The day isn't over yet, but I'm pretty sure this will be our least surprising news: Ryan Braun ran away from the field in our voting for 2012's Most Valuable Brewer, and claims this spot for the second time in as many years.
Braun is also, of course, a candidate to be NL MVP for the second consecutive season. You can make a strong case for him to win the award, but he's more or less standing alone simply by meriting consideration. Consider, for a moment, the top ten in the MVP voting from a year ago:
|1||Ryan Braun||Brewers||Potential repeat as NL MVP|
|2||Matt Kemp||Dodgers||Only appeared in 106 games.|
|3||Prince Fielder||Brewers||Moved to AL|
|4||Justin Upton||Diamondbacks||OPS dropped from .898 to .785.|
|5||Albert Pujols||Cardinals||Moved to AL.|
|6||Joey Votto||Reds||Limited to 111 games by injury.|
|7||Lance Berkman||Cardinals||Appeared in just 32 games.|
|8||Troy Tulowitzki||Rockies||Appeared in just 47 games.|
|9||Roy Halladay||Phillies||Pitched just 156.1 innings with a 4.49 ERA.|
|10||Ryan Howard||Phillies||Appeared in just 71 games.|
Braun is the only player on that list with a legit chance to win the MVP award this season, and Joey Votto might be the only other one with a chance to crack the top ten.
The Brewers were still dragging under .500 at 40-45 when they opened the second half of the season at home against the Pirates, but Braun gave the Milwaukee fans a reason for hope with a big performance on this day.
The Brewers scored their first run of the day in the first inning when Braun hit a solo shot off Pirates starter James McDonald, and trailed 6-5 in the sixth when he struck again with a solo shot off reliever Brad Lincoln to tie the game. All told Braun went 4-for-4 on the day and the Brewers went on to win 10-7.
Here are the video highlights from both homers:
Barring a franchise-altering change, Braun will be a Brewer for a very long time. He still has three years and $30.5 million left on his first long-term deal, and has a five-year, $105 million contract that will kick in after that. Braun is under contract with the Brewers through 2020, and the two sides have a mutual option for 2021.