CHICAGO -- Brewers hitting coach turned Cubs manager Dale Sveum joined a growing list of baseball men who believe Ryan Braun will have another solid season, even without Prince Fielder hitting behind him.
"You always say that about great hitters and stuff, and the season gets over and their numbers still seem to be the same," Sveum said Monday, before managing against his former team. "There's a lot of great hitters and you say, 'He never had anyone hitting behind him,' and you look up and he hit 35 [home runs] and had 100-plus [RBIs]. Some guys are just that good.
"One thing 'Braunie' has changed is discipline at the plate. Not that you put anybody in Barry Bonds' category, but Bonds never really had people hitting behind him and he seemed to get that one pitch a day and he'd do something with it. Those are things you have to be careful with, with guys who can swing a bat like Braun."
Sveum pointed to statistics to illustrate his point. According to FanGraphs.com, in 2008, Braun's first full Major League season, he swung at 34.3 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, the sixth-highest rate of qualified NL hitters. Braun has dropped that rate below 32 percent in each of the three seasons since.
"That's why you saw MVP numbers and a .330 [batting average] instead of .300," Sveum said. "When you get better pitches to hit, your average and everything will be much better."