Monday, July 28, 2014
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Domonic Brown and the myth of the one good month

If you're going to argue the merits of trading away Domonic Brown, at least make sure you have your facts in order. First, Brown's impressive 2013 totals were not the result of, as sometimes alleged, "one good month." In fact, Brown had two great months (.991 OPS and 12 HRs in May, .884 OPS and 6 HRs in June) and two above average months (.765 OPS, 3 HRs in July, .772 OPS, 3 HRs in August) along with two poor months (.681 OPS, 3 HRs in April, .670 OPS, 0 HRs in Sept.). In fact, if you want to talk about "months," try this one on for size: of the 11 calendar months that Brown has spent in the major leagues since his call-up in 2011, he has been an above average hitter in seven.

Domonic Brown and the myth of the one good month

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown. (H. Rumph Jr/AP file photo)
Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown. (H. Rumph Jr/AP file photo)

If you're going to argue the merits of trading away Domonic Brown, at least make sure you have your facts in order. First, Brown's impressive 2013 totals were not the result of, as sometimes alleged, "one good month." In fact, Brown had two great months (.991 OPS and 12 HRs in May, .884 OPS and 6 HRs in June) and two above average months (.765 OPS, 3 HRs in July, .772 OPS, 3 HRs in August) along with two poor months (.681 OPS, 3 HRs in April, .670 OPS, 0 HRs in Sept.). In fact, if you want to talk about "months," try this one on for size: of the 11 calendar months that Brown has spent in the major leagues since his call-up in 2011, he has been an above average hitter in seven.

Domonic Brown monthly numbers

(sOPS+ is OPS+ relative to the league average during that month. 100 is average. The further above 100, the further above average, the further below 100, the further below average)

May 2011: .924 OPS, 158 sOPS+

June 2011: .613 OPS, 72 sOPS+

July 2011: .764 OPS, 116 sOPS+

Aug. 2012: .675 OPS, 88 sOPS+

Sept. 2012: .736 OPS, 105 sOPS+

April 2013: .681 OPS, 90 sOPS+

May 2013: .991 OPS, .166 sOPS+

June 2013: .884 OPS, 145 sOPS+

July 2013: .765 OPS, 114 sOPS+

Aug. 2013: .772 OPS, 115 sOPS+

Sept. 2013: .670 OPS, 93 sOPS+

So just stop with the "one good month" malarkey. Among players with at least 900 plate appearances since the start of the 2011 season, Brown's .775 OPS during that span ranks ahead of Jason Heyward, Shane Victorino, Brian McCann, Brandon Phillips, Jon Jay, Michael Bourn, and, yes, your newest Phillies fan favorite, Marlon Byrd. Among players younger than 26, he ranks ninth, trailing Giancarlo Stanton, Paul Goldschmidt, Justin Upton, Bryce Harper, Freddie Freeman, Willin Rosario and Brandon Belt. In 1,032 career plate appearances, Brown has a .764 OPS and 107 OPS+. So he has been an above-league-average hitter for the equivalent of two full major league seasons, despite playing uninterrupted as a regular for only one campaign.

The question is why, after all of the development work that the organization has devoted to Brown, would they trade him away when he is right on the verge of showing just how good of a player he can be? He's already given the Phillies plenty of reason to believe that he will, bare minimum, be an above-league-average hitter throughout his prime. Why trade him away for a hitter at a non premium position who has already peaked?

One of the side effects of an obsession with a specific team is that it can lead to a sort of myopia where everything outside the realm of that team is clouded with the errant judgment of someone who relies on headlines for his perceptions, while everything in his focus is subjected to judgments based not on sport-wide norms but on the projections of his mind. I theorize that this effect is magnified in baseball because it features such an inordinate failure-to-success ratio, at least when it comes to hitting. The truth is that hitting a baseball is extremely hard, and for every Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton who seems to have hit major league pitching since the womb, there are a crapload of players who actually needed a season or two of full-time work under their belt before they realized their full potential. Keep in mind, last year was Domonic Brown's first season of full-time work. At the start of this paragraph I was referring to fans, but the more I think about it the more I think it might be addressed to the Phillies, who seem to struggle at times to place their talent (or lack thereof) in a realistic context with the rest of the sport (For instance, Amaro's occasional admission that he hampered  Brown by promoting him too early back in the day, when he really might have hampered him by sending him back down too early. But I digress...).

In Freeman's first two full seasons, he OPS'ed .795. Last year, in his third, he jumped to .897. In Jason Kipnis' first 822 plate appearances, he OPS'd .738 (108 OPS+). Last year, his second as a full-time regular, at the age of 26, he OPS'd .818 (133 OPS+). Paul Goldschmidt's OPS jumped 102 points and his OPS+ 34 points between his first and second full season as a full-time regular. Jay Bruce's first two seasons: .769 OPS, 99 OPS+ in 839 plate appearances. His four seasons since: .826 OPS, 120 OPS+ in 2567 plate appearances.

Another point: When you argue that Brown is different from the aforementioned young players using some strain of the logic, "I can tell that he just doesn't get it," you are wading into dangerous territory where you appear to be judging Brown not based on his actual abilities, but your mind's projection of what a ballplayer should look and talk and act like, a projection that is often a reflection of what you think you would look and talk and act like if you were a ballplayer, and, well, you are not a ballplayer, because you don't have the talent that Domonic Brown has, so just stop it.

We could go on, but you've probably already stopped reading. So we'll wrap this up by saying that any argument against Brown's defensive abilities is null and void when you are arguing in favor of trading him for a non premium player who is on the downslope of his career and who, quite frankly, is much closer to the Brown end of the spectrum in his defensive abilities than he is to whoever you'd consider as inhabiting the top of the realm. The vast majority of advanced metrics, for however amount of worth you place in them, which in my case is not much, suggest that the two are in the same company. 

Again, there's probably an argument for trading Domonic Brown, just as there has been every year since 2009. But if you want to make a strong case when arguing it, it would be helpful to use numbers and observations that jibe with reality as it has been recorded.

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David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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