When it comes to striking out, Russell Branyan has no peer.
Consider this: in his career, Branyan has whiffed in an epic 40 percent of his at-bats and 35 percent of his plate appearances… yeah, really.
Check this one out: according to Baseball Prospectus, since 1969 Branyan entered the 2007 season as the all-time leader in either striking out, walking or hitting a home run in an amazing 52.3 percent of his plate appearances. He’s well ahead of guys like Rob Deer, Adam Dunn and Mark McGwire.
Meanwhile, more than 28 percent of Branyan’s career hits are home runs.
In other words it truly is feast or famine for the new Phillies’ slugger.
“I have a tendency to swing and miss,” Branyan admitted.
Branyan was acquired last weekend when the Phillies sent cash to the Indians to add a bat to beef up the bench. Actually, judging from the way general manager Pat Gillick explained, it seemed as if any bat would do.
“We don't have any position players on option at Double-A or Triple-A. Consequently, we had 13 pitchers and 12 players and needed another player,” Gillick told the Inquirer. “We talked about getting somebody who might be able to run into a ball and win a game for us. Branyan was the guy we got. He's a hit-or-miss. I don't look at his average. We know he's going to strike out, but he's also going to run into some.”
And that’s just what Branyan did last night at RFK to give the Phillies a big, 3-2 victory over the Nationals. Reliever Jon Rauch gave the slugger a cookie and he made a meal out of it.
Nevertheless, don’t expect Branyan to find too many more plate appearances different than the situation he was in last night. Charlie Manuel, Branyan’s manager when he came up in the Indians’ organization, probably will only use his slugger when he needs a home run.
Or a strike out.
Speaking of Manuel, it’s interesting to note that there is a little bit of chatter about his candidacy as the National League’s manager of the year. Considering the injuries, the standings, the attitude in the clubhouse and the manner in which the Phillies play, Manuel should be the frontrunner.
Besides, I remember how the Phillies were when Manuel’s predecessor ran the club and some players really disliked going to work. Imagine that – a big league baseball player getting paid a lot of money and he was miserable about going to the ballpark because of one person.
Regardless, it’s the complete opposite of that with Manuel in charge.
Speaking of injuries, it appears as if Shane Victorino had a little setback in his rehab assignment for Double-A Reading last night. Nursing an injured calf muscle, Victorino “felt something grab” when running hard to first base and pulled himself from the game after going 1-for-3 with an RBI single.
Meanwhile, old pal Randy Wolf likely won’t make the trip to Philadelphia next week with his Dodgers teammates. That’s because it appears as if the former Phillie is out for the rest of the season with shoulder stiffness. Apparently Wolf further exasperated his shoulder problem when he tried to rush back from an initial injury he suffered in early July.
That’s not going to happen again, he said.
“I have to be realistic. I'm not going to take the ball until I feel perfect. So that's what I'm going to work for.”
Apropos of nothing, I have been contemplating certain elements of linguistics and our popular nomenclature and it seems to me that the guy who coined the term “mullet” is getting shortchanged. Think about it, one man came up with a perfectly trenchant piece of our lexicon that transcends all sorts of boundaries to be used by many different people and will likely live the rest of his life in obscurity.
That just doesn’t seem fair.