Did Ryan Braun Deserve the Hank Aaron Award?


Major League Baseball announced Saturday afternoon that San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey is the National League’s recipient of the 2012 Hank Aaron Award, given to the top offensive performer in the league.

Sept 16, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun (8) watches after hitting a home run in the sixth inning against the New York Mets at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE

Posey led all of baseball with a .336 on the National League champion Giants and, rightfully so, seems to be the leader in the clubhouse for Most Valuable Player. Also named the Comeback Player of the Year, the 25-year-old catcher had a very good season in his own right and, by playing on a division-winning team while posting stellar numbers, there won’t be any outcry if (and when) Posey wins the MVP award. However, Ryan Braun being robbed of an award given directly to the most outstanding offensive performer is a total crock.

Braun led the National League in home runs (41), slugging (.595), and OPS (.987), all three of which are, obviously, among the primary “standard” offensive categories used to evaluate a player. He, statistically, had the best season at the plate of any National League player to dig in the box.

We can’t say that Braun was jipped or given the short end of the stick by the media for the Aaron Award. The winners are determined by fan voting and a five-man panel including  former Brewers Aaron, Paul Molitor, and Robin Yount. Also on the panel were Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Tony Gwynn. It is evident, however, that Braun is still being penalized for a failed drug test which he was exonerated from through an appeal in February. Fans are just as tough of critics as the writers, and much of their hard-headedness has shown during All Star Game voting and, now, Hank Aaron Award voting.

By the definition of the award, Braun was the deserving winner; but, at the end of the day, the hardware will be resting on Buster Posey’s shelf.

Not only was Braun first in home runs, slugging, OPS, and runs scored, he was second in the league in RBI (112) and hits (191). Posey, by comparison, didn’t finish ahead of Braun in any of those categories. Posey led the league with a .336 average, compared to Braun’s .319 mark and .408 on-base percentage, compared to Braun’s .391 OBP. Additionally, Braun hit for 64 more total bases than Posey with his league-leading figure of 356.

Unlike the MVP, which has various interpretations individual to those holding their own interpretation, the Aaron Award has one qualification. Defense doesn’t matter. Neither does base running. Or how good your team is. This is why it should, theoretically (and realistically, too), be the easiest award to give out.

Even the advanced metrics concur that Braun out-slugged Posey this season. He led in Weighted Runs Created (wRC) and was tied for first in wRC+, which compares wRC to league average. The overall offensive performance category wOBA was led by Braun. The Brewers slugger also led the league in isolated power (ISO).

Look, you can contort and scrutinize the figures any way you want. But in the end, though deserving, Ryan Braun isn’t the recipient of the Hank Aaron Award. There’s always the Silver Slugger.