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Domonic Brown: Curb Your Enthusiasm?

Posted By Bill Baer On July 28, 2010 @ 12:16 pm In MLB,Philadelphia Phillies,Sabermetrics | 15 Comments

UPDATE: Brown has been called up. (via Jim Salisbury of Comcast SportsNet)

Shane Victorino came up limping last night. Given the Phillies’ season-long bout with bad luck, it was to be expected. The reactions to the injury on Twitter were less than “to be expected.” In fact, some people were downright giddy because it increased the likelihood of phenom prospect (#1 in baseball actually, according to most prospect mavens) Domonic Brown getting his much-anticipated call up to the show.

Prior to Victorino’s injury, fans were looking forward to a trade of Jayson Werth. Why? Well, the majority of Philadelphia — including the sports media — had developed some kind of hatred for the bearded fellow but also because it signaled Dom Brown Time. The prevailing thought was that Werth was an expendable part and Brown would have no problem coming up and replacing the lost production. After all, Brown has a .951 OPS in Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

The problem is that Minor League statistics don’t translate exactly into Major League statistics. Context is very important. You wouldn’t consider 20 home runs in the confines of Safeco Field equivalent to 20 home runs at Yankee Stadium. Nor should you consider Brown’s production at Triple-A equivalent to what he will produce at the Major League level. He could; it’s not impossible. But it’s not likely.

To get an idea as to how a player’s Minor League stats equate to Major League competition, we use a method called Minor League Equivalency (MLE). Steve Slowinski of DRays Bay has written a nice overview of MLE at SaberLibrary. A snippet:

For example, if a minor leaguer is playing in the International League (Triple-A), their numbers will be adjusted to account for the fact that the competition isn’t as strong as in the major leagues, but is marginally stronger than the other Triple-A league, the Pacific Coast League.  If that player was to go on to the National League, their adjusted numbers would be different than if they went to the American League, since the National League is a slightly weaker environment than the American League.  Park effects are also taken into account, meaning that an offensive player’s numbers will be adjusted higher in Fenway Park than they would be in PETCO Park.

I went to Minor League Splits, where they have a MLE calculator. Brown’s current .346/.390/.561 triple-slash line for Lehigh Valley changes to .306/.348/.479 at the Major League level. An .827 OPS isn’t bad at all, but it also isn’t enough to make us forget about Jayson Werth.

It is, however, more than enough to make us forget about Victorino, who has been very underwhelming offensively. Shane’s .250 batting average is about 30 points below his career average; his .311 OBP is 30 points below; and his .438 SLG is right near it. Overall, his .749 OPS is one of the reasons the Phillies haven’t quite lived up to expectations offensively.

As much as it pains me to say it, Victorino’s injury couldn’t have come at a better time for the Phillies. Right before the trading deadline, Ruben Amaro will now be much less likely to trade Werth unless he receives a ridiculously good offer, i.e. Jesus Montero and six of his clones. (Be honest: you were afraid that the reports were true, that Amaro would flip Werth for as little as a “#4 starter“.) Additionally, the Phillies retain that all-important right-handed bat in the middle of their lineup. Sans Werth, the team’s most fearful right-handed hitter is Placido Polanco. He’s not chopped liver but he also doesn’t OPS .900.

All that remains is for Amaro to send Brown a car to get him to Philadelphia in time for tonight’s game (otherwise the Phillies would be operating with a 23-man bench, given Jimmy Rollins‘ recent limp). A team very rarely gets such an easy opportunity to upgrade the offense, essentially for free. This is a lay-up the Phillies should easily make.


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