CINCINNATI -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke wasn't in Milwaukee last season, but he's done enough number crunching to know he likes what he's been seeing from the heart of the lineup. Through his first 198 at-bats this season, No. 3 hitter Ryan Braun walked 31 times and his .414 on base percentage ranked fourth in the National League. The left fielder didn't chase many pitches out of the zone during the Brewers' just-completed series against the Giants as he walked four times, three in one game. Braun has also been more patient within at-bats. Of the 180 hitters who currently qualify for the batting title, Braun ranked 32nd -- and best among Brewers regulars -- with 4.06 pitches per plate appearance.
"He's done an outstanding job," Roenicke said. "He's a guy that has the ability to probably hit balls that are out of the zone, but I think that's why he's doing so well. If he stays with his numbers, even though he walks more, his numbers are going to be just as good, if not better." Heading into Tuesday's game, Braun's 40 runs led the NL while his 39 RBIs ranked eighth and his 12 home runs tied for sixth. Braun walked 56 times last year and through the month of May had 21 walks, 27 strikeouts and 33 RBIs during 198 at-bats. Roenicke said it's the walk to strikeout ratio that tells him just how good a player sees the ball. The manager said it's rare to see players with nearly the same number of strikeouts as walks, but heading into Tuesday's game, Braun's 31 walks and 37 strikeouts were a close ratio. "I think the walks and strikeouts are a result of seeing the ball well, and the more strikes you swing at the better chance you give yourself to have success," Braun said. "I think the goal isn't necessarily the walk to strikeout ratio, I think it's to make sure the pitches we do swing at are pitches we can do something with." Together Braun and cleanup hitter Prince Fielder had the most RBIs (81) of any tandem in all of baseball through Monday's games. Fielder, tied for third in the league with 42 RBIs, has walked 26 times, struck out 27 times and his .388 OBP helps drive Milwaukee's lineup. "The best 3-4 hitters I've been around were Manny Ramirez and Papi [David Ortiz]. And the reason was because they walked," Roenicke said. "If you had runners on second and third and you had a 3-2 count and you threw the ball two inches off the plate, they just took it and walked, loaded the bases and the next guy would drive them in." Braun and Fielder are in the same stratosphere, Roenicke said. "They're scary because they don't chase out of the zone," Roenicke said. "If you're going to get them out you have to throw pitches on the plate, which is scary because they can hit it all."