Captain Jack Snags His Bret Boone


We all know that Mr. Three True Outcomes is hitting .300/.400/.600 in fulltime play. We also know that he's got a BABIP near .400 -- despite playing in a park that devastates BABIP ...

... for most players. (Speaking of most players in Safeco, were you aware that Rauuuuuul is STILL slugging over .700?)

Our QUESTION is, how good can Branyan be when hitting in normal luck, and for how long? Is he a player you can win your next pennant with?


Branyan's CAREER hitting line is .250/.340/.500. That's despite never getting any consistent at-bats. Even as sabermetricians, we don't doubt that he can hit a couple of notches better than that, when in rhythm.

Just looking at the history of .250/.340/.500, and then the .300/.400/.600 once given his chance, nobody's going to choke on a .260/.360/.550 projection going forward.

Is that a star? Prince Fielder's career line is .275/.370/.530.


You factor in the park, and you factor in the salary, and here's a guy you can pencil for 35 homers and 80+ walks at a relatively low wage. Yup. As of right now, Russell Branyan is Jack Zduriencik's version of Bret Boone.

We saw an amigo wonder, on a major baseball site, how in the world ANYbody could have overlooked Russ Branyan ...

When the right question is, how in the world did EVERYbody overlook Russ Branyan. Now, notice that this particular amigo, after Jack Cust hit his first ten home runs, wrote "they'll start throwing him curve balls and he'll be back in the minors in two months."

The reason that people "overlooked" Russell Branyan wasn't laziness, and wasn't lack of ability to scout, and wasn't assumption. They thought that they had identified specific and fatal holes in his strike zone, a la Brad Wilkerson. Perhaps earlier in Branyan's career, this was in fact true.

Three True Outcomes hitters often DO look like they have fatal flaws. They fan 200 times a year -- at least in bursts, for stretches of times -- and those K's aren't just occurring because the guys take pitches. They can miss pitches.


The first couple of games we saw Branyan play in ST, we were blown away at the guy's sheer hitting ability. (PWR is ability to hit for distance; HIT is the ability to cover the baseball and hit for consistency.)

Russell Branyan covered the plate far, far better than we expected to see -- the man can cover jam pitches in a way that Jeff Clement can only dream about; he can let the ball get very deep in the zone and then drive it with authority to left; he can keep his hands back on offspeed, because he doesn't cheat much; at 33, he reads pitches. If he didn't loft his swing he could STILL hit well as a doubles guy. Branyan is 2 legit 2 quit.


Obviously, Jack Zduriencik saw this in Milwaukee. That was the key. Jack Zduriencik was just about the only man in the world who knew that Russell Branyan could *hit.* It wasn't the numbers. It was Jack Zduriencik being a baseball man.

NOBODY shares credit with Capt. Jack. Especially Dr. D :- ) who has clamored for Branyan for 3 years.

We all thought Branyan was a good VALUE. Capt. Jack thought he was a good PLAYER.

We all THOUGHT Russell Branyan could probably hit RIGHTIES well over a season. Capt Jack REALIZED that Russell Branyan was a major league MOTO hitter.


Let's give it up for Gillick, while we're at it. Redux'ing The Boone is great, but Capt Jack would have about eight Arthur Rhodeses and John Oleruds to go before pulling off a Gillick 14-for-17 sequence.

Have never understood how a man could take over four (4) different clubs, turn every blinkin' one of 'em into monsters, and get sabr credit only for being a shlub. His latest rock: the idiocy of signing Raul Ibanez for about four times too much money.

Stats are backwards-looking, amigos... hey. We digress. :- )

=== 3 / $27M, WE'RE GUESSIN' Dept. ===

The third year being a club option. At least in Dr. D's dream world.

It is HUUGE that Branyan defeats the park. That's a bonus completely aside from the fact that Branyan is a legit MOTO hitter anywhere -- issue #2 is that he's a glorious match for Safeco.

In Safeco, he projects to be about as valuable as a Prince Fielder or Adam Dunn would, over the next few years. Bret Boone gave Pat Gillick three big years. Russell Branyan will probably do about the same.

Congrats. Capt Jack scored Bret Boone 2.0. Sign the guy up, give 'im his 3/$27, and move on to the other 24 problemos. :- )

Dr D


Sandy-Raleigh's picture

While I definitely applaud Z's selection of Branyan, and was one of the first voices to say that he 'might' be a viable full-time player -- I think a 3-year contract would be a bad idea.
Player - age - OPS
Boone - 32 - .950
Boone - 33 - .801
Boone - 34 - .902
Boone - 35 - .740
Boone - 36 - .639 and done
Branyan - 32 - .925 (152 PAs)
Branyan - 33- 1012 (176 PAs)
Russell has been outstanding for 1/3 of a season. But, we're 4 months away from seeing what his final tally for the season will be. Additionally, he's already a year older than Boone was when Bret exploded. But, Boone had a peak that lasted exactly 3 seasons.
Additionally, the one arena where the club is currently hip deep is in talent is 1B/DH types. Carp, Clement (if his knees don't recover), the new guy (Neiman?).
Branyan probably is a legit hitter. And he might remain productive for 3 more years. But, the stats say that it is much more likely that Seattle lucked into a career year for the guy. So, I believe the best long-term move the club might make is trading him for need, (middle infield).
The fact that Branyan (and Raul) are hitting well today has no real bearing on how they will hit in 2010 or 2011 or 2012. But, even if you have perfect faith that they will suffer zero degradation of skill -- a major factor in age-related decline is injury. With Raul, at least you've got a guy with no history of injury or significant time loss, (like Griffey at age 30 heading to Cinci). But Branyan has been a perpetual part-time player, so there simply isn't a book on his ability to play a full 150 game schedule, and we get to see the first page of that book written at age 33.
How many millions did Cinci waste on Griffey as he was getting 700 PAs from '02 to '04? He was only 30 when he arrived in Cinci, and for his 8.5 years with the Reds, he provided precisely 2 .900+ OPS seasons with 500 PAs.
Texas managed to get Elvis Andrus out of the Braves for renting Teixeira for 1.5 years. If Branyan is still posting a .900+ OPS as the deadline approaches and anyone in the hunt, (assuming Seattle is not), needs an extra bat - he can be dangled as either a 1B or 3B, (or a DH in the AL).
Mind you, I'd be thrilled to sign Branyan to another 1-year contract, but I don't see that as being in Branyan's best interest. There was a time when I would've been okay with signing guys up to age 36. But that was the steroid era, and I've lowered my expectation for career extension.
While I think signing Branyan through age 36 "could" work out, with the bloated contracts and downside of Ichiro and Johima already dragging the potential for the future down, I don't view signing the 33-year-old career year guy as good a move as trading him for pieces that have potential to be valuable for many years.


Definitely recognize the case against.
And I actually mistyped that early in the mornin'. :- ) I meant 3 years total, including this one.
The age issue is worth its own attn, of which your analysis is a great start. Gracias.

glmuskie's picture

Funny, but I'm not really concerned with whether Branyan stays with the club or not. Reason being, if he stays, he's exactly the type of player that Z and Co. are after. Good eye, power, great attitude, etc. If he goes, we can probably get something interesting in return.
I think it's far more likely that Branyan moves on during or after this year, and that his best value to the M's is as trade material. Sandy mentions a couple of the reasons for this. 1) his age, and 2) the number of warm bodies in the M's org waiting in the wings at his position.
The other reason is, Branyan can probably see the writing on the wall here, that after this year he may be relegated back to being a bench player. The best career move for him is to do what it takes to remain an everyday player for as long as possible. So even if he doesn't get traded, my guess is he signs wherever he gets the PT.

Taro's picture

Boone was on steroids. He could have lasted until age 38 if he wanted, or until age 33 if he never roided.
I don't know if Branyan is roiding or not. He does have that body type though (which could be a positive aging-wise).
I'm also not sure where you get a true talent level of 260/.360/.550. Just normalizing his current BABIP to career marks puts him around that 840-850 OPS range.

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