Without Prince Fielder protecting Ryan Braun in the batting order, many national pundits predicted the Milwaukee Brewers star leftfielder's numbers would fall precipitously in 2012.

The general line of thinking was that pitchers would no longer give Braun much to hit, as opposed to the past when walking him with Fielder on deck could lead to a two-run homer. Braun is being "protected" this season by Aramis Ramirez, a right-handed hitter posing less of a threat to right-handed pitchers than the left-handed hitting Fielder.

Braun quickly dismissed any idea that he'll chase pitches out of the strike zone, however.

"Every year, my plate discipline has been a priority," he said. "I recognize that if my plate discipline gets better, I get better as a player. Every year, I've taken tremendous pride in it, and I think I've gotten a little bit better at it every year.

"The goal is always to swing at strikes. If I don't get strikes, I'm hoping I have the discipline not to swing at those pitches. I truly believe that our lineup is deep enough and good enough that I wouldn't pitch around me. Our Nos. 4 and 5 hitters (Ramirez and Corey Hart) are both proven, consistently productive major-league hitters. If it is any different, I have confidence with the rest of our lineup that we'll find ways to score runs."