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The Meaning of Ryan Braun's Big Game for Punished PED Users

Updated on April 9, 2014

Ryan Braun 2014

Can Ryan Braun continue to produce after getting suspended for PEDs?
Can Ryan Braun continue to produce after getting suspended for PEDs? | Source

Big day after a slow start

Through the first six games of the season, Ryan Braun had only three hits in 20 at bats, to go along with one walk. He had driven in no runs on the season through six games as well, but all that changed in Philadelphia when he faced a familiar pitcher who he has posted good career numbers against. In Braun's first two at bats against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick, he hit a three run homerun to left field and a solo shot to right field. Braun's big day was not over though, as he hit another three run homerun against Phillies reliever Brad Lincoln in the eighth inning. Some expected Ryan Braun to start slow because they assumed he would no longer use PEDs after his suspension. For recent players suspended for the use of performance enhancing drugs, their production typically fell off the following season. For Ryan Braun, his slow start may have had more to do with a thumb injury that was hurting his swing.

Does big day mean Braun can produce at career norms before his suspension?

Before getting suspended for 65 games last season, Ryan Braun had set the bar very high for his career norms in production. However, he could always be pitched to, as only once in full seasons played by him, did he have fewer than 100 strikeouts. His career low in homeruns for a full season is 25 homeruns that he hit in the 2010 season. Every other season in his career, he has hit 32 or more homeruns. As a 6'2" and 200 pound hitter with great hand to eye coordination, Ryan Braun may just have a skill-set that allows him to be a very good power hitter. Only twice in his career has he hit below .300, so along with being a good power hitter, he is also a pure hitter as well. The big day for Ryan Braun, gave him 10 percent of the homeruns that he would need for the season to reach his expected total, based on his career norms. It is safe to say that Ryan Braun is well on his way to producing a homerun total that matches one of his typical seasons before his suspension.

Meaning for the skill-sets of other punished PED users

In 2013, after serving a fifty game suspension to finish 2012, Melky Cabrera switched leagues and still produced a season that was similar to his career norms outside of his breakout 2012 season. Melky Cabrera has never been much of a power hitter, so his 2013 season in Toronto was not very surprising, after having to switch leagues in free agency. This season he is off to a very hot start and his skill-set does not appear to be diminished at all, as he already has hit more homeruns this season than he hit all of last season. Nelson Cruz is a significant player that was suspended along with Ryan Braun last season. He has always been a power hitter, and is off to another good start in the power department this season, with two homeruns and a slugging percentage over .500 through 8 games played. Another player suspended last year is Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who is off to a slow start after switching leagues in free agency. He does have two homeruns already, and as a former third basemen, power has always been a part of his game. All of this evidence would suggest that having to stop the use of performance enhancing drugs, does not change a players skill-set much.

Why do players use PEDs?

Part of the reason why some players use PEDs, is that it changes the way they see themselves as a player. Performance enhancing drugs allow a player to do things in batting practice, that they have never been able to do before. Live action in Major League Baseball is not batting practice though, but the confidence a player has at the plate, can go a long way in the development of their game. Being stronger can change some deep fly balls into homeruns for PED users, and change line drive outs into doubles off walls. However, the difference for players that use performance enhancing drugs could be so minimal that it only has a small effect on their overall numbers for a whole season. Players do not think about this or the consequences before beginning use of PEDs though. Instead, the fans have seen many extremely talented players put their reputations and careers on the line by using PEDs. One logical explanation for this risk, is that players need a mental crutch when the game gets too fast for them between the lines. The evidence we have here suggests that great players who used PEDs are all very talented and should instead be relying on their natural talent, along with hard work, to have success at the plate.

Conclusion

Based on what is evident around baseball, players will be able to maintain their skill-set after moving on from PED use. Even when they were using PEDs, the players still had to have the skill to square up the baseball on their bats, in order to hit the ball out of the yard. In the past, players like Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds, used enough PEDs to bulk up to the size of a typical NFL linebacker. Recently in Major League Baseball, we have not seen players with that appearance, so whatever they are using, is done discretely enough to not make it obvious. Ultimately the players who have been caught using PEDs, can move forward this season and produce at solid rates. For players like Braun, who are around age 30, with years of his prime still ahead of him, a drop off in production is not to be expected.

Sources:

http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/stats/_/id/6347/melky-Cabrera

http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/stats/_/id/6242/nelson-cruz

http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/stats/_/id/28721/ryan-braun

http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/stats/_/id/5527/jhonny-peralta


Ryan Braun 2014

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      darkprinceofjazz 3 years ago

      It's so nice for MLB to give players like Ryan Braun a second and third chance, Yet Pete Rose 25 years later hasn't and likely never will get a second chance.

      I think of a guy like Ken Griffey Jr. who done it the right way, he was a broken down shell of himself with the Reds, had he used performance enhancers as a healing agent, could you imagine his stats! 1000 home runs probably, that's not hyperbole either.

      I'm bitter about it I'll admit it, I was one of the suckers who fell for the 98' home run chase, and now look back it as a joke, a disgrace to the game. When I think of the before and after photos of Bonds, his head size, come on?

      I do think there should be a delineation between steroids, HGH, and the so called uppers or greeny's as they say. One is clearly a bigger advantage over the other, with roids and HGH allowing for healing and longevity especially.

      Even though I think of Braun as a lying turd, I still like him as a ball player, I can't see any marked difference in his size or anything. The problem is the doubt that's there, the same type of integrity doubt that they say Pete Rose caused with gambling. Users have an unfair advantage over players and teams who don't and didn't.

      It's just that smell of something wrong that spoils things for me. Had Braun not been so bold in his cover up efforts when he got off on the technicality, I would feel differently. Much like Rose, Braun made his bed, now he has to sleep in it.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      I am a big Brewers fan and I like Ryan Braun. He means a lot to Milwaukee. What he did was wrong, but I forgive him and give me another chance to help the Brewers make the playoffs again. You know, Braun had a very good spring training until his thumb flared up again. If he can control it, I expect him to have a great year. This is an excellent hub which I am voting up as very interesting. I am sharing this hub with my followers.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 3 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Nice article. I agree with you in that much of the PED use was a mental crutch, particularly for the less talented players. Many of my friends would consider me "soft" on the PED users in baseball. Other than McGwire, Sosa and Palmeiro, I don't have an issue with any of them going into the Hall of Fame. I find Braun to be a bit of a creep in that he threw an average Joe under the bus to protect his own reputation. He will never completely heal his image (at least I hope not) because of that action. I would be shocked if Braun consistently hit over 30 homers from now on. He clearly benefitted from PED use. Voted up.