Domonic Brown Needs to Have Some Pull Around Here
Left fielder Domonic Brown‘s struggles have been well documented here since the start of the year. In the latter half of 2013, opposing pitchers stopped giving him as many pitches in the inside half of the plate as well as up and on the outer half, where he hit all of his May home runs:
In the time since, Brown has had trouble adjusting, posting a .299 weighted on-base average since the start of July last season. To his credit, he has recognized the changes made by the opposition, and he has tried to go with the flow, going the opposite way more frequently.
Here’s what the data says on the location of balls Brown has put in play:
|Year(s)||Far Left||Left-Center||Dead Center||Right-Center||Far Right|
And the requisite hit chart:
Entering Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels, Brown had hit all of four deep fly balls to right-center and right field, one of which was a double and another which was his only home run of the season. Everything else he has been hitting in the air to left field or rolling over and pulling a grounder to the right side of the infield.
Brown’s performance last night was notable because he tried to pull everything in the air for the first time in a while. One went for a triple, while the other two were loud outs.
Brown’s approach, to go the other way to combat opposing pitchers’ evolving approach to him, is natural and even noble, but if his hit chart is to be believed, then he doesn’t have enough power to take fly balls the other way. For that approach to work, he’d have to become a line drive hitter who would only hit home runs on mistake pitches. What Brown showed last night, whether it was intentional or a one-game fluke, was that he can still have success trying to pull the ball in the air.
During the peak of Barry Bonds‘ home run madness in the early 2000’s, the mercurial Giant was pitched around and intentionally walked with alarming frequency. He drew 68 and 61 intentional passes in 2002-03 and an MLB-record 120 in ’04 along with 80-120 unintentional walks, which included a high percentage of pitches nowhere close to the strike zone. Hall of Fame first baseman Eddie Murray said of Bonds in that era, “He gets walked three times in one night and they throw one pitch over the plate, and he hits it. It’s awesome to watch.”
If Bonds was lucky, he’d see one hittable fastball every at-bat and he parked it more often than not. Bonds never changed who he was at the plate just because pitchers weren’t giving him anything to hit. Brown is no Bonds, but he has a good enough understanding of the strike zone that he can afford to do the same. Brown should ditch the opposite-field mindset and run an experiment in which he tries to yank hittable fastballs in the air to right field. It’s worth a shot — his current .260 weighted on-base average is 11th-worst among all qualified hitters in the game and seven worse than the powerless Ben Revere. Neither he nor the Phillies can afford for him to continue waiting for the status quo to pay off.