Domonic Brown Has Not Had A Good Time in Left Field
Left fielder Domonic Brown made another blunder in Wednesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins. With two outs and runners on first and second, Marcell Ozuna hit a line drive to Brown in left. Brown misjudged the ball and it sailed over his head, allowing one run to score. Another two would score immediately after, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled to center.
It’s Brown’s third misplay in a week and a half:
June 16 @ Atlanta Braves
June 23 vs. Miami Marlins
June 25 vs. Miami Marlins
Brown, of course, is having just as miserable a time at the plate. He went 1-for-4 with an RBI single on Wednesday, but he still has the fifth-lowest weighted on-base average among qualified hitters at .259. As a result, FanGraphs lists Brown as the third-least valuable player in baseball, trailing only Michael Choice and Cody Ross.
Manager Ryne Sandberg gave Brown the night off on Tuesday, saying that he wanted to give him “a little mental break“. Likely not coincidentally, the Phillies recently signed Grady Sizemore to a minor league deal. If and when the Phillies deem Sizemore major league-ready, Brown’s regular playing time could come to a screeching halt.
Sandberg may opt for a platoon of Sizemore and John Mayberry, Jr. in left field, relegating Brown to a bench role. Alternatively, Brown could be optioned down to Triple-A, though it’s debatable just how much a demotion would help. While Sizemore had an abysmal stint with the Boston Red Sox, he hit right-handed pitchers significantly better than lefties by a .300 to .214 margin in wOBA. Mayberry has hit lefties to the tune of .423 compared to .290 against right-handers. There may be a slight defensive upgrade as well. While Sizemore is a shadow of his former self in terms of mobility and is more or less Brown’s equal in the outfield, the 25 to 33 percent of the time Mayberry would be out there would represent a marginal improvement.
For as much as we hoped that the first two months of Brown’s season represented an aberration, it has become a trend as we near the midpoint of the baseball season. Whatever they have been trying with Brown hasn’t been working and the Phillies can either continue riding it out or opt for a change. For what it’s worth, Brown’s ZiPS projection for the remainder of the season pegs him at a .330 wOBA, a vast improvement over what we have seen thus far. Mitchell Lichtman, of The Book fame, found that the projections are better at predicting remainder-of-season performance than performance-to-date stats. Lichtman concludes, “Until we get into the last month or two of the season, season-to-date stats provide virtually no useful information once we have a credible projection for a player.”
On the other hand, Brown has not made the correct adjustments to the evolving way pitchers have been approaching him, and there are a slew of mechanical flaws according to those with more knowledge of mechanics than myself. There are certainly strong arguments on both sides, whether to ride out Brown’s futility or to eventually move to a platoon in left field. One thing is certain, however: it would be really tough to imagine things becoming any worse for Brown than they already are.