Braun is hitting it hard with little to show

Left fielder, who stole 200th base, is Brewers' unluckiest hitter

June 16th, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- Statcast™ didn't catch the launch angle of 's helmet when he threw it skyward Friday after the latest of his very loud outs.
But the tracking service has provided plenty of other data to help Braun cope with one of the most maddening stretches of his 12-year Major League career.
"I've thought about deciding, 'I'm just going to pull everything,' or doing something else different. I've thought about it," Braun said Saturday morning, before he singled twice in a 4-1 loss to the Phillies. "But I have a long track record of success that tells me if I continue to do this, over time the hits will start falling.
"It's definitely tough. It's been a really long time of literally one or two lineouts a game, every single game."
Statcast™ backs up Braun's assertion. He's the Brewers' king of tough luck by a metric called expected weighted on-base average, a variation of the useful wOBA that uses exit velocity and launch angle in an effort to calculate what a player should be producing based on the nature of his balls in play.
Through Friday, when Braun went 0-for-4 while hitting three of those outs 110.1 mph, 103.2 mph and 116.3 mph, according to Statcast™, his wOBA was .313 and his xwOBA was .359. That -.046 deficit suggested Braun was the Brewers' unluckiest hitter, and among the 50 unluckiest hitters in the Majors with at least 100 balls in play.
(The Blue Jays' had the dubious distinction of leading the Majors with a -.105 difference.)
Statcast™ has an expected version of batting average, too. It says Braun should be hitting .280, when instead he entered Saturday hitting .239. The 41 point difference placed Braun among MLB's 25 unluckiest hitters with at least 100 balls in play.
Braun points to other numbers as well. He is swinging at the lowest percentage of pitches outside the strike zone in five years. His percentage of soft contact is its lowest in three years.
Club officials have looked at this and other data in a search for answers. Besides hitting coaches Darnell Coles and Jason Lane, Braun has had conversations with Brewers advance scouts Brian Powalish and Walker McKinven, and Major League video coordinator August Sandri.
"Patting him on the back and saying you hit it hard gets hollow. You want some results," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. "That's frustrating, but there's really nothing you can say. Hitting the ball hard, ultimately, he'll end up producing results." 
Finally, a hit fell in the fifth inning of Saturday's game against the Phillies, when Braun lined a sharp single to right field, 97.4 mph off the bat. When he is going well, he often stings the ball to the opposite field.
Braun celebrated by stealing second base, giving him 200 steals in his career. But he was stranded there.
"We have enough analytic data now, and Statcast™ data, and we have guys who tell me what I should be hitting based on normal luck," Braun said. "It is a part of the game, and I'm sure at some point in my career I've been lucky and didn't realize how fortunate I was to be lucky. But now I've been incredibly unlucky over a large sample size. They've looked at it. They've looked at ideas, concepts. Does it make sense to change something?"
So far, the answer is no.
"I've hit .300 many times in this league, and I'm swinging the bat at least as well now as I have at any point," Braun said. "To continually do that and look up and be hitting .240 is not easy, no matter how long you've been doing it. … If it does even out, then I should hit .450 in the second half."