Inspired by Bellinger, Braun reworks stance

July 14th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- For 20 years, aside from a tweak here and there, including an effort last winter to generate more launch, had essentially the same swing. On Friday, he tried something drastically new.

If it works, he’ll have Dodgers slugger to thank.

“I just showed up [Friday] and said, ‘Hey, I want to try this,’” Braun said. “What actually put the thought in my head is I saw a demo they were doing on MLB Network about Cody Bellinger and his bat, and where he was starting the angle of his bat in his stance in ’17 when he was really good, in ’18 when he was not quite as good, and this year when he’s been incredible. They were showing how his bat was flatter.

“I was like, ‘Why don’t I try that?’ I put my hands there and it felt really good. It gets me in a better position, sooner, for the position I’m trying to get to. Obviously, it’s a lot different [from his traditional stance], but it felt really good. I get through the zone quicker and easier. We’ll see what happens.”

Braun has been searching for results to match the way he feels during batting practice, where the baseball has been jumping off his bat. He says he expected better production than the .275/.325/.458 slash line he carried into Saturday’s game against the Giants.

Health has been an issue at times. On Sunday before departing for the break, Braun had an anti-inflammatory injection in his right knee to calm discomfort from an injury suffered during last year’s playoffs. He said he returned to play feeling marginally better and put together five quality plate appearances in Friday’s loss, when he was 2-for-4 with a single that left his bat at 109.7 mph, according to Statcast, a two-run double, a 100.6 mph groundout and a called strikeout on a pitch Braun insists was ball four. He also was hit by a pitch.

“Five good plate appearances, so a good first day. And it didn’t feel completely unnatural, when I’ve basically the same thing for 25 years of playing baseball,” Braun said. “It was cool to try something different. I had literally never picked up a bat like that until BP yesterday.

“It’s like, my BP is still so good. Maybe it’s because the ball is juiced, but I’m hitting balls further and harder than ever. I know I’m not as healthy as I was when I was younger, but I’m shocked that I’m not performing better in games, still. So maybe this is something that will help me get there. ... You’re never too old or too proud to make adjustments and make changes. It’s worth exploring.”

Braun doubled in his first at-bat of Saturday’s 5-4 win over the Giants and walked in his third plate appearance against Giants starter Madison Bumgarner, but appeared to revert to his old bat position when he batted in the seventh and ninth innings against Giants relievers. He grounded to shortstop for an inning-ending double play in the seventh, then hit another ground ball to shortstop in the ninth but reached on Brandon Crawford’s error, and wound up scoring the winning run.

Braun plans to leave the team for one day on July 22 to attend the funeral of his friend Tyler Skaggs in Santa Monica, Calif. The two were offseason workout partners, and Braun was devastated on July 1 to learn Skaggs, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, had died at 27.

“I’m very thankful that the team is allowing me to do it. There are things that happen in life that are far more significant than baseball, and this is one of them,” Braun said.

Braun and Christian Yelich stayed late at Miller Park on Friday night to watch the Angels pitch a combined no-hitter against the Mariners in their first home game since Skaggs’ death. All players wore jerseys with Skaggs’ name and No. 45, and laid them on the mound after the game in a touching tribute.

“Both of us were crying, emotional, watching it,” Braun said. “Whether people are spiritual or religious or whatever it is, that takes your belief to another level. You know he was watching and enjoying it. It was incredible. One of the coolest moments I’ve ever seen in sports.”