The face of the Milwaukee Brewers is transitioning over to first base. Or at least he is trying to.
It is a very smart move by the veteran that will open up room in the outfield and maximize offensive production from the Milwaukee Brewers lineup. Ryan Braun is also extending his career by taking on a less demanding position. However, things are off to a rocky start.
Granted, it has been three starts in Spring Training, and no one is expecting a miracle. In fact, when the news came out of Braun’s potential move to first, we all heard the line from Moneyball. Ron Washington to Scott Hatteberg about playing first base, “It’s incredibly hard.”
How Will This Experiment End?
All in all, he will eventually be a serviceable defensive first baseman. Braun is already flashing some skill with the glove, and as he continues, he will become more comfortable at the position. The fact that he used to play third, though awhile ago and only for a year, will be of help.
How Much Does His Defense Matter?
This is a legitimate question; it is not like we are talking about a perennial Gold Glover shifting positions. Braun’s career UZR at any position he has played is negative. In his 10 years roaming the Milwaukee Brewers outfield, his UZR ended in a positive range four times. This is a stat where the average player will post a zero.
It is also worth noting that during his one season in the infield back in 2007, the number sat at -28.5. Hence his move to the outfield. Another stat of note is that he has never saved a positive amount of runs on the defensive side of the ball.
His bat is his calling card, and it will continue to be. But that fact is what will help him a lot when trying to earn the starting job as a first baseman. If he can hit, and be serviceable enough on defense, he will be in the starting lineup.
I love this move. His defensive track record is not excellent, but his offense is awesome. It is very important to have a leader like Braun in the Milwaukee Brewers lineup. Even through his injury plagued 2017, he posted a WAR of 1.5. He is a bigger help to the lineup than hurt with the glove.
By moving to first, he is opening up spots for better outfield defense as well. What helps is that he can add more offensive consistency to first base. Eric Thames is great when he is on, but he dropped off big time in the second half last year. It is going to open up slots for some youth in the outfield to take over and grow.
The Milwaukee Brewers will be better if Braun can take over at first base. Things are inconsistent right now, but that is no surprise. As he finds more comfort there, he will start to maximize his potential. While he might not be 100 percent ready for Opening Day, he should be getting plenty of time there once Spring Training ends.