Today, more than 14 years after I first took the field as a Milwaukee Brewer, I’ve decided to retire. While it’s impossible to summarize my emotions, what I feel most is one, simple thing – gratitude.
I just wanted to take a moment to say ‘thank you’.
– Ryan Braun pic.twitter.com/pQxuW9qk1z
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) September 14, 2021
While not completely surprising, the news marks the end of an era.
Braun’s career was loaded with spectacular seasons, though many fans are dismissive of his accomplishments due to his history with performance-enhancing drugs.
That’s a perfectly valid take.
But no matter how you feel about him, there’s no denying that he was one of the best hitters (clean or not) in the NL during his prime.
Today, we’re going to rank his three best seasons.
Let’s get started.
3. His 2009 Season
Braun’s 2009 campaign takes the No. 3 spot.
There were a lot of good options for this spot, but all things considered, he accomplished too much in 2009 for this selection to go in a different direction.
Braun slashed .320/.386/.551 in 2009.
He racked up 32 home runs, 39 doubles, and six triples, and he also drove in a career-best 114 runs.
Braun, who was named an All-Star and a Silver Slugger in this season, accumulated a WAR of 6.2 and finished 11th in the NL MVP race.
Strangely, in the previous season (2008), he finished third in the race despite the fact that almost all of his numbers were less impressive than those of his 2009 campaign.
2. His 2012 Season
Braun’s 2012 campaign comes in at No. 2 on the list.
It was a stellar season for the six-time All-Star, and it was also arguably his last year before he started to decline ever-so-slightly (he was still great after 2012, but he was no longer a perennial MVP candidate).
He finished the season with a slash line of .319/.391/.595.
He led the league in home runs with 41 and total bases with 356.
He also doubled 36 times and tripled three times.
The former first-round pick finished second in NL MVP voting, which was likely a product of his outstanding 6.9 WAR.
He once again earned an All-Star selection and a Silver Slugger Award.
1. His 2011 Season
Of course, Braun’s MVP 2011 campaign tops the list.
It was a fantastic year for the slugger, and by most measures, it was the best one of his career.
He slashed .332/.397/.597 over 150 games, giving him a league-best OPS of .994.
He finished the year with a 166 OPS+ and 171 wRC+, meaning he was 66 percent and 71 percent better than league average in each respective category.
He clubbed 33 homers, 38 doubles, and six triples that year.
Above all, he finished with a massive 7.7 WAR, which was the highest mark of his career.
In addition to winning the NL MVP award, he earned All-Star and Silver Slugger honors (again).
— Bally Sports Wisconsin (@BallySportWI) September 5, 2021
At the time, Braun’s 2011 MVP award was just the fourth in Brewers history.
Some notable omissions from this list include Braun’s rookie season in 2007 (in which he managed a 1.004 OPS and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award) and his 2008 campaign (in which he finished third in MVP voting).
The University of Miami product was a bonafide star throughout most of his career, and he had a seemingly endless number of successful seasons.
Had he not used PEDs, he would likely be regarded as one of the best players of his generation.