Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Blasphemy you say? Actually the numbers over the first 212 games of each player's career say that Ryan Braun, outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers, is ahead of the pace set by Hall-of-Famer-to-be Albert Pujols.
Through his four-for-four day on July 24th which carried the Brewers to their eighth straight win, the outfielder has played 212 games since being called up on May 26, 2007. In that span, Braun has been spectacular batting a stunning .313 while hitting 60 HR and knocking in 171. He has also stolen 24 bases, an area where Pujols is rarely a participant. His slugging percentage is .610 and his OPS is .923.
Comparing Pujols' first 212 games beginning in 2001 and extending to the end of May in 2002, the St. Louis first baseman batted .318 with 47 HR and 160 RBI. Pujols had just two steals and a slightly lower OPS at .905. However, Pujols had walked more and struck out less.
Braun's stats are also right in line with what Pujols has done over the last year-and-a-half. Pujols leads in runs (154-148), hits (294-269) and average (.327 - .313), but Braun leads in HR (60-50), RBI (171-159), SB (24-6) and OPS (.923 - .906).
Of course, Pujols has kept up the same pace for eight years so we will still have to see if Braun can continue to adjust to what pitchers are trying to do to get him out, but as of yet they haven't been very successful. And with the power hitting Prince Fielder batting behind Braun, he is likely to continue to get good pitches to hit.
"I definitely don't think that I fit the prototype of a typical home run hitter," said Braun on MLB.com just last week. "For me, I have to do a lot of things right to hit a home run...I was always small. I was a leadoff hitter growing up, until I was 13 or 14 years old."
For fantasy owners, Braun is the perfect balance, a five-tool player. He helps you in every offensive category. He is also just 24-years-old so his best days are still ahead of him. In keeper leagues, he is an absolute hold - no matter what the price.