COMMENTARY | Exactly four weeks after spraining his knee sliding into second base, Aramis Ramirez returned to the Milwaukee Brewers' lineup May 3. It was a welcome sight for a team that has struggled to even come close to replacing Ramirez's production in the cleanup spot.
That has had an evident effect on the Brewers' No. 3 hitter and former MVP, Ryan Braun. While Braun isn't having a poor season by any standards, the bar has been set high, and we saw the 29-year-old slugger put on the first golden sombrero of his career last month. Strikeout numbers have been sky-high for Braun, who hasn't been seeing the same juicy pitches without Ramirez's protection in the lineup.
But this was merely four weeks of the time Braun and Ramirez have played together over the past two seasons. Before, it was Braun and Prince Fielder manning the middle of the order for Milwaukee but after Fielder's departure -- and even after the Ramirez signing -- there was little doubt that the Brewers' offense would suffer.
Amazingly, this wasn't the case in 2012. Braun and Ramirez both reached the .300 average plateau, combining to hit 68 home runs and drive in 217 runs. What makes these feats so incredible is that Ramirez was hitting .214 with just 2 HRs and 10 RBIs after the month of April. The only other duo in baseball to combine for at least a .300/60 HRs/200 RBIs split were Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Fielder for the Detroit Tigers.
When it came to MVP voting last season, Braun and Ramirez were one of the few pairs of teammates to finish in the top 10. Both also combined to have a 12.2 WAR. Courtesy of Mike Trout's ridiculous rookie campaign, there were a few different Los Angeles Angels who combined to beat out the Brewers' dynamic duo, but that's it.
This year offers an extremely small sample size, and it's obviously difficult to compare the two Brewers to any other twosomes considering Ramirez's injury. But without Ramirez in the lineup, it almost helped to prove that he and Braun offer the best one-two punch.
When you consider Cabrera and Fielder as the best hitting duo in the league, which is the popular opinion, there is that uncertainty regarding how they would perform without one or the other in the lineup.
While we saw Braun scuffle at times in the first month of the season, look at his overall numbers through 27 games -- .293/.387/.576, 7 HRs, 22 RBIs. And that's with almost zero protection, as No. 4 hitters in Milwaukee's lineup through 27 games hit .183, and that included Ramirez.
If Ramirez comes back and performs similarly to the way he did is 2012, Braun will take off, and it will be difficult to find a more potent duo in the National League, let alone all of baseball.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who contains an unhealthy amount of knowledge about Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline and as a featured columnist among other sites and publications.
You can follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.
- Sports & Recreation
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Aramis Ramirez
- Ryan Braun
- Prince Fielder