Braun now all-time leader, but who is Brewers' greatest home-run hitter?
So Ryan Braun is the Brewers' all-time leader in home runs. He's hit more moonshots in a Milwaukee uniform than anyone else in the history of the franchise. That much you already knew.
But he's been here nine years, played in over a thousand games and accumulated more than 4,600 at bats. And the guy he passed to claim the top spot on the list, Robin Yount, was here for 20 years, played in 2,856 games and had 11,008 at bats.
That's two ends of the spectrum in terms of home-run regularity. Braun hit more homers in less than half the time, less than half the games and less than half the at bats as the club's previous king of clout.
That got us to thinking: Who is really the Brewers' greatest home-run hitter? Not just the guy that racked up the most over time and moved up the record books; the guy that cranked them over the fence most often and was always a threat for the round-tripper.
Is it Prince Fielder, third on the team's all-time list, who socked dingers for seven seasons before leaving as a free agent? Was it someone like Geoff Jenkins, the franchise's fourth-ranked masher, or Jeremy Burnitz, No. 9, both of whom played in Milwaukee during the years that baseball's most prodigious power numbers were produced? Perhaps it was a guy from the glory years, like Gorman Thomas? Or one who wasn't in Milwaukee long but still bashed plenty of long balls -- with plenty of whiffs, too -- like Russell Branyan?
We dove into the numbers and found some fun answers. Again, this isn't about totals; it's about frequency. It's a home-run rate. There's a chart below, but don't cheat and look at it just yet.
Braun hit 252 home runs in 1,194 games and 4,649 at bats. That means he hit a homer once every 4.7 games and every 18.5 at bats. That's pretty good, especially compared to Yount's rate -- one every 11.4 games and every 43.9 at bats.
Fielder hit 230 home runs in 998 games and 3,527 at bats. That's one every 4.3 games and 15.3 at bats. Empirically, he appeared to be one of the best power hitters the Brewers ever had, and the numbers back that up.
Jenkins, who spent a decade on moribund Milwaukee teams, always seemed to either hit a solo home run or ground into a double play. We didn't research the latter, but for the former, the figures are 212 homers in 1,234 games and 4,407 at bats; that's a rate of one every 5.8 games and 20.8 at bats. His teammate for a few years, Burnitz, hit 165 in 782 games and 2,768 at bats; that's one every 4.7 games and 16.8 at bats. Pity all those homers didn't help the Brewers win more games during that dreary period.
Stormin' Gorman smashed 208 home runs in 1,102 games and 3,544 at bats -- a rate of one every 5.3 games and 17.0 at bats. Other players from Thomas' time -- guys like Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie and Paul Molitor -- hit lots of homers, too, but much less frequently.
Branyan actually has the best rate in franchise history in terms of at bats per home run -- he hit one out every 14.0 at bats -- but Russell the Muscle was only in Milwaukee for two years. He had 35 homers in 186 games and just 492 at bats. His per-game rate of 5.3 isn't among the team's top five.
So who among qualified players -- for our purposes, at least 100 home runs -- is the Brewers' greatest home-run hitter?
It's Richie Sexson, who played a little more than three years in Milwaukee starting midway through the 2000 season. Sexson helped celebrate the opening of Miller Park in 2001 by constantly crushing baseballs over its walls. He hit 133 home runs in 534 games and 1,987 at bats; that's one every 4.0 games, every 14.9 at bats, both slightly better than Fielder's rates.
Twice for the Brewers, Sexson slammed 45 homers. But the bombs weren't enough to keep him in Brew City. Sexson was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks after the 2003 season for a package of six players -- including now-manager Craig Counsell -- that combined to hit 78 home runs among them.
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Brewers' All-time leaders, home-run rate