewers to a division title. Having a player of Fielder’s caliber, who also finished third in MVP voting, batting behind Braun gave the Brewers a 3-4 punch that no opposing pitcher was excited to face.
This season will be different for the Brew Crew and, in particular, for Ryan Braun. The Brewers went out and signed slugging third baseman Aramis Ramirez to fill the void in offensive output left by Fielder, but Ramirez does not bring the same punch in the clean up spot.
A solid hitter who has a .284 career average, Ramirez has never struck out more than 100 times in a season. However, the past few years have been up and down seasons for Ramirez while a member of the Chicago Cubs.
In addition to inferior power numbers when comparing Ramirez to Fielder, one of the most important stats to look at is on base percentage.
In 2011, Fielder’s OBP was 54 points higher than that of Aramis Ramirez. This was due in large part to the 107 walks Fielder drew from opposing pitchers, compared to the 43 by Ramirez. Getting on base is huge for an offense like the Brewers which is based more on slapping the ball around and driving in runs than just trying to power out the long ball.
Braun should still have a statistically solid 2012 season, even with the absence of Fielder. It is never easy for a team to get over losing a 27-year-old slugger who is just entering his prime, but Ramirez should help ease some of the pain even despite being six years older than Fielder at 33.
There are high hopes for the Brew Crew this season and fans all over the country are interested to see how Braun can follow up his MVP season while shutting out the negativity that will come from his offseason acquisition of steroid use.