Gleeman: How Ryan Braun became an asset again

From SABR member Aaron Gleeman at Baseball Prospectus on August 9, 2016:

Ryan Braun’s story seemed so simple a few years ago. Once among the elite hitters in baseball, he was popped for steroids, got suspended for the second half of 2013, and came back a shell of his former self in 2014. The dots all connected without much effort, the constant booing at every ballpark outside of Milwaukee seemed justified on several levels, and Braun’s massive long-term contract with the Brewers looked like an unmovable albatross destined to severely hamper them through 2020.

When a previously great player gets busted for performance-enhancing drugs and then sees his performance decline upon returning from suspension there’s the tendency to trust that data more than usual, making it easier to feel confident drawing sweeping conclusions from limited samples. In this case Braun also made many enemies along the way, due to vehement public denials and throwing others under the bus to escape blame. So when he hit a career-worst .266 with the first sub-.800 OPS of his career in 2014, it felt right to trust that decline was in full effect at age 30.

Turns out, not so much. Braun bounced back with a solid 2015 season, hitting .285/.356/.498 with 25 homers and 24 steals while making his first All-Star team since 2012. That production was well below his 2009-2012 peak, when he hit a combined .318/.385/.560 while winning one MVP award and finishing runner-up for another, but it was still pretty damn good and especially impressive for a 31-year-old hitter constantly dogged by nerve problems in his hand and a back injury that led to offseason surgery.

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Originally published: August 9, 2016. Last Updated: August 9, 2016.