You wouldn’t necessarily know from his numbers (.314, 7 HR, 24 RBI entering play on Wednesday), but the underlying metrics are fairly eye-popping and indicate that there may be problems brewing for Ryan Braun. Just look at a few select numbers (courtesy of Fangraphs):
Strikeout Rate – 24.6% (career 18.1%)
This would represent a career worst for Braun. In fact, the last time he posted a month over 20.6% was April 2012 (23.2%) and before that it was July 2010 (23.4%).
The last time he had a strikeout rate above 24%? August 2008, when he was at 24.1%. Yes it is a small sample size, but we have a long enough track record of Braun making good contact. He was at 12.0% in May (though he struck out twice last night), thus far, so that is encouraging though it is something we will clearly have to monitor.
Groundball Rate – 56.0% (career 43.6%)
You would think this would have an impact on his power, but there are two things that have worked in his favor. One is a 30.4% HR/FB, obviously something we can’t expect to continue. Second is the fact that he has yet to pop the ball up (career 9.9% infield fly ball rate).
Unlike the strikeout rate, the groundball rate is still elevated in May (50.0%) and he as yet to hit a home run. While he obviously isn’t going to hit no home runs, the fact that the pop ups will ultimately come could really inhibit his numbers unless he stops burying the ball in the ground so much.
Line Drive Rate – 13.3%
He was at 7.0% in April, so there has been a correction already. That said, the only reason his average is where it is is because of his home runs and a .382 BABIP (completely unsustainable given the line drive rate overall).
While he has shown an improvement, this is just another item that we need to pay a close eye on moving forward. If it doesn’t come all the way back, the average will likely plummet.
Stolen Bases – 2
Can he heat up and steal bases in bundles? Absolutely, but it is going to be tough to get to 30+ with this slow of a start.
I am not about to suggest a dramatic move or dub Braun a must sell player. We all know the talent and it would not be a surprise to see everything fall into place. That said, some of these numbers are extremely concerning.
Yes, there have been some correction in May but he still has a long ways to go and unsustainable BABIP, HR/FB and the fact that he has yet to pop a ball up hanging over him. Is he a must sell? Absolutely not. Would I consider it? At this point, I would because others haven’t caught on to the potential red flags.
What happens if the underlying numbers don’t correct themselves? Eventually the price tag is going to drop. It is not like we haven’t gotten the production out of him, we are just lucky that we did. Cashing in for another elite talent, though one with a better underlying skill set, makes plenty of sense.
What are your thoughts of Braun? Do you think he’s a lock to turn things around? Is he a player you would consider selling?