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MVBrewer #1: Ryan Braun

I think I'd like a poster of this moment: Ryan Braun's first inning home run in Game 1 of the NLCS.
I think I'd like a poster of this moment: Ryan Braun's first inning home run in Game 1 of the NLCS.

After a nearly unanimous vote, Ryan Braun is the winner of the #1 spot on our list of 2011's Most Valuable Brewers.

Braun is almost certainly going to finish either first or second in the NL MVP voting this season, and it's easy to see why. Just take a look at where his 2011 numbers rank among the Brewers, the National League and franchise history:

Stat Braun Among Brewers Among NL Franchise History
Batting Average .332 1st 2nd 3rd
On base percentage .397 2nd 5th 14th
Slugging percentage .597 1st 1st 3rd
OPS .994 1st 1st 4th
Doubles 38 1st 4th 21st
Home runs 33 2nd 6th 20th
Runs Scored 109 1st 2nd 10th
RBI 111 2nd 4th 18th

Braun is almost certainly coming off the best offensive season in franchise history, and only Robin Yount's 1982 season was more valuable overall. He also led the team in hits (187) and stolen bases (33) and tied for the team lead in triples (6).

Of course, there's still reason to believe the best is yet to come for the Brewers' superstar. He's only turning 28 in November and is under contract for nine more seasons, plus a mutual option for 2021. Braun would be valuable at any price but his current deal is even more helpful to the Brewers: He earned just $4 million while putting up MVP numbers in 2011 and will only make $6 million next season and $8.5 million in 2013.

The only real question the Brewers will have to answer with Braun going forward involves his defense. He's an elite athlete but seems to struggle at times with some of the instinctive requirements involved in playing the outfield. He'll make more than his share of flashy, highlight reel plays but also allows balls to drop at times by taking poor routes. His arm is also very strong but erratic. At some point the Brewers may have to consider moving him to first base.

With that said, his UZR numbers from the last three seasons would suggest he's made some improvement (although the sample size is too small to say for sure):

Season UZR UZR per 150 games
2009 -13.4 -11.7
2010 -10.2 -9
2011 -3.8 -4.7