When you get to be Ryan Braun’s age, and you are a professional baseball player, the decline of your career is inevitable. It happens to even the best. There is no way around it. As Brewers’ fans, we have witnessed that decline in the Brewers’ outfielder. What is often the case, however, is that with the truly elite, the decline takes a longer path down. Ryan Braun demonstrated in 2019 that he still has a stretch of road left on his path before he gets to the end.
In 2019, Braun slashed .285/.343/.505 while slamming 22 home runs. He posted a wOBA of .354 which tied him with Matt Chapman and Ozzie Albies. He posted a 117 wRC+ tying him with Trea Turner, Ozzie Albies, and Jose Abreu. Braun ranked in MLB #41 in batting average, #63 in OBP, and #54 in SLG. While he no longer puts up MVP-level numbers, he still gets the job done at a very high level.
Ryan Braun was especially valuable as the season wore on. In July, Braun posted a wOBA of .360 and a wRC+ of 120. In August (his best month), he posted a wOBA of .421 and a wRC+ of 160. In September his wOBA was .375, and his wRC+ was 131.
In fact, Braun has become a slow starter as he has gotten older. If we take Ryan Braun’s numbers from May 2 until the end of the season, he slashes .310/.368/.540 with a wOBA of .378 and a wRC+ of 132. Those numbers would put him in the top 25 to 30 offensive players in baseball. Those numbers become very Josh Donaldson- and Rafael Devers-like. That is All-Star level production out of the left fielder that was indispensable for Milwaukee.
Braun put up these numbers while playing the most games he has played since 2012 (144). He accumulated 508 plate appearances, and Craig Counsell utilized him in the most effective and efficient way possible. Ryan Braun is well-respected in the clubhouse, but he was more than just a veteran presence. He was a key factor in the Brewers’ success in 2019, and quite possibly more important than people realize when digging deeper into the performance data.
Braun is no longer the threat on the base paths he once was. He is now a below average defender. He no longer possesses lighting-quick bat speed. Yet he is still a major threat in the batter’s box. With one more season guaranteed on his contract as a Brewer, we could be about to witness the swan song of this all-time Brewer as he enters his age-36 season. While Ryan Braun may be getting long in the tooth, it is obvious that the BCB community still appreciates the old guy as he comes in as the #7 Most Valuable Brewer according to your votes.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs