2014 Phillies Report Card: Domonic Brown

Allow me to pull back the curtain on these report cards just a bit – a couple weeks ago Bill assigned us all six players to grade at random. I traded with Adam so I could talk about Cameron Rupp, (who I like more than anyone should), and then I was on vacation and otherwise unavailable for the first three weeks. Thursday, when I sat down to get into writing mode, I still wasn’t sure with which of the six report cards I would begin. In my search for a good hook to get me going, I was perusing our schedule and realized that my time off had left me with 6 report cards to write in 22 days.

And since I was still unsure who to start with, and since I’m both a baseball nerd and I know how to use a calculator, I figured out that 6/22 comes out to .272. (Sure, I can teach any of you how I did that if you need me to). After I got .272, I went looking for a .272 amongst my players’ stats. As it so happens, Dom Brown hit .272 in his fine 2013 campaign, the season against which his career will be judged. And so my decision was made for me.

I guess Batting Average is good for something after all. Who knew?

Going into 2014, the expectations a lot of us set for Domonic Brown were completely unrealistic. He had finished 2013 with a wOBA of .351, thanks in part to his going on a prodigious power kick in May and June. He ended up with a career-high 27 home runs, but coming up through the minors, Brown was talked about as a guy who would hit for just decent power. I’ve never seen it called better than plus raw power, as far as I can recall, and I never thought of him as the kind of guy who’d hit double digit home runs in the span of two weeks. So when he went off last May, a lot of people, myself included, hoped he had turned his long swing into a power stroke that could last through the next contending Phillies club. Whoops.

Instead, 2014 saw Dom hit just 10 homers, cutting his ISO nearly in half – .114 versus the .222 it was in 2013. His K rate remained consistent and reasonable, around 18%, and his low-ish BB rate was down about a half a percent to 6.8%. Digging in, we see his BABIP was off by about 20 points from 2013, due in large part, I’d suspect, to a drop off in his line-drive rate (down about 4%), and a big upturn in his groundball rate, from 31.7% in 2013 to 37.5%. So don’t blame bad luck – blame bad contact. Especially early in the year.

BROWN 2013 2014
GB

31.7%

37.5%

FB

25.9%

24.6%

LD

17.0%

13.1%

Other

0.2%

0.4%

K

18.0%

17.8%

BB

7.2%

6.6%

BABIP

0.269

0.287

Speaking of early in the year – the man sure did stink for a while this year. #Analysis. His first three months were about as bad as a player’s allowed to be without getting cut, (non-Ryan Howard Division). Splitting the season at game 81, Brown’s first half amounted to a .257 wOBA, or a 56 wRC+. That’s basically what Zack Cozart did at the plate this year in finishing last among qualified MLB hitters in both categories. A bat that bad works ok for an upper-echelon defensive shortstop, (despite his wretched bat, Cozart put up 1.2 fWAR this season), but that kind of offensive production doesn’t work for a poor fielding corner OF who also gives away value with his legs, like, say, Dom Brown.

Now, a couple days past the midway point, Brown went on the paternity list. I sort of remember that, mostly because it brought interesting prospect Aaron Altherr to the bigs for three days, (if y’all wanna do me a solid, start calling Altherr by the boss nickname I gave him, “The Rhineland Rocket”). After Brown came back from playing papa for three days, he put up much better numbers. So probably his lousy first half was all due to his being worried about his baby. Think I can stop writing? Seems like. Everything will be fine, provided Dom waits to have more kids until after he retires or plays for someone else. Solved. Needs a grade…hmm…call it “B” for “Baby” and I can start writing up Jeff Manship now, right?

I guess not.

When Brown was asked about his poor first half by Todd Zolecki recently, he had this to say:

“The first half I was definitely trying to create a lot,” Brown said. “We were struggling pretty bad there. I definitely was trying to do way too much.”via Todd Zolecki, Phillies.mlb.com

From game 82 on, Brown’s production was at worst, middle of the road. In that time, he posted a .313 wOBA and a 98 wRC+, both right around MLB averages (.310 and, well, 100). FTR – Zolecki sees it as worse than I do, likely because we use different timeframes and metrics. Zo uses a post-all-star break OPS. Either way, we saw Dom riding the bench for a little while in the midst of the second half in favor of Darin Ruf and Grady Freaking Sizemore of all people, and we saw him complain about his playing time in the media, (which didn’t bother me because of my disdain for the way Brown’s playing time was handled for years and because of my blossoming disdain for Ryne Sandberg). In the end, he had a pretty good half at the plate.

Going into 2015, you hope that as a still-relatively-young guy who showed a bounce back after a long slump, you can coax a little more production out of him with good instruction (Come Back To Us Wally!) and continued hard work. In my opinion, for the contract he’ll get in arbitration this winter, his potential for production/improvement is enough to warrant another year roaming (and sometimes falling and occasionally slipping and once in a while diving and rolling up on his wrist) in the outfield at Citizens’ Bank Park.

Look, I don’t deny the possibility that Brown’s focus was on his family during the first half of the year, or that he was pressing in general as the team was flailing, but relying on either of those as a counter weight to the raw tonnage of industrial/medical waste he dropped on the field for 90 days is way, way too easy. As for the second half, you have to almost sorta kinda respect Brown’s production. Sure, his defense remains akin to a slow-burning pile of barber hair crossed with that stale fart stank of a working paper mill, (too generous?), but at least he hit some.

As for a grade, a -1.7 fWAR and -1.4 bWAR tells us Brown was one of the worst everyday players in the bigs this year – Houston’s Matt Dominguez was -1.7 and -1.6, edging Brown out for the consensus worst. Dom’s season could have been even train-wreckier if he hadn’t turned it around in the second half, but bad is bad. If I were grading the second half, I’d probably call it a C+/B- or so, but grading the whole year? Hard to go this low on a guy I still like, but…

D+

The D is for “Don’t start that poorly in 2015 or the next three grades you get are likely to be D, F, A.”

The plus is for trolling Reactionary Eagles Fans. Almost got him a C-.

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23 comments

  1. Major Malfunction

    October 19, 2014 08:36 AM

    I don’t understand how a 6’5″ lanky guy has no athleticism. That body should play into decent speed and the ability to whip the balk throwing out batting. His baserunning decisions are atrocious and his lack of speed amplifies this. The throwing part he’s got down for he’s plus in that department. And he negates that by circular routes to balls and allowing extra base hits. And finally, that long looping swing needs a lower hands.

    That would also work well with a change in hitting philosophy where he spends the entire winter in the cage hitting outside pitches. That is his Achilles’s Heel and everybody knows it. So any form of power we know about Brown is essentially bottled up unless he fixes that gigantic hole.

    So in summary, his current situation is that he can’t catch, run, or hit very well; but has a plus arm. Even for last place team as the Phil’s, is terrible. If he doesn’t fix the hole in his swing, this season is basically what you can expect. Sad when you consider at one point the ballyhooed expectations (unfairly?) placed on him.

    • EricL

      October 19, 2014 02:35 PM

      Domonic Brown is playing baseball at the major league level, after raking for years at various minor league stops. If he had “no athleticism,” as you say, none of that previous sentence would be true.

      • Major Malfunction

        October 19, 2014 05:47 PM

        As you stated, he was raking. John Kruk could rake and had no athleticism. His minor league numbers were not gaudy enough to earn him a staying job in the major as we all remember. Brown just doesn’t give the vibe, through his actions on the field, that he has good baseball instincts or the athleticism to compensate.

        I like the guy and he certainly seems genuinely concerned about getting back on track judging by his self criticism. As a fan I certainly hope he does get it together for it was simply dynamite to watch him that glorious month.

      • ASK

        October 19, 2014 08:11 PM

        Wasn’t Brown recruited to play Wide Receiver at an SEC school? Major, I think that you underrate his athleticism and even his speed and I think the problems with Brown are the other issues you raise, his lack of baseball instinct and his poor tracking of fly balls in the OF.

      • Major Malfunction

        October 20, 2014 10:08 AM

        Recruited as a wide receiver? That is even more puzzling. You would think a guy playing WR and eyed by a major college would be good at running to the ball, anticipating flight, etc. Not to mention the ability to at least flash his WR speed. Stealing bases is a science and requires more than speed, but how about the ability to turn it on to run down a ball on the track or just go 1st to 3rd? I don’t recall ever seeing that from him.

      • ASK

        October 20, 2014 01:42 PM

        Dom signed with the U(niversity of Miami) to play WR. He ran a 4.57 in the 40 yard dash in high school. Again, I don’t think that Dom is slow as much as his baseball instincts on the bases and in the OF make him look slow.

    • Krukker

      October 20, 2014 05:28 PM

      John Kruk went to college on a basketball scholarship (albeit a junior college, but still). He was a point guard and reportedly could dunk in high school (see sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?id=6614933)

      “I’ll tell you one thing,” said Lenny Dykstra, whose locker is next to Kruk’s. “He’s a bleeping good athlete. So he walks around and moans, and the act he has on the field – that look – it’s nothing. He can go first to third with anybody . . .”

  2. Bob

    October 19, 2014 11:07 AM

    Brad, what are your thoughts on Damek Tomscha and Jason Miranda?

    • Brad Engler

      October 23, 2014 10:57 AM

      Tomscha is in a bad situation – his playing time at 3B is going to be limited because he’s got Jan Hernandez and Zach Green filling the two likely starting spots if he’s going to break with a full-season team. The best thing for him might be a Jan Hernandez repeat of WIL, (which is not out of the question).

      I am not entirely sure who Jason Miranda is. Do you mean Jason Mraz? If so, I can’t stand that guy.

  3. Romus

    October 19, 2014 03:06 PM

    Welcome back Brad.
    Hope the Phllies are able to move Domo, but think they are in love with his potential and hope to see a late-blooming Jose Bautista, Jayson Werth or Michael Morse on the horizon.
    Nevertheless, if Peter Bourjos were made available for Domo I would not hesitate in making that move with the Cardinals.

  4. Andrew R.

    October 19, 2014 03:38 PM

    I am so torn on Dom Brown. For what his potential is, for how much he makes, for our current state, I want to see him stay. But I know he has to be an offensive beast to make up for his defense and base running.

    It wouldn’t be that bad if he played defense like Pat Burrell. But he doesn’t even do that. Play a little deep, anything over your head will either be an off the wall laser that you can hold a guy to a single on, or it will be over the wall for a homerun. Everything else he would be coming in on. That way he can get all his body going back towards the infield and really maximize his strong throwing arm. I feel like that would cut down on some of the mistakes he makes.

    Having said that, I hope he gets off to a decent start and we trade him for something at the deadline. Dom Brown is not the long term solution for us in left.

  5. tom b

    October 19, 2014 07:06 PM

    if it wasn’t for the so called trolls, it would be a rather boring site. everyone would get an a,the team would finish last and everyone could say if only lee weren’t hurt or howard didn’t get hurt 3 years ago etc,we could’ve been a contender.

    • tom b

      October 19, 2014 07:07 PM

      sorry, someone had to stand up for the naysayers. i actually agree with browns grade

  6. glovesdroppa

    October 19, 2014 10:42 PM

    I don’t see how Brown could get anything other than an F. He had a terrible year in every dept: hitting, hitting for power, baserunning, fielding, etc. He might bounce back next year, but this year was a complete failure, he was among the worst regulars in all of baseball.

    • BradInDC

      October 19, 2014 11:36 PM

      Had he hit in the second half like he hit in the first, I would have given him an F. He had a league average half a year as a regular at the plate. Lots of other poor defenders can’t even say that. They get Fs, (and usually demotions).

      D+ is a pretty shitty grade. It’s it like I’m showering him with praise or scheduling his Wall of Fame induction.

      • BobSmith77

        October 20, 2014 12:51 AM

        When Brown was arguably the worst player in MLB this year, it is an F. Pure and simple. Brown wasn’t playing hurt/injured either.

        Only issue is whether the Phils simply give up on him after refusing to trade him for so long and selling at a rock bottom price. I can understand why they would be reluctant to do that but Amaro sounded got ripped on here last year at the Winter Meetings when Brown’s name came up in regards to Amaro trying to deal for a frontline starter.

      • larry

        October 20, 2014 06:36 AM

        there is an old baseball theory, to lose 20 games you can’t actually be a truly bad pitcher, the truly bad pitchers don’t get enough appearances to lose 20 games…same with Brown, he has the lowest WAR, but the truly bad players just didn’t get enough appearances to get lower WARs, tony gwynn had a 31ops+ for instance…of course on the end of the year and pre season grading, there are always too many A’s and F’s, that is how they are done

      • Chris

        October 20, 2014 08:50 AM

        Like I have said before….

        Brown and Howard are going to get the worst grades (and noting that they probably should get the worst), and all the other great players we had will get Bs and higher. I predicted this from the start when somehow Revere got an A for what was a “D” type year.

        Now lets give Howard a F-, and place the blame of the year squarely on these two players, when in fact 90% of the team sucked.

  7. Ginner207

    October 20, 2014 10:35 AM

    The “B – for baby” thing cracked me up. If you would’ve left it there, everyone that’s been reading these report cards heads would have exploded in the comment section.

    Hope you had a nice trip, enjoyed the article.

  8. Beez Nutz

    October 21, 2014 09:06 AM

    Not that I care that much, but I really don’t see how you can give this guy anything other than an F. Especially when you acknowledge “As for a grade, a -1.7 fWAR and -1.4 bWAR tells us Brown was one of the worst everyday players in the bigs this year”

    • Brad Engler

      October 22, 2014 10:52 PM

      Larry summed it up above. If everyone who plays everyday in order to accrue negative WAR gets an F, what does that leave us for Tony Gwynn Jr.?

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