Your Annual “Dom Brown Patience” Post

We are three games into the Phillies’ 2012 spring training campaign and former top prospect Domonic Brown has already received some criticism. He is 2-for-6 with a triple and one failed stolen base attempt, but it is Brown’s defense that has been the lightning rod thus far. In yesterday’s game against the New York Yankees, Brown misplayed a couple fly balls to left field, so much so that the YES Network broadcast played a blooper reel, including Brown and a few of his teammates.

Many of the stat-minded Phillies fans have made no secret of their support for Brown, urging patience throughout his bumpy ride in the last two years. During the off-season, GM Ruben Amaro said that he would like Brown to start the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley unless the left fielder had an awe-inspiring spring training performance. Although Brown has looked good at the plate — quite good, actually — so far, his defense will be his downfall.

However, that shouldn’t be the case. Raul Ibanez wrapped up a three-year contract with the Phillies after the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals last October. The lefty posted a .344 wOBA in Phillies red with laughable defensive numbers, to say the least. With the obvious caveat about the unreliability of defensive stats, he posted an aggregate -8.6 UZR/150 with the Phillies, meaning that in 150 defensive games, Ibanez made about nine fewer plays than an average left fielder. Prior to Ibanez, Pat Burrell manned left field with a career -6.9 UZR/150.

Offensively, Brown is expected to produce at about the .340 wOBA level, roughly equivalent to Ibanez. In fact, ZiPS has him exactly at .340. Given Brown’s youth, good health, and general athleticism, it is hard to imagine him coming close to being as poor defensively as Ibanez. So, it is a bit reactionary and illogical for fans and media types to say that Brown’s defense should be the deciding factor in his 2012 home, whether in Philadelphia or Lehigh Valley. If Ibanez’s defense wasn’t a cause for alarm, then Brown’s shouldn’t be.

That is not to ignore Brown’s obvious defensive shortcomings. He did not look sharp in left field — his reactions were slow and his routes were circuitous. It could be the case that keeping Brown in Triple-A for the time being could turn him from a below-average defender into an average or even an above-average defender in the future. The key is striking a balance between building Brown’s future value and utilizing his current value, as the Phillies are team positioned to win in the short-term.

ZiPS projects Brown at a 110 OPS+, meaning that Brown’s OPS is expected to be about 10 percent better than the league average. Other Phillies outfielders that would play in Brown’s stead don’t stack up as well: John Mayberry, Jr. (93), Laynce Nix (92), Juan Pierre (78), and Scott Podsednik (77) are all both under Brown’s projections and the league average. None of the players are significantly better than Brown — if at all — to make up for the lost offense.

March is a month where writers and fans alike overreact to small, meaningless samples. You will see many articles suggesting caution with spring training sample sizes, but for Phillies fans, it is especially important in the case of Dom Brown. With very few roster spots up for grabs, the spotlight will shine even brighter on the left field situation. Would that a 24-year-old didn’t have to answer questions about his shortcomings and his future five days into spring training exhibition games.

Leave a Reply

*

36 comments

  1. Moose

    March 05, 2012 08:33 AM

    I think the thing with Brown’s defense is that he’s more obvious. He manages to get to the area he should, but can’t capitalize on it. Ibanez on the other hand was just so down right terrible he was never in the vicinity of where he should be. I have no proff to back this up, its just what seems to be going on. Personally, I’d rather have a guy that can actually get there; you can always teach him how to get their more efficiently and how to finish the play.

  2. Tyler

    March 05, 2012 08:57 AM

    Someone just tell him that the red part of his glove isn’t lava, and he should be ok.

  3. jonny

    March 05, 2012 09:01 AM

    “So, it is a bit reactionary and illogical for fans and media types to say that Brown’s defense should be the deciding factor in his 2012 home, whether in Philadelphia or Lehigh Valley. If Ibanez’s defense wasn’t a cause for alarm, then Brown’s shouldn’t be.”

    Well many people used Rauls defensive woes to explain the mistake Amaro made for signing him, so what’s the difference? I’d say the defensive woes should be cause for concern as Dom Brown obviously needs to get better out there as there’s little excuse for a guy as athletic as he is to be “bad” defensively. Raul, knew where he had to go to get the ball it just took him longer to get there. Honestly Brown seems a bit lost.

    Mayberry is very much at home with his defense and I think he’s got as much if not more potential to help this team now than Brown does.

  4. Nick

    March 05, 2012 09:22 AM

    Is it just me or does his glove seem small for an outfielder’s glove? His entire palm is sticking out of the glove. Maybe this isn’t entirely unusual, but I’d think it would be more difficult to catch a ball with just your fingertips squeezing the glove. Of course, this doesn’t have any impact on Dom misplaying fly balls, just commenting on the gif where he drops one.

  5. LTG

    March 05, 2012 09:23 AM

    Mayberry’s potential to help this team right now will be maximized at 1B, if he continues to hit as he did in the second half last year. Having Brown in the starting line-up allows Mayberry to play where he provides the most value to this team.

  6. jonny

    March 05, 2012 09:44 AM

    LTG, You’re right as long as it isn’t Nix playing LF imo. I’m with you if Brown gets the nod. But when Howard comes back, I feel Mayberry deserves a shot more so than Brown does. He kinda proved that last season imo.

  7. Greg

    March 05, 2012 10:31 AM

    I thought last year we hated the idea of platooning Brown because it would stunt his development against lefties.

  8. jonny

    March 05, 2012 10:42 AM

    Bill, I think that would work great and would get a little competitive juice flowing as well. Platooning Brown would be much better than using him to pinch hit And that role is pretty full anyway. He seems to have built a decent amount of muscle mass and I look forward to seeing him prove himself. But Mayberry has 30+ hr potential it seems and his OPS was good last season. There’s a whole list of “good” players who didn’t post an OPS that high last year, for one reason or another. The question I think with him is, “Is he a late bloomer, or was last season a fluke?”

  9. Bill Baer

    March 05, 2012 10:50 AM

    Mayberry did that in less than 300 PA, though. He had a nice year, but we need more information before we can confidently conclude he’s a legitimate power threat in the same stratosphere as Tulowitzki, Stanton, Bruce, etc.

    ZiPS, which has been proven to project hitters fairly accurately, sees Brown having an OPS nearly 20 percent better compared to the league average. I’d put more stock in ZiPS than Mayberry’s production in ~300 PA last year.

  10. Ryne Duren

    March 05, 2012 11:09 AM

    what part of catching the ball with TWO HANDS doesn’t this guy get? i agree with jonny raul took longer to get there and his arm was suspect, but if he did get there he usually made the play! with that said, brown doesn’t have a clue as of how to approach a ball square up to it and use both hands! fundamental stuff we teach kids at the tee ball and ll level. most kids who give a hoot get it and embrace it, he doesn’t! you wanna see how it’s done right? watch vic square up under a ball and squeeze it into his glove. with both hands! now you obviously can’t do it on every ball cause of the angle, but the good outfielders with speed and brains try to use their speed gift to square up a ball and put it in their pocket! some of his throws leave a lot to be desired also.

  11. derekcarstairs

    March 05, 2012 11:20 AM

    I like Brown, and I think he is ready to contribute offensively right now.

    His defensive shortcomings shouldn’t be rationalized away, though. He’s been playing the outfield for several years now. Has he learned nothing about defense? Why isn’t he any better, given his athleticism? Just because he is a better athlete than either Ibanez or Burrell, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he will be a better defensive player.

    I, for one, am willing to have a butcher in LF who can hit. Does Brown rise to the level of “butcher” right now, or does he require more time in AAA to earn that accolade?

  12. nik

    March 05, 2012 11:24 AM

    After he hit his triple I was like :) and after he dropped the ball I was like :(((

  13. Richard

    March 05, 2012 11:26 AM

    On the one hand, I agree that Brown’s defense should not be holding him back. I’d bring him north and play him.

    However, I also think it’s absolutely within the realm of possibility that his defense could be worse than Ibanez’s was. For one thing, in his first two years with the Phillies, Ibanez scored just above and just above average defensively, which reflects what he’s been throughout most of his career, admittedly comical gifs notwithstanding: roughly average defensively.

    Now, last year, Ibanez scored much worse, at -18.9 UZR. This was very close to his 2007 rating, the only other year he performed demonstrably below average, by UZR. Is Brown likely to be as bad or worse than those years? I don’t know. So far, per/150, in ridiculously small sample size, he has been, though. So it’s possible. In any event, it seems quite likely he’d be worse than Ibanez’s aggregate score with the Phillies.

    The question is whether it’s still worth playing him. I think it is.

    The problem with Brown’s defense is that defense is something that’s hard to learn this late. I gather Brown came relatively late to baseball. It seems he just may not have the baseball instincts that one develops at a much younger age. I suspect he can improve enough to become at best average, but I wouldn’t count on him becoming a good defender.

  14. jonny

    March 05, 2012 11:30 AM

    And I can’t wait to find out. I’m thinking Mayberry’s less than good minor league career is hurting his projections and for some reason I think he’s turning a corner here (wishful thinking mostly). I know the data favors Brown but with defense factored in and his numbers from last season I think Mayberry deserves a real shot here more so than Brown. I’m rooting for Mayberry to prove the projections wrong. Maybe I can find him a date with a Mermaid? That should help him out some.

  15. jauer

    March 05, 2012 11:34 AM

    I havent seen any games this spring, but in this GIF, if his glove is fully on his hand, he would have been able to squeeze the glove more quickly/powerfully to prevent the ball from dropping out. Pat Burrell wore his glove in a similar way, but he had much more of his hand in the glove than Brown does here.

    If his mistakes are this basic, he can obviously be coached into playing average defense, at least.

  16. derekcarstairs

    March 05, 2012 11:39 AM

    I’d like to pay Brown a compliment about his defense.

    He sure wears a cool-looking glove.

  17. bharring

    March 05, 2012 12:04 PM

    Hey, as long as he averages 2 for 6 with a triple, he can drop a fly ball every other game for all I care.

  18. Yo

    March 05, 2012 12:09 PM

    doesn’t that kinda make him 1-6?

  19. bharring

    March 05, 2012 12:11 PM

    His glove does look a little small to me, but I am about the same size (6’5″) and my palm sticks out of my glove too. He probably has huge hands.

  20. bharring

    March 05, 2012 12:18 PM

    2 for 6 with (a single and) a triple. The singles are implied, unless explicitly mentioned.

  21. Rob SJ

    March 05, 2012 01:29 PM

    I think the defensive shortcomings of Ibanez are seen as more acceptable to many than Brown. That’s because we value “effort” so highly. Ibanez was seen as a max effort guy – just really slow. Brown’s seen as lazy – a guy who’s not using his physical gifts. He’s either lazy in terms of not running fast enough, or lazy in the sense that he would take better routes if he practiced more, etc. In the end a potential out that turns into a hit due to a slow LF is the exact same result as one that turns into a hit due to lack of hustle or a poor route, but the former is going to draw a whole lot less outrage than the latter. Not defending, explaining what I see as a common viewpoint.

  22. Dante

    March 05, 2012 02:07 PM

    Everyone keeps saying we can teach him the basics on routes and closing his glove properly and what not. Haven’t they had 6 YEARS to do that already? It’s not like the guys is converting from catcher to LF, he’s been out there for years now. It’s extremely frustrating for Amaro and Manuel, I’d assume, that he fails to have a consistently proper feel for things. Eventually, they will have to just play him and live with it.

  23. nik

    March 05, 2012 08:02 PM

    And another bad play today. Its getting comical.

  24. Pete

    March 06, 2012 04:17 AM

    Hi Bill,

    You wrote: “March is a month where writers and fans alike overreact to small, meaningless samples.” But the title of your post “Your Annual ‘Dom Brown Patience’ Post” seems to contradict the whole small-meaningless-sample-size theory. This has been a problem for longer than just a few days this March.

    Not that I am advocating panic. Dom’s upside is so big, and so tantalizingly close, that anything other than patience is silly. But neither am I comfortable dismissing his defensive woes, mostly because I am waiting for a sign, any sign, of improvement, and it doesn’t seem like we are getting any.

    Unlike a few others who posted, I cannot imagine watching Dom playing defense like this at the big league level. I know that it’s irrational because the end result is the same, but I can better stomach a loss due to an outfielder with limited range not getting to a ball than a loss due to Dom getting under a ball and just dropping it. I guess that would be an argument from asthetics.

  25. Bill Baer

    March 06, 2012 07:42 AM

    The consensus dislike of Brown previously wasn’t so much due to his defense, but due to his swing mechanics. One criticism, which became a meme, was that Brown held his hands too high. His defense only became a big issue when he misplayed a few balls in right field when he was in the Majors last year.

  26. Ben Skalina

    March 06, 2012 10:31 AM

    Bill, this should be “Your Weekly Dom Brown Patience Post.”

    Also, let’s not forget the interaction of race and confirmation bias here.

  27. SJHaack

    March 06, 2012 01:15 PM

    Let’s not give Raul more credit than he deserves. Using WAR (which I’m comfortable doing because it’s accurate at placing someone on a spectrum of ballplayers, if not their precise value), since he became an MLB regular in 2001 he’s been worth about 24 WAR with the bat and given back a QUARTER of that with his glove. -6 WAR fielding is atrocious.

    Pat the Bat is not even in the same league of awfulness. Frankly, I always thought Pat had good positioning and read the ball well, plus an above-average throwing arm. It’s just that he was so. damn. slow. that even with the right read singles turned into doubles and fly ball outs fell in more often than they should.

    If you combine the best parts of Burrell and Victorino defense you have a legitimate gold glover, and if you combine the worst parts you have Raul Ibanez.

    So basically what I’m saying is that if Dom can physically move to the ball more quickly than Raul Ibanez I’ll guarantee his defense will be better overall and I’m totally comfortable with it.

  28. Pete

    March 06, 2012 08:32 PM

    His defense became an issue when he misplayed a few balls in the majors, then continued to misplay balls when he was sent down, and continues to misplay balls in this limited spring. It seems like any time we are watching, Dom is misplaying balls in the outfield. Any word on his fielding in the lower level minors or his winter assignment?

  29. BobSmith75

    March 06, 2012 10:48 PM

    “His defense only became a big issue when he displayed a few balls in right field when he was in the Majors last year.”

    Brown has been below average his entire career though defensively in the minors including some real struggles defensively at Reading in ’09 in RF.

    The Phils moved Brown to LF because they were realized he is below average/terrible defensively. You stick guys like that in LF where they can hurt you the least especially if they have a decent arm.

    Comparing him to Ibanez and saying that Brown wouldn’t be as bad as him in LF is a back-handed compliment if I ever heard one.

    Yeah, your 24-year old sister is definitely better looking than your 39-year old cousin.

  30. Phillie697

    March 07, 2012 10:30 AM

    FREE DOM BROWN!!!

  31. Bill Baer

    March 07, 2012 04:14 PM

    No, Bob, they moved Brown to left field because they acquired Hunter Pence and have him under contract through 2012.

Next ArticleBy Request: The Eyeball Test