Braun's Absence a Concern by Andrew Dunn-Bauman
With the Brewers off to a 22-11 start in 2014, not a whole lot has been made of Ryan Braun’s nagging injuries and his subsequent absence from the lineup. But with the recent struggles the offense has had since their biggest slugger was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an oblique strain, it’s time to take a closer look.
Ryan Braun will have missed 16 games this season once he is eligible to return from the DL on May 12. That means he will miss a minimum of 16 games through the first two months of the season, and even more if he isn’t healthy enough to play in the 18 remaining games for the Brewers this month.
Historically, Braun has missed his share of games with nagging injuries, especially trouble with his thumb. But in his six full seasons in Milwaukee, Braun has missed 12 games total in the first two months of a season. That means in 2014 he will miss at least four more games than he has missed in his whole career in April and May. That’s troubling.
Braun said in a statement following the announcement of his season-ending suspension last year:
“During the latter part of the 2011 season, I was dealing with a nagging injury and I turned to products for a short period of time that I shouldn't have used. The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation. It was a huge mistake for which I am deeply ashamed and I compounded the situation by not admitting my mistakes immediately.”
If Braun was indeed using a banned substance to battle injury, it’s certainly possible that he used it for some time prior to 2011, evading repercussions from MLB. Now that he has received a suspension for his “cream and a lozenge” usage, those medications are no longer available to him (unless he plans on being suspended for 100 games.)
The Brewers need Braun in their lineup. In the 22 games he has appeared in this season, the team is scoring 4.1 runs per game. In the eight games he has missed since April 27 (coming into last night versus Arizona), they are scoring just 2.9 runs per game. A big part of the offensive lull has to do with the struggles of Aramis Ramirez lately, but Braun’s absence in the lineup is more than slightly problematic.
The biggest concern with his injuries is that they are wide-ranging. We’re a little over a month into the season, and Braun has already been dealing with an oblique strain, an intercostal strain, and a sore thumb. It’s not as if there’s one specific injury to treat and heal. He has been nicked up in a variety of ways already. Perhaps I’m wrong, but given his time missed already, it doesn’t seem that Braun is going to be the picture of good health any time this season.
Just how many games he will miss is going to be the key. The Brewers can deal with Braun missing 25 to 30 games this year if it means he is healthy for the stretch run, as long as the pitching holds up. But anything more than that, and we’re entering the danger zone.
Follow Andrew Dunn-Bauman on Twitter @ADBinMKE