The Phillies Have to See Domonic Brown Through His Struggles

Domonic Brown‘s offensive futility continued last night as the outfielder went 0-for-3 with a walk against the San Diego Padres. His slash line fell to .211/.263/.312 and his weighted on-base average declined to .252. It’s the fourth-worst mark among all qualified hitters, ahead of only Jedd Gyorko (.215), Brad Miller (.242), and Zack Cozart (.251). The MLB average is .313.

Brown’s problems have been well-documented here. Starting in the second half of last season, following Brown’s productive May and June months, opposing pitchers started throwing Brown more and more pitches on the outer edge of the strike zone. To his credit, Brown tried to work with what he was giving, taking those outside pitches to the opposite field. As a result, Brown’s ability to hit for power vanished and his ground ball rate has sharply risen. If he isn’t hitting a weak fly ball to left field, he’s rolling over and hitting a weak grounder to the second baseman. Compare his spray charts from 2013 to 2014, via FanGraphs:

(click to enlarge in a new window)

And it’s been right-handers who have given Brown the most trouble. His .661 OPS against lefties is 104 points higher than his performance against right-handers. Brown just doesn’t have the power to go to the opposite field. His numbers bear that out clearly: his ISO is down to .102 from .222 last season and his .173 career average. His line drive rate is down from 23 to 16 percent, and his fly ball rate has fallen from 35 percent to 28 percent, commensurate with his ground ball rate increasing from 42 percent to 56 percent.

Brown tried to adjust and he has failed thus far. It happens, but he is recoverable. Players who have hit 25 home runs in a single season by age 25 are not exactly common. Brown was one of four last season, along with Paul Goldschmidt, Justin Upton, and Mike Trout. Looking at the list over the years, one sees a laundry list of productive players. Some have flamed out (Ian Stewart, Hank Blalock), but by and large, if a young player has that kind of strength, he has staying power in the Major Leagues.

Evolution is the next step. The Phillies and Brown need to work together to come up with a way to deal with pitches low and away that results in consistent line drives or allows him to add more muscle to fly balls to left field. Or he needs to go back to being a strictly pull hitter. Whether that’s a complete mechanical overhaul or a small tweak, the two sides should be open to all of the possibilities.

The Phillies have no other choice. Brown has zero trade value now, even though he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career after the season. The Phillies are also bereft of other legitimate Major League-ready corner outfield candidates to experiment with in his stead. As painful as it sounds, the Phillies are married to Brown for the time being and they have no other choice but to do everything in their power to see him through his struggles. If and when the team is competitive again in a couple years, they might be glad they did.

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17 comments

  1. Bill

    June 12, 2014 07:50 AM

    I have zero faith that the coaching staff can adjust his swings on low and away pitches. See: Ryan Howard

    I also think his swing is completely different from last year. Am I wrong in assuming that?

    • Evan

      June 12, 2014 08:16 AM

      The best part about Ryan Howard is listening to how he idolizes David Ortiz and he talks with him frequently, but yet he doesn’t follow any of the advice that Ortiz has supposedly given Howard over the years.

      I don’t think Brown will ever succeed in a Phillies uniform and this is a problem because of the zero trade value. At this point, I think we need to hope that a new GM takes over and completely overhauls the organization and gets new coaches in here to work with guys like BRown and Revere.

      • Kyle

        June 12, 2014 08:31 AM

        He will never succeed in a Phillies uniform, but he was an all-star last year… Wouldn’t that be considered a somewhat successful season?

  2. Carmine Spellane

    June 12, 2014 09:01 AM

    I cannot for the life of me figure out if the Phillies have inept hitting coaches or the players are too stubborn/complacent to work on changes and adjustments. If its the latter, then there need to be consequences for not being open to instruction, i.e., a ride on the bench. If it’s the former, then spend money to bring in a high quality hitting guru now as an investment in the young players.
    I can just see it now. Brown continues to perform poorly and is released. St. Louis or Oakland pick him up on the cheap and assign coaches to work with him. Brown becomes a key part of a winning team. Just once, can’t this movie have a different ending?

    • stu

      June 13, 2014 07:13 AM

      Key part of winning team? What a joke that is. 240 hitter at best, 150ks per year with 450 ab.

  3. Beez Nutz

    June 12, 2014 09:35 AM

    Why do you guys always blame the coaches? This is on the player, he’s just not that good. Honestly I’ve been saying it since he’s come up, I really don’t know what you guys are waiting for with him. It’s not there.

    I truly dislike Bowa, but he has seen a great many of these guys come up and become very successful players and hitters during his time here the first go round. He knows baseball and can teach it, regardless of who likes him or his style from a personal standpoint.

    • Richard

      June 12, 2014 10:43 AM

      “Honestly I’ve been saying it since he’s come up…”

      Long-suffering and far-seeing, aren’t you?

      • Beez Nutz

        June 12, 2014 11:15 AM

        Yes

    • Bill Baer

      June 12, 2014 11:25 AM

      I didn’t see that. He’s a TGP regular contributor now? That’s awesome. I miss having him around here. And thanks for the link.

  4. Bob

    June 12, 2014 02:27 PM

    Brown has been getting a higher percentage of fastballs to hit this year. Brown’s gb% has dramatically increased this year to his detriment in both power and average. Bill has provided data suggesting that Brown is taking pitches the other way with a greater frequency or rolling over on the outside pitches thereby weakly grounding to the 2B.

    I wanted to see how Brown was fairing with fastballs on the outer portion of the plate and Brown’s new found propensity to hit GB. Due to the small sample size this year, I compared what Brooks characterizes as “hard” stuff (four seamer, sinker, cutter) for 2013 and 2014. Here are the charts.

    (Ed. Note: Fixed links from spilling out of the margins. [Baer])

    2013

    2014

    If I’m reading these graphs right, Brown wasn’t good both years with hard stuff on the outer third of the plate. The troubling thing is the uptick in GB% on hard stuff on middle and inside pitches. It’s those fastballs down the middle and inside that he needs to start turning on and can’t miss.

    • Bob

      June 12, 2014 02:32 PM

      The links came out wonky, but I think I made my point. He went from 30% range of FB hit for GB on the middle-in portion of plate in 2013 to 50-60% in 2014 so far.

  5. Ryne Duren

    June 12, 2014 04:47 PM

    Take away that one month last year and do the math. Last seasons stats are going to be in line with this year. All he’s ecer going to be is a .250 hitter at best, and I’m being generous. He’ll accidently hit 10 maybe 12 HR’s, and possibly knock in 60-70 rbi with a little luck. He’s still not a decent outfielder, hestill throws to the wrong base occasionally, he doesn’t steal bases, and you can’t steal if you’re not getting on (walks). He has had his shot and he’s failing. The only thing positive I see is that one month! As much as I don’t think he’ll make it. I’m still hoping they don’t get rid of him just yet. Bowa hit it right on the nose. If a player doesn’t have a baseball sense by the time he hits the majors. He’s never going to have it.

    • stu

      June 13, 2014 07:09 AM

      Article is bs. He is a worse version of mayberry. Basically a journeyman who is just aaa material. On the pathetic phillies he is a “project.”

      • Mark

        June 13, 2014 10:49 AM

        Some in-depth analysis there.

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