Ryan Braun: Wikis

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Ryan Braun

Milwaukee Brewers — No. 8
Left fielder
Born: November 17, 1983 (1983-11-17) (age 26)
Mission Hills, Los Angeles, California
Bats: Right Throws: Right 
MLB debut
May 25, 2007 for the Milwaukee Brewers
Career statistics
(through 2009 season)
Batting average     .308
Home runs     103
Runs batted in     317
Slugging Percentage     .574
Runs     298
Stolen bases     49
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Ryan Joseph Braun (born November 17, 1983, in Mission Hills, Los Angeles, California), nicknamed The Hebrew Hammer, is an American right-handed Major League Baseball All-Star left fielder with the Milwaukee Brewers.[1]

He won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2007, and led the National League (NL) in slugging percentage. He also won the Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year, the Baseball America Rookie of the Year, the Baseball Prospectus Internet Baseball NL Rookie of the Year, and the Players Choice NL Most Outstanding Rookie Awards. Over the previous decade, the only other NL hitter to win all five awards was Albert Pujols, in 2001.

Braun was a starting NL All Star outfielder in both 2008 and 2009, won the 2008 and 2009 NL Outfielder Silver Slugger Awards, and was the starting left fielder for the USA team at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In 2009 he was named to the Sporting News' list of the 50 greatest current players in baseball, ranking No. 32 on the list, and led the NL in hits for the season.

Contents

Heritage and early life

Jewish heritage

Braun; 2008

Braun's father, Joe, was born in Israel[2] and immigrated to the United States at age seven.[3] Braun is Jewish,[3] and said "It's something that draws a lot of interest and something I take pride in."[4][5] His nickname is "The Hebrew Hammer,"[4][6][7] which references his Jewish heritage, former Brewer Hank Aaron (whose nickname was "Hammerin' Hank"), and the movie The Hebrew Hammer, starring Adam Goldberg. It is also the nickname of former teammate Gabe Kapler,[8] and was a nickname for former All-Stars Al Rosen[9] and Hank Greenberg.[10]

Braun is one of the highest-drafted Jewish ballplayers in the history of professional baseball. The New York Yankees made Ron Blomberg the number one pick in the 1967 draft.[11] Braun was considered the best Jewish minor league baseball prospect in 2006,[12] and became major league baseball's first Jewish Rookie of the Year the following season.[13][14] In each of 2007 and 2008, Braun hit more home runs (34 and 37) than all but 3 of the top 10 career Jewish home run hitters had hit in their best seasons. Only Hank Greenberg (58), Shawn Green (49), and Al Rosen (43) hit more in a single year. Through the 2009 season he is seventh on the all-time list, directly behind Mike Epstein, for home runs by Jewish major leaguers.[15]

"Braun" was, coincidentally, the family name of Sandy Koufax, until his mother remarried and he took his stepfather's name. "There's no [family] connection that I know of," Braun said, "but it's kind of cool."[4] In another coincidence, Braun lived for a time with his maternal grandfather in a house that previously belonged to Jewish Hall of Fame outfielder Hank Greenberg.[3] Braun's grandfather has lived in the house for over 40 years.[16]

In December 2007, Braun was the only Jewish athlete invited by President George W. Bush to the annual Hanukkah Dinner at the White House, where he talked baseball with the President.[17][18] Braun was later featured in the 2008 Hank Greenberg 75th Anniversary edition of Jewish Major Leaguers Baseball Cards, published in affiliation with Fleer Trading Cards and the American Jewish Historical Society, commemorating the Jewish Major Leaguers from 1871 through 2008.[14] He joined, among other Jewish major leaguers, Ausmus, Kevin Youkilis, Ian Kinsler, Brian Horwitz, Gabe Kapler, Jason Marquis, Jason Hirsh, John Grabow, Craig Breslow, and Scott Schoeneweis. Braun was one of three Jewish players in the 2008 All-Star Game, joining Kinsler and Youkilis, and one of three Jewish players on the Team USA 2009 World Baseball Classic team, joining Youkilis and Grabow.[19][20] "There aren't too many Jewish athletes at the highest level," said Braun. "It's something that I certainly embrace."[21][22]

Braun is to be inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in January 2010.[23]

Braun's younger brother, middle infielder Steve Braun, played for the University of Maryland, College Park. He signed with the Brewers in 2008 as a free agent,[24] and in 2009 was on the roster of the Brewers' low-A affiliate, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers until he broke an ankle in June.[25]

High school

Braun was a four-year letterman on the Granada Hills High School baseball team, and three-year team captain and MVP. He played shortstop, and until his junior year he also pitched. As a sophomore in 2000 he recorded the highest batting average of his prep career (.456), while posting a .654 on base percentage. During his junior year he hit .421, with a .668 OBP. Braun capped off his high school career by batting .451 as a senior, with an OBP of .675, and breaking the school record for career home runs (with 25).[26]

He was a two-time all-area selection by the Los Angeles Times, and a three-time choice by the Los Angeles Daily News. Braun was rated the sixth-best shortstop prospect in the country by Team One Baseball as a senior,[27] and rated among the top 100 overall prospects by Baseball America. He graduated in 2002, but went undrafted as he told teams that he intended to go to college.[28][29]

College

Offered scholarships to Stanford University and UC-Berkeley, he instead attended the University of Miami. He chose Miami for its academics, its athletics, and its social scene, noting: "I think the girls were the deal closer on the recruiting trip."[30][31] There, Braun was named "National Freshman of the Year," as well as a first-team "Freshman All-American," by Baseball America in 2003. He was also named first-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball.[28] He clinched the awards by batting .364 with 76 RBIs and 17 home runs. As a sophomore shortstop/DH, Braun hit .335 and slugged .606, stealing 21 bases.

During his junior year, his final and most successful at Miami, Braun batted .396 with 18 home runs, a .726 slugging percentage, 76 RBIs, and 23 stolen bases. He was ninth in slugging, and 10th in RBIs, in NCAA Division I, and was named to Baseball America's 2005 College All-American Team as the DH. He moved from shortstop to third base during the year. His performance earned Braun a spot as one of the finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, the most prestigious individual award in college baseball,[28] and the Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Player of the Year award.[32]

Minor leagues: 2005–07

The Milwaukee Brewers drafted Braun in the first round (fifth overall) in the 2005 major league draft as a third baseman, and Braun signed for $2.45 million.[33] Assigned to the Helena Brewers in the Advanced Rookie Pioneer League in 2005, Braun batted .341/.383/.585 in 10 games. He was then promoted to the West Virginia Power in the Class A South Atlantic League, where he hit .355/.396/.645, and was rated the fifth-best prospect in the league.[citation needed] His most memorable moment there was when he hit a walk-off grand slam to lead the Power into the playoffs.[34] Following the 2005 season he was rated by Baseball America as the Brewers' Best Minor League Hitter for Average, the fifth-best prospect in the South Atlantic League, and the third-best prospect in the Brewers organization.

Braun began 2006 playing for the A-Advanced Brevard County Manatees, where he earned a spot in the Florida State League All-Star game, and played in the All-Star Futures Game in Pittsburgh. He was rated the top third base prospect in the FSL, and Baseball America rated him the best batting prospect in the league. On June 21, Braun was promoted to the Class AA Huntsville Stars (Alabama) of the Southern League. In July he was voted the Brewers' Organizational Player of the Month, and at the end of the season he was voted the sixth-best prospect in the Southern League.[35] Collectively between Class A and Class AA, Braun finished with a .289 average, 22 home runs, 77 RBIs, and 26 stolen bases. He received the 2006 Robin Yount Performance Award as the Milwaukee Brewers Minor League player of the year.[36]

In 2006 in the Arizona Fall League he hit .326/.396/.641 in 92 at-bats for the Scottsdale Scorpions, and was rated as one of the top three prospects in the league.[37] He led the AFL with 16 extra-base hits, tied for tops with nine doubles, ranked second in slugging percentage and HR/AB ratio (1/15), tied for second in home runs (6), tied for third in RBIs (25), and was voted to the AFL All-Prospects Team.[38]

Baseball America rated Braun the Brewers' #2 prospect for 2007.[35] He began the year with the Nashville Sounds of the AAA Pacific Coast League. Before being called up to the majors in late May, in 113 at bats he led the PCL with a .726 slugging percentage while batting .354 (6th), with 10 home runs (T-2nd) and a .426 on base percentage (5th). At the same time, Craig Counsell and Tony Graffanino were batting a combined .214 while playing third base for the major league club.[39]

Major leagues: Milwaukee Brewers (2007–present)

General

Braun has used as at-bat songs "Superstar" by Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco,[40] "Go Getta" by Young Jeezy and R. Kelly,[41] "My Life" by The Game, "Turn My Swag On" by Soulja Boy,[42] "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson, "Still Fly" by Drake.

2007: Rookie of the Year

Spring training

The Brewers brought Braun to spring training in 2007.[37] Their regular third baseman Corey Koskie, suffering from post-concussion syndrome, missed all of spring training, and ultimately missed the entire season.[43] While the Brewers intended to platoon veterans Counsell and Graffanino to start the season, they also gave Braun an extensive look. In his first game, Braun went 4–5 with a grand slam, a three-run home run, a double, a single, and a stolen base, along with seven RBIs.[44] In 11 games he batted .353 with a .912 slugging percentage, tying for 10th in the majors in home runs (5), and second in RBIs (15), despite having missed seven games.[45] He also committed four throwing errors. Sending him to minor league camp on March 20, Brewers' manager Ned Yost commented: "He's really done a nice job offensively, but he still needs to polish some of his defense. He knows what he needs to do. He's really, really close."[46]

Regular season

In 2007 Braun had one of the most dominant rookie seasons in the history of the game.[47]

Called up on May 24 by the Brewers,[48] he hit his first major league home run two nights later, off Padres' starter Justin Germano.[49]

His rookie hazing took place on his first full road trip after being called up. "I had to carry bags. I had to sing on the bus." With headphones to his iPod plugged into one ear, he sang "On Bended Knee" and "Water Runs Dry" by Boyz II Men. "I was into it, but I don't think my voice was too great. I feel like I'm going to have to dress up soon."[30] That did happen later; in September he was inducted into the annual rite of Brewers' rookies being required to put on silly costumes, and wore a hot dog costume for a team flight to Atlanta.[50]

Braun was voted the NL Rookie of the Month for June, after leading all NL rookies with 21 RBIs. He hit six home runs, tying him for first among NL rookies, while recording a .716 slugging percentage and a .435 on base percentage.[51] In July he was voted the National League Rookie of the Month for the second straight month, as well as the NL Player of the Month (marking the first time a player won both awards in the same month). He hit a league-leading 11 home runs, with 25 RBIs, while batting .345.[52]

In mid-August, Yost moved Braun from third in the lineup to cleanup, switching him with Prince Fielder. The move was expected to allow Braun to steal more, because when he batted in front of Fielder, it did not make sense for him to run and risk getting thrown out on steal attempts. In addition, if he were successful stealing, teams could simply counter by walking Fielder. The switch also allowed Yost to move left-handed Geoff Jenkins up in the batting order, behind the right-handed Braun.[53] At the end of August, however, Yost reversed the switch.[54]

On September 9, the Brewers became the third team in major league history to open a game with three straight home runs, as Rickie Weeks, J. J. Hardy, and Braun connected off Cincinnati Reds' starting pitcher Phil Dumatrait in consecutive at bats. "That was pretty cool," Braun said. "I was never part of something like that before."[55]

In September, as the Brewers sought in vain to capture the pennant, Braun was third in the NL in runs (27) and RBIs (29), and tied for 5th in home runs (9), while batting .308 with a .644 slugging percentage.[56]

Season Stats. In 2007, during which he played in 113 games and had 492 plate appearances, Braun led the National League with a .634 slugging percentage. He set a new all-time major league rookie slugging percentage record, breaking the record set by Mark McGwire, who slugged .618 for Oakland in 1987.[57]

He was also fifth in the league in at bats per home run (13.3; behind Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Barry Bonds, and Adam Dunn) and OPS (1.004; behind Bonds, Chipper Jones, Fielder, and Matt Holliday), tied for fifth in home runs (34; behind Fielder, Howard, Dunn, and Holliday), and eighth in batting average (.324) among hitters with at least 490 plate appearances.[58] In addition, he had extra base hits in 13.4% of his plate appearances (more than the league leader), was tied for third in at bats per RBI (4.6), and was tied for fifth in "bases taken" with 19 (advanced on fly balls, passed balls, wild pitches, balks, etc.).[59]

He also led the Brewers in batting average and slugging percentage, and was second behind Fielder in home runs, runs (91), and RBIs (97), tied for second in triples (6), and third in obp (.370) and steals (15), despite not having played in the first 48 games of the season.[60] Braun obliterated the club rookie records of 28 home runs and 81 RBIs, set by Fielder in 2006.[61] A projection of his statistics over 162 games put him at 49 homers and 139 RBIs.[62]

"My family and friends know my stats more than I do," Braun said. "I'll look at that stuff at the end of the season."[63]

Against Lefties. Braun had even greater success against left-handed pitchers. He had the best batting average (.450), obp (.516), and slugging percentage (.964; over 200 points ahead of the second-best SP) of all major league hitters with at least 125 plate appearances against lefties, and was tied for second in the major leagues in home runs (15).[64][65] "I like those guys," Braun joked.[66] Braun credits his father. "I see the ball pretty well off lefties," he said. "My dad is left-handed, so growing up, the majority of time, I took batting practice off of him."[67]

Home Run Pace.

"I was always small. I was a leadoff hitter growing up, until I was 13 or 14 years old and had a little growth spurt and started hitting home runs." – Ryan Braun[68]

On July 7 Braun became the fastest in Brewer history to hit 10 major league home runs, hitting his 10th in his 38th game, shattering the previous record of 61.[69] He hit his 15th home run in the 50th game of his career, and his 20th in his 64th game, making him the fastest to 15 and 20 since Pujols reached those milestones in the 49th and 63rd games of his career in 2001.[70][71] He was also the fastest to 20 home runs in Brewers history. He hit his 25th home run in his 82nd game, quicker than any major leaguer since Mark McGwire in 1987,[63] becoming just the 21st player ever to hit that many homers as a rookie.[72] He broke the Brewer rookie record of 28 home runs on September 9.[73] Braun hit his 30th home in his 94th game. No player had hit as many homers in so few at-bats since McGwire hit 30 in 84 games during the 1986 and 1987 seasons.[74] His 34 home runs for the season were just 4 behind the NL rookie record of 38 home runs, shared by Frank Robinson (1956) and Wally Berger (1930),[75] and were the fifth-highest total ever for an NL rookie.[76]

While he was hitting home runs, he wasn't taking many walks. He is one of only six players to have concluded a 30-homer season with more homers than walks (34 HR, 29 BB), the others being Alfonso Soriano (39–23 in 2002), Garret Anderson (35–24 in 2000), Pudge Rodriguez (35–24 in 1999), Joe Crede (30–28 in 2006), and Jose Guillen (31–24 in 2003).[77]

NL Batting Title Race. Braun had the eighth-highest batting average in the National League in 2007 among players with 490 or more plate appearances. He finished with 492 plate appearances, 10 short of the number needed to qualify for the NL batting title. Though he didn't have a high enough batting average to take advantage of it, an exception to the qualification rule allows a player to be awarded the title if he falls short of 502 plate appearances, but would still have the highest batting average if enough hitless at-bats were added to his total to enable him to reach the 502 mark.

Season awards

NL Rookie of the Year. Braun won the 2007 National League Rookie of the Year Award in a vote by 32 members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, two from each National League city. Braun beat Tulowitzki, 128 points to 126 points, in the closest NL vote since the system was revised in 1980.[78] Braun admitted that he had trouble sleeping at his Santa Monica condo the night before the announcement of the winner, wondering how it would turn out. "I finally got up around 6 a.m. and went for a jog, trying to work off some nervous energy," he said. "It's just incredible. It speaks to what Troy Tulowitzki did, also. It's very exciting."[79]

In 2007, Braun led all NL rookies in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, extra base hits, home runs, and at bats per home run. He was second in RBIs and runs (behind Troy Tulowitzki; 2 and 10 fewer, respectively, in 158 fewer at bats) and in triples (behind Hunter Pence), third in hits, and tied for fourth in stolen bases.[80]

He was fourth in strikeouts (behind Young, Tulowitzki, and Mark Reynolds; with the highest strikeout ratio of rookies with at least 400 at bats, at 24.83%; Young was 2nd, at 24.78%), 3rd to Carlos Ruiz (in 77 more at bats) and Tulowitzki (in 158 fewer at bats) in grounding into double plays (13), and tied for fifth in caught stealing (5).[80]

Since 1947, Pujols was the only other NL rookie to hit at least .320 with 30 homers.[62] Of all prior NL Rookies of the Year, only Pujols and Willie McCovey hit for higher batting averages in their rookie year.[81]

Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year. Braun was voted the 2007 NL Sporting News Rookie of the Year by 488 major league players and 30 managers.[82][83]

Baseball America Rookie of the Year. Braun was awarded the 2007 Baseball America Rookie of the Year Award.[61]

Players Choice NL Most Outstanding Rookie. Braun was voted the 2007 Players Choice NL Most Outstanding Rookie, in a vote by his fellow major league players.[84] "When your peers recognize you with an award, that's great," he said. "Those are the guys out there on the field with you, competing against you. Their opinion counts the most, for a player."[85]

Baseball Prospectus Internet Baseball NL Rookie of the Year. Braun won the Baseball Prospectus 2007 Internet Baseball NL Rookie of the Year Award. He had 666 first place votes, versus 487 for Tulowitzki and 16 for Pence.[86]

Topps Rookie All-Star Third Baseman. Braun was a unanimous selection as the 2007 Topps Rookie All-Star Third Baseman. The selection was the result of the 49th annual Topps balloting of Major League managers.[87]

Brewers' Top Newcomer. In October, he was voted the Brewers' Top Newcomer by the Milwaukee chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.[88]

NL MVP vote. Braun was mentioned as a top NL MVP candidate by writers at Sports Illustrated,[89] ESPN,[90] The Philadelphia Inquirer,[91] and the Philadelphia Daily News.[92] In the end, he received two 10th place votes.[93]

This Year in Baseball Rookie of the Year vote. Braun finished third in the This Year in Baseball Rookie of the Year Award as voted by fans, with 22.3% of the vote, behind Tulowitzki (27.6%) and Dustin Pedroia (26.3%).[94]

2008: All Star and Silver Slugger

Spring training

In spring training, Braun hit .368/.431/.719, and tied for 3rd in the NL in home runs with 5, and 7th in RBIs with 16, while playing in only 22 of the Brewers' 29 games.[95]

Braun; 2008

Regular season

At the beginning of the season it was anticipated that Braun would hit cleanup, behind Fielder, giving him more opportunities to steal, but during the season he batted third the vast majority of the time.[96][97][98][99]

In May Braun was second in the league in home runs (11), while batting .322. Braun drove in 134 runs in his first 162 games in the majors, the highest total of any active player, one RBI ahead of Pujols.[100][101] On June 17, Braun drove in his 152nd career RBI, in 182 games. He reached the 150-RBI milestone faster than any Major Leaguer since Boston's Walt Dropo needed only 155 games from 1949–51.[102]

Braun was named the NL's Player of the Month for July, after batting .366 for the month (6th in the league) with 9 home runs (3rd), and 23 RBIs (7th). He also led the league with 76 total bases and 18 extra base hits, and was among NL leaders with 37 hits (2nd), 3 triples (2nd), a 1.163 OPS (3rd), and a .752 slugging percentage (4th). He had back-to-back 4-hit games, just the 5th player in team history to accomplish that feat.[103] "It's a huge honor," Braun said before beginning a three-game series against the Reds. "The way I look at it, you're the MVP of the National League for that month. It's definitely a big accomplishment.[104]

As of August 8, Braun had had one of the best major league career starts ever. He was first, in 227 games to start a career, with 558 total bases and 133 extra base hits, second with 64 home runs, and tied for second with 181 RBIs.[105]

On August 9, Braun strained the intercostal muscles around his oblique ribcage, leading to him missing a number of games,[106] and shorten his swing for a number of weeks.[18] After returning, on September 25 Braun hit his first grand slam in "grand" fashion. With the bases loaded, Braun delivered a 2-out, 2–2 pitch from the Pirates' Jesse Chavez into the left field bleachers of Miller Park in the bottom of the 10th inning, winning the game 5–1, and keeping the Brewers' 2008 post-season hopes alive. Three days later Braun helped put the Brewers into the post-season for the first time since 1982, by hitting a 2-run home run in the bottom of the 8th against the Chicago Cubs. The homer gave the Brewers the lead and was the difference in the game, giving the Brewers a one-game lead over the New York Mets for the NL wild card.

All Star Game. Braun was a starting outfielder for the NL in the 2008 All Star Game. He finished first in fan voting among NL outfielders, and second among all NL players, with 3,835,840 votes, behind only Chase Utley of the Phillies (3,889,602).[107] He also finished first in player voting.[108] Braun was the first Brewers outfielder voted to start an All Star game.[109] He was one of only seven first-time starters in the game, and – along with Kosuke Fukudome and Josh Hamilton – one of only three who had not reached the major leagues until 2007 or 2008.[107]

Braun; 2008
  • Home Run Derby. Braun came in third in the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium. "It's something you dream about," Braun said. "That's as big a stage as you can get on. Obviously, the lights are going to really bright that night, so it's going to be a lot of fun."[110] Braun had his friend and agent, Nez Balelo, a former Seattle Mariners minor league infielder, pitch to him.[111][112] Braun reached the upper deck a handful of times, and his longest homer was estimated at 448 feet.[113] He hit seven home runs in each of the first and second rounds, finishing with 14 (three behind finalist Justin Morneau, who hit five in the final round to win the Derby).[114]

Home Run Pace. On June 3, Braun became the third-fastest major league player to reach 50 career home runs. He did so in 171 career games (the only players to reach that plateau sooner were Rudy York and Mark McGwire).[115][116] On July 8, Braun hit his 56th home run in his 200th game, the third-highest total ever in a major leaguer's initial 200 games, behind McGwire (59) and Rudy York (59).[117]

In early August Braun hit his 30th home run, becoming just the second player in MLB history to hit 30 or more homers in each of his first two seasons, joining Pujols.[18][118] Braun hit 71 home runs in his first two seasons, tieing him with Pujols for fourth all-time. Joe DiMaggio tops the list with 75 home runs in 1936 and 1937, followed by Ralph Kiner (74), and Eddie Mathews (72).[105][119][120]

Season Stats. In 2008, in 151 games Braun hit 37 home runs (tied for 4th in the NL, behind Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn, and Carlos Delgado), with 106 RBIs (9th), and batted .285 with a .553 slugging percentage (5th).[121] He also led the league with 83 extra base hits, and had 338 total bases (2nd in the NL), seven triples (6th), 16.5 at bats per home run (10th), and 611 at bats (10th).[122] 12.5% of his plate appearances were extra base hits (3rd in the NL; behind Ryan Ludwick and Pujols), he had 29 infield hits (7th), and he stole third base 6 times (9th).[123][124]

Against starting pitchers, Braun hit .244 the first time he faced them in a game, .331 the second time, and .328 with a .672 slugging percentage the third time.[99] Braun led the Brewers in batting average, slugging percentage, triples, home runs, RBIs, extra base hits, total bases, at-bats-per-home run, OPS (.888), runs (92), and hits (174).[125]

Post-season. Braun hit .313 in October against the Phillies in his first post-season series, which the Brewers lost 3–1.

Contract. In March the Brewers renewed Braun's contract for $455,000, a $75,000 increase.[126]

Braun then signed an 8-year, $45–$51 million contract extension (the total depending on his "Super 2" service-time ranking after the 2009 season) on May 15, 2008.[127] The contract is through the year 2015. The deal includes Braun's $455,000 salary for 2008, and a $2.3 million bonus in 2008. It could increase to $51 million through incentives. Braun also has a no-trade clause for the first four years, and then a limited no-trade clause allowing him to block deals to 12 teams from 2012–13, and 6 teams from 2014–15. The contract will keep Braun locked up through his age-31 season.[128] It is the largest contract in Brewers' history, surpassing Jeff Suppan's. It is also the largest contract in baseball history given to a player with less than three years' experience.[129] Braun's agent, Nez Balelo, crunched enough numbers to show him what he potentially could have made over the life of this contract if he had chosen not to sign it. "But the question I ultimately asked myself was, `What can't I buy with that amount of money?"' Braun said.[130]

Season awards

Sporting News NL All Star Team. Braun was voted to the 2008 NL Sporting News All Star Team. A panel of 41 major league general managers and assistant general managers chose the team.[131]

Silver Slugger Award. Braun was awarded the 2008 NL Outfielder Silver Slugger Award, determined annually by a vote of major league coaches and managers who select the top offensive performers at each position in both leagues. The award, sponsored by Louisville Slugger, is based on a combination of statistics, including batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage, as well as the coaches' and managers' general impressions of a player's overall offensive value.[132]

MVP Race. Braun was third in the voting for the 2008 NL MVP award, with 139 points.[133] behind Pujols and Ryan Howard, for which he received a $50,000 bonus.[134]

2009: All Star, Silver Slugger, and Team USA

In 2009 Braun was named to Sporting News' list of the 50 greatest current players in baseball, ranking No. 32 on the list. A panel of 100 baseball people, many of them members of the Hall of Fame and winners of major baseball awards, were polled to arrive at the list.[135]

World Baseball Classic

Braun was invited to play for Team USA in 2009 in the second World Baseball Classic. "I'm really excited to get to represent my country," Braun said. "It's an honor just to get invited for the event, and I think it's going to be great."[136] He was the team's starting left fielder, and helped Team USA reach the semi-finals, hitting .381.[137][138]

Regular season

"One thing is for certain: You've got to tie Braun up from time to time. If you don't, he's going to feast on you."[139]

Chicago Cubs manager Lou Pinella, defending Ryan Dempster for hitting Braun

Braun was named National League Player of the Week for May 4–10, after leading the NL with 12 RBIs for the week while hitting .458/.567/.958 with 3 home runs. He hit the second grand slam of his career and recorded a career-high six RBIs on May 6, and on May 9 he reached base in all five of his plate appearances.[140]

On October 3, Braun collected his 200th hit of the season.[141][142] He became the fourth Brewer in team history to reach 200 hits in a season, and the first in 18 years, joining Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor, and Robin Yount.[143] He finished the season with an NL-leading 203 hits, becoming the first Brewer to lead his league in hits since Molitor topped the AL in 1991.[144] His .320 batting average at the end of the season was the highest by a Brewer since Jeff Cirillo hit .326 in 1999.[145]

All Star Game. Braun led all NL outfielders in fan voting for the All Star Game for the second year in a row, with 4,138,559 votes, ahead of Raúl Ibáñez (4,053,355) and Carlos Beltrán (2,812,295).[146] He was third among all NL vote-getters, trailing Pujols (5,397,734) and Chase Utley (5,027,029).[147] He was the first Brewer to be voted in as a starter in consecutive years since Yount (in 1982 and 1983), and along with Yount and Molitor (1980 and 1988) one of only three Brewers position players voted to start twice.[148][149] Braun started in right field, the first time he had ever played the position, and batted cleanup, going 0–2.[150]

Home Run pace. Braun was second all-time, with 79 home runs over his first two calendar years in the major leagues, to Phillies Hall of Famer Chuck Klein (83); ahead of third-place Joe DiMaggio and Mark McGwire (77).[151] If Braun continues to hit home runs at the rate he had hit them through July 1, 2009, he will reach 600 home runs in his 15th major league season.[152] In September Braun became the second-fastest active player to hit 100 home runs (behind only Ryan Howard), as he hit his 100th homer in his 400th major league game.[153] Later in the month, he became the second player in major league history (joining Pujols) to hit 30 or more home runs in each of his first three seasons.[154] Braun's 103 home runs in his first three Major League seasons are sixth-most in baseball history, behind Pujols (114), Mark Texeira (107), and three Hall of Famers—Kiner (114), Matthews (112), and Joe DiMaggio (107).[155]

Against Lefties. As in 2007, in 2009 Braun had even greater success against left-handed pitchers. Against them he had the second-best OBP (.475), slugging percentage (.723), and OPS (1.198), and third-best batting average (.395), of all NL hitters with at least 125 plate appearances against lefties.[156]

Season stats. In 2009, in addition to leading the NL in hits, Braun was 2nd in runs (113), 4th in RBIs (114), total bases (350), extra base hits (77), and hit by pitch (13), 7th in batting average (.320) and power-speed number (24.6), 8th in OPS (.937), 9th in slugging percentage (.551) and doubles (39), tied for 10th in triples (6), and tied for 11th in home runs (32).[157] He was also 4th in the league in infield hits (25).[158]

He became only the second Brewer ever to hit 30 home runs and steal 20 bases in the same season.[159] Braun also became the eighth player in Major League history with at least 100 runs, 100 RBIs, 200 hits, 30 homers, 20 stolen bases, and a .300 average in the same season.[155]

Season awards

Sporting News NL All Star Team. Braun was voted to the 2009 NL Sporting News All Star Team, making the team for the second year in a row. He received votes from all 14 NL team executives who voted (along with Pujols and Utley, as Mauer was named on all AL ballots).[160]

Silver Slugger Award. Braun was awarded the 2009 NL Outfielder Silver Slugger Award, winning it for the second year in a row.[155] He became the first Brewer since Molitor, more than two decades prior, to win a Silver Slugger Award in consecutive years. Cecil Cooper is the only other Brewer to have done it.[155]

Tools

Hitting

"There is something about the way the ball jumps off his bat. You can hear it."[161]

--Assistant General Manager Gord Ash

Braun has the ability to hit for average and significant power. His swing is compact, with tremendous bat speed and a protracted follow-through. [1]</ref>[162] Braun waits well on offspeed pitches and uses the entire field.

"He looks like 'The Natural.'"[163]

--Jim Powell, former Brewers' radio voice

He drives the ball no matter where it is in the strike zone.[164] Brewers hitting coach Jim Skaalen observed: "He's got tremendously quick hands and really hits through the ball. He stays on the ball as well as anyone we've got."[61][162]

Speed

In addition, his speed garnered him comparisons to New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.[165] Braun has been timed at 4.2 seconds to first base from the right side of the plate.[166] In spring training in 2007, he was second-fastest in the Brewers' 60-yard dash.[167]

Defense

Third base

A shortstop most of his life and in college, Braun was inconsistent on defense after switching to third base in 2006.[168] However, he was noted for his athleticism on defense, his occasional web gems,[61] and particularly for his powerful throwing arm,[164] which was rated the best infield arm in the Brewers' minor league system by Baseball America in early 2007.[169] Braun was charged with 34 errors in 2006, the majority on throws. "It's a matter of proper footwork," according to Ash at the beginning of 2007. "Most of his problems come because he relies on his arm, which is very strong."[161]

"I think Braunie's biggest problem is reading the ball off the bat. He's gotten a lot better on the routine plays, has gotten a lot better with his throws. He's a very good athlete. He's working very hard at it. He's going to get better, no doubt about it. He hasn't played a lot of third base. We tend to forget that."[61]

– Brewers coach Dale Sveum, a former big league third baseman.

While Yost removed Braun from a number of games in September 2007 for defense, he praised Braun for his improvements.[170] "The great thing about it is it doesn't involve throwing at all now," said Yost, referring to Braun's biggest issue in the spring. "It involves first-step quickness to the ball, which will increase his range. [He needs to] soften his hands a little bit. [His] hand-eye coordination to the ball needs to be a little better. That comes with repetition, repetition, repetition." Braun finished 2007 last of all eligible third basemen in fielding percentage (.895, with 26 errors in 248 total chances; only the fourth third baseman since 1916 to play 100 games or more in a season and have a fielding percentage under .900),[171] range factor (2.11), and zone rating (.697). His target at first base was Prince Fielder, who finished 2007 last of all eligible major league first basemen in range factor (8.49), and first in errors (14).[172] Similarly, his target at second base, Rickie Weeks, had the lowest fielding percentage of all NL second basemen (.976), and the lowest zone rating among all major league second basemen, .737.[173]

Furthermore, it was suggested that it was possible that Braun would learn to play the position adequately, given that David Wright (who tied for the major league lead in errors by a third baseman in 2005 (his second in the league)[174] in 2007 became a "passable defender" (and won the NL Gold Glove at third base).[175]

Braun, for his part, noted after the 2007 season: "It's only my second full (professional) year of playing third base. I don't expect to be perfect, but I certainly expect to be better than I have been. I have to continue to work hard, and hopefully I'll improve."[61]

Left field

In January 2008, however, the Brewers acquired three-time Gold Glove-winning center fielder Mike Cameron, prompting the team to move center fielder Bill Hall to third base and Braun to left field.

Before the news broke, Braun was taking ground balls at Pepperdine University near Los Angeles. General Manager Doug Melvin left him a voicemail, and after returning the call and learning of the team's plans Braun grabbed his outfield glove, and started taking fly balls. Braun supported the switch. "[The outfield glove] is not broken in yet, but it will get there. I feel like I'm a good enough athlete and have a good enough work ethic to make the transition pretty easily."[176]

While Braun's outfield experience until then had consisted of "two games in center field my freshman year in high school,"[177] Braun, however, had the speed and arm strength that would make him stand out against other left fielders, and athleticism to make the transition to the outfield.[178] Early reports were good, as in spring training in 2008 he showed an ability to cover ground, go back on the ball, to his left into the gap, and to his right to cut off balls down the line.[47] Braun looked good tracking liners and high fly balls, and took good routes when cutting off balls down the line or in the gap, holding batters to singles.[179] In March 2008 Manager Ned Yost said that Braun has been "spectacular" in left,[180] and "he's got an opportunity one day to win a Gold Glove in left field. He certainly does."[181]

In July, by which time Braun was being mentioned in the press as a Gold Glove candidate, Ed Sedar, the Brewers' outfield defense expert, said: "He probably has the best arm in baseball in left field. He can cover more ground than 90% of the outfielders out there."[182]

In 2008, Braun led all major league outfielders with a 1.000 fielding percentage. He also led all NL left fielders in putouts (275), and was second in the league in range factor (1.95) and fourth in assists (9), in 1,310.1 innings.[183]

On May 23, 2009, Braun was charged with his first error ever in 190 games in left field, when his throw to third was not caught by either Bill Hall or Craig Counsell, one of whom should have caught it according to Manager Ken Macha, but both of whom were confused as to who was covering the base.[184][185][186] In July 2009, ESPN's Jon Heyman wrote that Braun had "become a terrific left fielder in no time".[187] Braun led all NL left fielders in 2009 with a .994 fielding percentage; he also led them in putouts (304) and range factor (2.06), was tied for the lead in double plays (2), and was third in assists (8), in 1,364 innings.[188]

Career statistics

Year Age Team Lg G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB SH SF IBB HBP GDP
2007 23 Milwaukee NL 113 451 91 146 26 6 34 97 15 5 29 112 .324 .370 .634 1.004 286 0 5 1 7 13
2008 24 Milwaukee NL 151 611 92 174 39 7 37 106 14 4 42 129 .285 .335 .553 .888 338 0 4 4 6 13
2009 25 Milwaukee NL 158 635 113 203 39 6 32 114 20 6 57 121 .320 .386 .551 .937 350 0 3 1 13 6
Totals: 422 1,697 296 523 104 19 103 317 49 15 128 362 .308 .363 .574 .937 974 0 12 6 26 32

Roll over stat abbreviations for definitions. Stats through 2009 season.[189]

Pursuits outside baseball

Braun is developing his own signature fashion t-shirt line for Affliction Clothing, a California-based clothing manufacturer that made green tube socks owned by friends of his which manufactures shirts that are garment dyed and hand distressed.[190] In August 2008 he filmed a YouTube video with supermodel Marisa Miller for Remington's ShortCut clippers, which was released in the fall.[191] And in October 2008, Apple released a commercial for its new iPhone, which showed a clip of Braun's 10th inning walk-off grand slam against the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 25, 2008, which kept the Brewers' Wild Card hopes alive. Gatorade used the same clip in its November 2008 "League of Clutch" commercial.[192] He has also signed endorsement deals with CytoSport, a supplement maker, Nike, Wilson, Mikita Sports for autographs and memorabilia, Sam Bat, and AirTran Airways, and is working on his own line of aluminum bats.[18][193] Braun has turned down a request by ABC that he appear on the TV show "The Bachelor".[194]

Personal

In 2009 Braun purchased a foreclosed five-bedroom, seven-bathroom gated Mediterranean home in Malibu for $4.85 million. It had been listed at a high of $8.9 million in 2007.[195]

Awards
Preceded by
Hunter Pence
Ryan Braun
NL Rookie of the Month
June 2007
July 2007
Succeeded by
Ryan Braun
Troy Tulowitzki
Preceded by
Alfonso Soriano
Hanley Ramirez
NL Player of the Month
July 2007
July 2008
Succeeded by
Mark Teixeira
Manny Ramirez
Preceded by
Jorge Cantu
NL Player of the Week
May 4–10, 2009
Succeeded by
Raúl Ibáñez
Preceded by
Hanley Ramirez
NL Rookie of the Year
2007
Succeeded by
Geovany Soto
Preceded by
Justin Verlander
Baseball America Rookie of the Year
2007
Succeeded by
Geovany Soto
Preceded by
Dan Uggla
Sporting News NL Rookie of the Year
2007
Succeeded by
Geovany Soto
Preceded by
Dan Uggla
Players Choice NL Most Outstanding Rookie
2007
Succeeded by
Geovany Soto
Preceded by
Hanley Ramirez
Baseball Prospectus Internet Baseball NL Rookie of the Year
2007
Succeeded by
Geovany Soto
Preceded by
Ryan Zimmerman
Topps Rookie All-Star Third Baseman
2007
Succeeded by
Evan Longoria
Preceded by
Carlos Beltrán
Barry Bonds
Ken Griffey, Jr.
NL All Star Outfielder Starter
2008
Succeeded by
Ryan Braun
Raúl Ibáñez
Shane Victorino
Preceded by
Ryan Braun
Kosuke Fukudome
Alfonso Soriano
NL All Star Outfielder Starter
2009
Succeeded by
Incumbent
Preceded by
Matt Holliday
Carlos Lee
Aaron Rowand
Sporting News All Star Outfielder
2008
Succeeded by
Incumbent
Preceded by
Carlos Beltrán
Matt Holliday
Carlos Lee
NL Silver Slugger/Outfield
2008
Succeeded by
Ryan Braun
Andre Ethier
Matt Kemp
Preceded by
Ryan Braun
Matt Holliday
Ryan Ludwick
NL Silver Slugger/Outfield
2009
Succeeded by
Incumbent

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