Ryan Braun has played in 87 of the Milwaukee Brewers 118 games. He’s on pace to appear in about 119 games this year. But should he?
Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has managed to avoid lengthy trips to the DL this year. The problem is that when he’s in the lineup, he hasn’t made much of an impact. Is it time for Braun to move into a part-time role?
What do the numbers say about Braun this year?
He’s on pace for the a sub 1.0-WAR season. In 2013, Braun only played 61 games, but still managed a 1.7 WAR.
Braun owns a .245/.294/.440 slash line. Those numbers represent his career low in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. His walk rate is the lowest since his second season, and his strikeout rate is the highest since 2013. He’s having a monumentally rough season at the plate for a player with a career slash line of .299/.361/.536.
Is there a situation where Braun still makes an impact?
Well, he doesn’t really have a platoon split, so, not really? Braun slashes .224/.316/.459 against lefties, and .259/.289/.440 against righties.
Braun may have poor numbers against lefties, but they come with a .209 BABIP. He owns a .335 mark for his career, and is clearly suffering through a statistical variance. He’s torched left-handed pitching throughout his career, and it’s hard to believe that his current struggles aren’t luck-related.
He also struggles when he starts at first base. Braun owns a .188/.259/.396 slash line when handling first base duties. He improves to .248/.290/.446 when he starts in left. He also produces at a .556/.636/.667 clip at DH, and .294/.333/.529 rate as a pinch-hitter.
Is there a silver lining?
Yes! Braun has been much better in the second half than in the first. Since the All-Star break, Braun has posted a .318/.375/.545 slash line in 15 games. He’s only started six games in August, but he’s already off to his best month of the season.
If Braun can find his form in the second half, he could end up salvaging his season and leading the Milwaukee Brewers back to the playoffs. While he’s picked up the pace in the second half, he still has a long way to go to truly turn his year around. It’s clear that he carried the position change with him into the batter’s box.
He needs to start in left field against left-handed pitching, and come off the bench as a pinch-hitter in the late innings when he starts. If the Brewers can limit Braun to 350 plate appearances or fewer for a 162-game season, he could make a greater impact on offense, and stay fresh for the full season. A transition to a limited role will allow Braun to help the team when he’s in the lineup, and not get overexposed over the course of the year. A part-time role may feel like a demotion, but it makes sense at this point in Braun’s career.