Dom Brown’s Plate Discipline Against Southpaws

In yesterday’s post, we discussed Domonic Brown and why he should get regular playing time in 2011, rather than platoon with a right-handed hitter. The idea of platooning Brown stems from reliance on a small sample of chances against left-handed pitchers in which he struggled. In total, Brown faced lefties 14 times and saw 56 pitches — essentially four games’ worth of data.

His .069 wOBA against lefties was not impressive in the least, but you can chalk that up to small sample variance and an adjustment period between Triple-A Lehigh Valley and the Major Leagues. The left-handers in the Majors are significantly tougher to hit than those in the Minors.

Furthermore, as noted yesterday, Brown had a history of hitting well against lefties in the Minors.

Matt Gelb reported, as of his writing in late July, Brown had been hitting .318 against southpaws with Triple-A Lehigh Valley prior to his promotion. Bill Root made a similar observation for SI.com, saying, “Impressively, the left-handed power hitter has hit left-handed pitching at a .282 clip in his career; his ability to hit southpaws will only accelerate his learning curve in the majors.”

I went to look at some of those pretty heat maps from Baseball Anlaytics and I left feeling confident about Brown’s ability to progress.

As the top prospect in the Phillies’ organization, Brown was heralded for his elite plate discipline. Dave Huppert, manager of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, said:

I am most impressed with his plate discipline and how he can cut down on his swing with two strikes.

In his Minor League career, he drew walks at a 10.5 percent clip, which is good for a Major Leaguer let alone a prospect. Plate discipline entails not only laying off unfavorable pitches, but swinging mostly at the favorable ones as well. The following heat map shows that Brown had a great idea of the strike zone, even against left-handers.

Almost all of the red is in the strike zone, and the blips outside are extremely small samples — individual pitches. The heat map above includes all pitches.

Against hard stuff Brown is almost exclusively in the strike zone.

By process of elimination, you can deduce where Brown swung at the soft stuff, but just for sake of completion:

Against soft stuff, Brown stayed mostly within the strike zone.  The two pitches inside — one by his ankles, one by his belt — are change-ups. The three pitches outside include two sliders and one curve.

Even with two strikes, Brown didn’t go out of his way to swing. Against all pitches with two strikes:

This approach is impressive for any player, let alone a young player with just 70 Major League plate appearances. Brown is already ahead of many of his hitting peers in terms of simply handling same-handed pitching. There is no reason to retard that progress by putting him in a platoon.