Braun puts finishing touches on strong season

Braun puts finishing touches on strong season

Braun puts finishing touches on strong season
MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun was the reigning National League MVP in 2012, and yet he still managed to exceed his manager's expectations.

Braun put the finishing touches on a typically strong season on Wednesday, one that began as Braun was emerging from a cloud of suspicion and ended with him leading the National League with 41 home runs and vying for the RBI title, too.

"Am I surprised he had this kind of year? No," manager Ron Roenicke said. "But, yeah, I think he did exceed [expectations] for most people. He's having another MVP year, and if we get into the playoffs, you have to say he's an MVP candidate."

Braun is mentioned with Giants catcher Buster Posey, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and others in this year's MVP debate. Last year, Braun edged the Dodgers' Matt Kemp in MVP balloting partly because the Brewers made the playoffs and the Dodgers didn't.

This year, the Brewers missed the cut. Plus, it remains to be seen how voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America treat Braun after he successfully appealed a drug suspension earlier this year.

"[Braun's] numbers? My gosh, look at every category," Roenicke said. "Plus, he plays great defense. He definitely has the numbers to be considered."

Braun has avoided questions about his MVP candidacy by saying he does not concern himself with matters out of his control. BBWAA members must cast their awards ballots before the first postseason game is played.

Braun resume is strong. He led the NL with 41 home runs, 108 runs scored and a .987 OPS, finished second with a .595 slugging percentage, third with a .319 batting average and tied for ninth with 30 stolen bases. Braun logged only the 11th 40-homer, 30-stolen base season in Major League history.

He tried to take the RBI title from Chase Headley, but came up empty throughout the Brewers' season-ending, three-game series against the Padres. Headley drove in two runs in Wednesday's finale, a 7-6 Padres win, and led the league with 115 RBIs.

"That RBI thing was real," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Our guys felt it. They were sensing what was going on."

Braun offered Headley his congratulations.

"He earned it, man," Braun said. "He had a phenomenal year. Especially what he did in that ballpark, it's pretty special what he was able to accomplish. He had an incredible second half -- their whole team did, really. Hat's off to him."

Braun added with a smile: "I ended up leading the league in runs, though. That's pretty cool. I'll take it."