Ryan Braun

Ryan Braun leads the N.L. with 12 HRs

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — It’s been quite a while since a Jewish ballplayer won a major-league home run crown. Fifty-eight years, to be precise.

The last to do it? Cleveland Indians 3B Al Rosen, whose 43 HRs led the American League in 1953. Today, Rosen is 87 years old, which is a pretty good measure of how long a drought it’s been.

That brings us to Ryan Braun. Through his first 40 games of the 2011 season, a period that ended May 15, the Milwaukee Brewers slugger was leading the National League with 12 HRs. Could he be the one to break the spell?

Jewish Baseball News crunched the numbers. Here’s what we discovered.

Braun has always been a strong starter

As shown in the table below, Braun has always been a fast starter. In each of his five years with the Brewers, the left fielder has smacked anywhere from 7 to 12 HRs over the first 40 games.

Year 40th gm Dbl Trpl HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG
2011 5/15 3 2 12 33 7 .309 .399 .597
2010 5/21 12 1 7 30 9 .338 .415 .556
2009 5/22 9 1 8 31 3 .331 .452 .572
2008 5/15 14 1 10 30 1 .286 .316 .560
2007 7/8 14 2 11 32 8 .350 .391 .663

Braun’s HR pace hasn’t fizzled out in past

Based on his first 40 games this season, Braun is projected to hit 49 HRs, assuming he plays all 162 games.

He’s done a pretty good job of keeping pace in the past. In 2008, as the table below shows, he hit 10 HRs in his first 40 games, was projected to hit 41 HRs in 162 games if he maintained the same frequency, and ended up hitting 37 in 151 games. In 2009, his 32 HRs matched the projected total, even though he didn’t play all 162 games. He fell several HRs short of his projected total in 2010.

To be fair, three years of data isn’t much to go on. (We don’t count his rookie season because he played only 113 games.) Maybe Braun will surprise us by fizzling out the rest of 2011 — or by increasing his HR pace as the season goes on.

Year 40 gms Proj. Actual
2011 12 49 ?
2010 7 28 25
2009 8 32 32
2008 10 41 37
2007 11 45 34*

* Braun played only 113 games in 2007, his rookie year.

Braun has some very tough competition

Braun has never hit more than 37 HRs in a season. The last time an N.L. player won the HR crown with 37 or fewer dingers was in 1992, when San Diego Padres 1B Fred McGriff hit 35.

And the players who currently trail Braun in the N.L. home-run race are no slouches, as the table below shows.

Player 40 gms Hi Year
Ryan Braun 12 37 2008
Alfonso Soriano 11 46 2006
Lance Berkman 11 45 2006
Troy Tulowitzki 10 32 2009
Ryan Howard 9 58 2006
Prince Fielder 9 50 2007

1B Prince Fielder, Braun’s teammate in Milwaukee, has 9 HRs so far this year but has hit as many as 50 in a season. Philadelphia Phillies 1B Ryan Howard, who also has 9 HRs, hit 58 in 2006 and has hit 45 or more HRs four times. Only Colorado Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki, with 11 HRs this season, has a lower career high than Braun. His best was 32 HRs, in 2009.

Conclusion: Braun has a chance to win, if slim

A lot will have to go right for Ryan Braun to win a HR crown this year. He’ll have to surpass his current record of 37 HRs. During the final 120 games of the season, he’ll have to maintain or exceed the HR pace of his first 40 games. And the powerful men who currently trail him will have to have subpar years.

So could this be the year of the Jewish home-run king? Absolutely. After all, this is only Braun’s 5th year in the Majors. We really don’t know what he’s capable of doing.


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