Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Will the Real Russell Branyan Please Stand Up?

When the Mariners signed Russell Branyan in Decemeber, the initial plan was to give Branyan a substantial amount of playing time at first base. Everyone knew that Branyan could hit for power, but he was never able to hit for enough average to justify playing everyday. And at 33 years old, there were very few people in the baseball world, who actually believed that Branyan could be a successful major league regular. After 10 years in the majors, Branyan failed to prove the critics wrong and seemed to be a pinch hitter at best.

There was very little reason to think that the Mariners were going to get an extraordinary performance from Branyan.

But baseball is a funny game sometimes. Branyan got an opportunity to play from the Mariners and has been fantastic at the dish, leading the Mariners with 10 home runs. Branyan has been able to cut down on his strike outs while getting on base at a respectable .369 clip. Even more impressive is that Branyan is hitting .282 against left handed pitching, albeit in just 39 at bats.

Branyan's improvement is obvious and impressive, but can he keep it up?

Conventional wisdom says that Branyan should not be able to keep up this pace. He has never performed this well in his entire career and at 33, Branyan is no spring chicken. Perhaps Branyan was simply playing over his head for the first six weeks...

Or maybe, just maybe, this is the Russell Branyan scouts have been drooling over for years. Branyan strengthened his eyes over the offseason with the help of a computer program, a change that has dramatically altered how Branyan sees the ball. If this program truly helps Branyan, then maybe, just maybe, 2009 will officially be the year Branyan puts it all together.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Branyan is one of my favorite players (love those Three True Outcomes guys), and I really like the Mariners, so I would love to see him put it together.

The thing is, though, he's still striking out in 30% of his plate appearances, more than once a game. That's better than his career rate (near 40%), but it's awfully hard to hit .300 when you can't consistently put the ball in play.

It's also worth noting that he hit .300/.387/.775 in his first 26 games of 2008, and .173/.271/.288 after that (though in just 59 PA).

He's already kept it up longer in 2009 than he did in 2008, though, and already hit almost as many HR. So, who knows?