Ryan Braun, shown on cover of Aug. 29, 2011 issue

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — It’s good to be Ryan Braun.

This week’s issue of Sports Illustrated features the 27-year-old outfielder on its cover, along with Milwaukee Brewers teammates Prince Fielder and Nyjer Morgan. The headline refers to Braun and Fielder as “two wallbanging MVP candidates.” (Braun was 3 years old the last time SI devoted a cover to the Brewers, in 1987.)

Braun’s Brewers are 78-54 and lead the N.L. Central division by 10 games over the second-place St. Louis Cardinals, the largest cushion in baseball.

What’s more, Braun is closing in on one of baseball’s most exclusive fraternities, the 30/30 club. Since 1901, only 34 MLB players have had one or more seasons in which they tallied at least 30 HRs and 30 stolen bases (see table). With 30 games remaining in the 2011, Braun has 25 HRs and 29 stolen bases.

The only Brewer so far in the 30/30 club is Tommy Harper, who joined in 1970. If successful, Braun would join two other Jewish members: Shawn Green (1998), and Ian Kinsler (2009).

Calling Braun an MVP candidate may be premature, but it’s not a huge stretch. The fifth-year player is among N.L. leaders in multiple categories, according to baseball-reference.com:

  • 1st in slugging percentage (.586)
  • 1st in on-base plus slugging (.985)
  • 1st in runs scored (90)
  • 1st in offensive win percentage (.798)
  • 2nd in batting average (.328)
  • 2nd in wins above replacement (6.2)
  • 2nd in power/speed number (26.4)
  • 3rd in doubles (31)
  • 3rd in fielding percentage among left fielders (.995)
  • 5th in RBIs (85)
  • 5th in on-base percentage (.399)
  • 7th in stolen bases (29)

Braun, the 2007 N.L. Rookie of the Year, has been here before. In 2008 he finished 3rd in the MVP vote, behind Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals and Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies.

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