Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Can Ryan Braun get 200 hits this season?

Braun struggled mightily at times this season. After knocking the cover off of April, he batted .264 in June and an absolutely miserable .200 in July, with a .615 OPS. His slump was the subject of much analysis and debate. Was he injured? Had he changed his approach? His stance? His girlfriend? Did Corey Hart steal his eyes?

Look at that focus!
On one of the broadcasts, Rock and BA said that Braun had said that the best advice that he’d received was to just “move on.” So simple, yet so profound. Braun went on to bat .421 in August with a 1.080 OPS. His average is back over .300 at .303 and his OPS has risen to .842. I think he’s moved on.

After tonight’s two-hit game, Braun has 155 hits for the season with 30 games to play. (He was fourth in the NL in hits behind Prado, Pujols and Carlos Gonzalez prior to the start of play.)  Braun will need 45 more hits, or 1.5 hits per game, to reach 200 for the second straight season. With three center fielders vying for playing time, it is possible that Chris Dickerson, Carlos Gomez or Lorenzo Cain could get some time in left field before the season is out, but, if Braun does play in the final 30 games, he is likely to get at least 120 at bats. At that rate, he would have to bat .375 to reach the 200 hit mark. Keep in mind that the Brewers schedule is full of .500 or better teams, many of whom need to make up games to make play-off runs. There are 13 home games on the schedule, and 8 days games, although, perhaps this will be less of a factor with the new closed panel design at Miller Park.

Braun faced a similar up-hill battle in 2009, when he finished with 203 hits. (He led the NL.) Ryan had 157 hits at the end of August 2009, but went on to collect 46 hits in 129 at bats in September and October. I remember that Braun said he found a new level of focus with his hitting.

There’s not a whole lot left to cheer for this season, but I am going to root like hell for Braun to get to 200 hits. If he can get the at-bats, I think he’ll do it. A meaningless stat? Maybe. A reason to keep watching? Yes. 

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