On August 29th, Russell Branyan went on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his back. That may be the last we hear of him in connection with the Mariners. I hope not, but he is now a free agent so the possibility is a strong one. I was sad that Russell was unable to make it back into the lineup before the close of the regular season and not just because I was tired of watching Jose Lopez and Jack Hannahan be wasted at first base. I hoped that Branyan would get to receive a tribute from the crowd for his surprisingly great season, a season which was instrumental in keeping the Mariners afloat in the AL West.
But how might that season have turned out if not for the back injury?
Up to that point, Branyan had played in 116 of 129 possible games, accumulating 505 plate appearances. If we hold him up that pace for the remainder of the 2009 season, he would have seen action in an additional 30 games and made another 129 trips to the plate. Assuming that his rate stats up to that point held throughout those 129 appearances, his final line (.251/.347/.520) obviously stays the same, but his counting stats obviously increase.
By how much? Well his RBIs top out at 95, leaving him one behind Jose Lopez and still depriving the Mariners of even one cresting the 100 plateau. We don't really care about RBIs though, I just wondered if it would have gotten him to 100. Home runs on the other hand are always fun, but again Branyan would fall just short of nice round figure, getting to 39 home runs. That would have been the first time any Mariner had hit that many since 2005 Richie Sexson also belted 39. Can you name the last Mariner to hit 40+? Branyan's projected strikeout total would have been 187, sorry to those who were hoping he'd reach 200.
Is it fair though to assume Branyan would have kept hitting at the same rates? I think so given the sample size we're working with, but there are other rational arguments to be made. For instance, he was starting to drop off in the second half. His line from July 1 on was a measly .184/.279/.411 (note that OBP is still higher than Yunieskey Betancourt's was). Now that woeful line was somewhat a result of some BABIP issues, but there were also some noticeable decreases in skill. Russell's home run rate did drop, but from one home run per 15 PAs to one per 18, his walk rate fell from 13% to 10% and his strikeout rate rose from 26% to 34%.
Scary stuff, but it's just the last 50 or so games and there's not much of a reason to just ignore the first 70 games in favor of the gloomier picture just as there's not much of a reason to ignore those last 50 games in favor of the more optimistic picture.
Anyways, I just wanted to give some love to Russell Branyan and explore what his final counting stats might have looked like. And because it's been awhile, here's a poll!
The last Mariners to eclipse 40 home runs in a season was Alex Rodriguez, in 2000.