Will Pitchers Catch Up to Domonic Brown?

Domonic Brown was easily the most pleasant surprise for the Phillies throughout 2013. He finished with a .351 weighted on-base average, third-best on the team behind Chase Utley and Darin Ruf. He also finished with a .222 ISO, which left him in the top-20 among all Major League hitters. After years of fighting tooth and nail for playing time, he has finally secured a starting role for himself going forward.

Brown had a remarkable month of May, smashing 12 home runs en route to a .991 OPS over the 31-day period. He won Player of the Month honors and earned himself a spot on the National League All-Star roster. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to completely replicate his success in the months that followed, though he did remain fairly productive. Along with a concussion (July) and tendonitis in his right foot (September) hampering his offensive output during the second half, pitchers also became less willing to challenge him. Instead, they relied on pitching him on the outer portion of the plate.

The re-emergence of inside pitches could be attributed to September call-ups, as teams want to see what their young players can do without limits.

Brown’s OPS by month went: .681, .991, .884, .765, .772, .670.

Additionally, Brown was exclusively a pull hitter. As his home run chart illustrates, only one of his 27 home runs went to right center or center; the rest were hit to right field; none to left or left-center. Overall, Brown posted a .226 wOBA on batted balls to the opposite field and never went above .282 in a single month. He had a .000 ISO on balls to the opposite field in May, July, and August, and finished at .086 for the season. In other words, if you force Brown to hit it to left field, you sap him of his power.

Brown also showed a bit of a platoon split, posting an .857 OPS against right-handed pitching and .724 against lefties. As the season went on, opposing managers attempted to neutralize Brown with lefty relievers. As a percentage of his monthly plate appearances, Brown faced lefty relievers in 10 percent of PA’s in April, 13 percent in May, then 15, 16, 16, and 15 percent in the remaining four months. While a difference of two to three percent may not seem like much, Brown only saw a lefty reliever one or two times a game.

Lefties approached Brown by throwing “soft” pitches slightly less than once out of every two pitches low and outside, not unlike Ryan Howard.

There is now a book on Brown and with the prevalence of data readily available to coaches and players, I am not stating anything the opposition doesn’t already know about him. They will use this knowledge just as they used it on Ryan Howard — to neutralize Brown, to allow him to use his strengths as rarely as possible and to take advantage of his weaknesses as often as they can. Brown will have to adjust by developing power to the left side or by utilizing his great plate discipline to work the count and force the pitcher to challenge him in a more favorable location. 2014 is a big year for Brown and the Phillies as both parties will find out if he truly will be the team’s outfielder of the future. He can cement his status with the team by continuing to improve and become the backbone of the offense.

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5 comments

  1. awh

    January 02, 2014 02:49 PM

    Nice wirteup, Bill. And, yes, the opposition knows this stuff already.

    What surprised me the most about the stats is a complete lack of power to LF.

    Even an injury-sapped Ryan Howard is a danger to hit with power to LF and punish a mistake on the outer half, as his 2013 HR tracker shows,

    www.hittrackeronline.com/detail.php?id=2013_1559&type=hitter

    but Brown does not, at this time, have that skill.

    So, will he wind up “worse” than Howard in the long run, because they just won’t give him anything middle-in to hit?

  2. sweatingisnormal

    January 02, 2014 04:01 PM

    Dom, Dom, Dom…..you might want to check his charts from the previous years….I recall he used to go the other way frequently when he was 1st called up as that’s how they were pitching him, so its hard to tell what is the adjustment v. the readjustment v. the re-readjustment. I like his chances of remaining a decent hitter–he’s a good athlete and has a good eye. I don’t expect 40 HR’s….I see a Von Hayes type all around hitter.

  3. derekcarstairs

    January 02, 2014 09:09 PM

    What is more remarkable than Brown’s hot May was his sizzling performance from May 25 through June 3. During this ten-day period, Brown hit nine homers in ten games. Before pitchers knew what was happening and could adjust, Brown laid nine bombs on them or one-third of his season’s production in 1/14 of the games in which he played.

    I’d like to see Dom’s charts for that ten-day period.

  4. hk

    January 03, 2014 07:36 AM

    derek,

    I thought Dom’s streak was remarkable in that Dom had never produced anything like that at the MLB level, bit it did not seem so out of the ordinary by big league standards, so I did a little bit of research. I looked at other players who hit a comparable # of HR’s as Dom last year and it seems that a fairly high percentage produced a similarly significant portion of their HR’s in a similarly short period of time. For example from last season:

    * Dom hit 9 HR’s in 38 PA’s in that stretch and hit 18 in the other 532 PA’s. Outside of his hot streak, Dom hit 1 HR every 29.6 PA’s.

    * Justin Upton hit 11 HR’s in an 82 PA stretch and hit 16 in the other 561 PA’s (1 HR every 35.1 PA’S).

    * Jay Bruce hit 8 HR’s in 39 PA’s last June and hit 22 in the other 656 PA’s (1 HR every 29.8 PA’s).

    * Hunter Pence hit 9 HR’s in 67 PA’s last September and hit 18 in the other 620 PA’s (1 every 34.4 PA’s).

    * Ryan Zimmerman hit 9 HR’s in 52 PA’s last September and hit 17 in the other 581 PA’s (1 every 34.2 PA’s).

  5. John Adams

    January 07, 2014 08:21 AM

    I expect a huge year out of Brown in 2014 as he has shown the ability to reinvent himself when necessary.
    In a terrific column by Ryan Lawrence last summer, Chase Utley was quoted as saying that “Dom was the hardest working player on the team.”. It was the review where Jimmy R. said DB had been hurt by how the team (meaning Amaro)jerked him around too much in previous years.
    It should be noted that Brown didn’t just have 3 good weeks, dying in the 2nd half. He batted .302 in August, granted with much lower power numbers. For the year, Dom was .252 vs. LHP and .283 with men in SP, both not bad. With his continued positive attitude and some more work on deficiencies,I think he will extend those 3 weeks into a remarkable season.

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