Now you will hopefully see why it's not a bad idea to see if Branyan can hit certain types of lefties during ST games...Ibanez was not a good hitter vs. lefties either, but if you spotted him against soft tossing lefties, he did fine.
Two homers today. Off a lefty. Who's in the Indians' rotation. One of them came down with frost on it, according to Neihaus.
.314 / .360 / .714.
Paying closer attention to Branyan on TV this March, I was struck by how non-TTO his swing is. He's balanced, controlled, gets homers more by nice torque than by a Dunn-, Deer-type lumberjack swing.
More to the point, Branyan doesn't seem to merely "stalk" tater pitches the way that Adam Dunn will do. A guy like Dunn walks so much, more because he's simply WAITING. For the pitch he can drive. Branyan, by contrast, is working the strike zone like a contact hitter, and then has the ability to drive the ball from different locations and speeds.
Jack Cust is similar to this: Cust's swing is relatively controlled, and he's relatively less of a guess hitter than other TTO guys.
Along with this, have been impressed by Branyan's ability to get on top of the ball and line it hard. He does pull the ball extremely, which tends to annoy baseball people, but is actually a fondness of mine since reading My Turn At Bat by Teddy Ballgame. :- ) I like seeing Juan Gonzalez, Jose Lopez, Prince Fielder types with bats so quick they almost can't help but kick up chalk down the line. Branyan's one of these guys.
The sabermetric holdup that I had on Russ Branyan was a Shandler complaint: in terms of CT% (Contact Rate, the inversion of K Rate), Branyan is below the cutoff point for good hitting. In other words, other amigos see Branyan's 170 strikeouts per 162, and chuckle. I see that and think, now FORTY PERCENT (40%) strikeouts is getting a bit ridiculous. Granted he's a TTO player, but we're already being generous when we "allow" 33% strikeouts.
Branyan, in 2007, fanned 42% of the time (!!) and Ron Shandler simply wrote him off as ever playing well again. The CT% thing rules Branyan out, you might say.
Now, Dr. D hadn't ruled Branyan out, but asking this guy to expand his game to include LHP wasn't gonna fly...
But lookee this:
YR, AB, CT% - Russ Branyan
05 ... 202 ... 60
06 ... 241 ... 63
07 ... 163 ... 58
08 ... 285* ... 69
And though it was probably obvious to you guys, it hit me like a sledgehammer: the guy struck out more as he played less. D'oh.
Branyan's the one TTO guy who has NEVER played much.
This spring, Branyan is playing every day ... and his K rate is way down. Slap me silly, at this rate he'd play a year, and fan only 120 times ... and hit 55 homers. Jay Buhner fanned 140, 150. Branyan IS CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS of getting his K's down into normal slugger territory. We're not conjecturing. Branyan has been doing it.
He's got a lifetime 109 OPS+, which we figured limited him to 120 in a good season, especially at 33.
But again, that's getting a game here, a game there. Maybe he's one of those guys who could get into a rhythm? Maybe he's a camoflaged 125 OPS+ hitter who just never got a chance to get rolling?
That's exactly what Jack Zduriencik thinks is the case.
And IF Russ Branyan is a 125 OPS+ hitter, well, the match between him and Safeco adds 10 points in any case.
Hey, I dunno. Like Sandy says, if you're playing him against LHP's at all, you're playing him selectively against guys like Scott Lewis (the victim of two Branyan bombs today). Yeah, I guess.
As Matt and Sandy were quick to point out, maybe Branyan was 0-for-14 with 8 K's vs LHP last season... but consider how seldom he's getting a chance to see them in that case. One more straw onto the scale that weighs Branyan as being a guy who strikes out more, the rustier he is.
By combining a look at Branyan's impressively controlled approach this spring, and the aspect of his K's-when-not-playing tendency, the picture may be emerging. I don't think it's a reach. Branyan, like Roberto Petagine, is starting to look to me like a guy who NEVER got a chance to get on a roll.
This March, he's had that chance. He's rolling big time. So let's check it out.