Domonic Brown Good News/Bad News

Everybody’s aware that, by and large, spring-training results are meaningless. Not everybody always acts like it, but everybody gets it, on some level. The stats don’t really matter, and the wins and losses don’t really matter. But spring training can still serve some purposes, for us as fans. As we discussed yesterday, spring training can generate highlights as good or almost as good as the highlights generated during the regular season. That is, of plays in isolation, separated from context. And there’s also some analysis that can be done, if done carefully. Previously, Michael Saunders never demonstrated any ability to hit to the opposite field or cover the outer half of the plate. Between 2011 and 2012, he re-worked his swing, and in spring 2012, he covered the other half of the plate. It was promising, and, sure enough, Saunders had a breakthrough season. Spring training isn’t entirely devoid of substance.

Which brings us to the matter of Domonic Brown, on Tuesday, February 26. On this Tuesday, Brown generated a highlight, and he also did something maybe worth talking about for analytical purposes. Behold, what Domonic Brown did to a thrown pitch by a member of the Yankees organization:

That is a big home run, and in the Phillies’ dugout, you can see the coaches acknowledge that it was a big home run. Brown, in a way, is fighting for a job, as he’s not being guaranteed a regular gig in a Philadelphia corner. Somewhat inexplicably, he’ll face competition from Delmon Young, but Brown is a young player who used to be a tippy-top prospect so he’s got a lot of the fans on his side. Phillies fans will be encouraged to see anything and everything that Brown does well on a playing field. They’re all waiting for Brown to take the next step, and so maybe this is a sign. Let’s get into the good news and the bad news.

Good news
Domonic Brown hit a home run. What’s more, he hit a home run to center field. What’s more, he hit a home run over the batter’s eye in center field. The fence is measured at 401 feet away from home plate. The batter’s eye is something like 25 feet tall, give or take a little bit. That’s a mammoth home run, captured by this screengrab:


That’s a home run you can’t really fake. You’re either capable of clearing the batter’s eye in dead center field, or you’re not. Brown cleared it, which is a wonderful sign after a few years of people wondering about his power. Used to be that Brown was supposed to develop into a guy who could hit for power and average. He’s the owner of a dozen big-league home runs, but this is the sort of strength that can get you re-noticed and re-evaluated. Brown’s goal in camp — the best he can do — is to be impressive. It’s impressive to hit ordinary dingers, but it’s extra impressive to hit extraordinary dingers, and so this could be a good sign with regard to where Domonic Brown is as a player at the present day.

Bad news
After the home run, the broadcasters acknowledge that the wind has been swirling, and of course strong winds can do funny things to fly balls. There’s no question that Brown hit the ball solidly, but maybe it carried for reasons other than its own velocity and spin; maybe the wind allowed the ball to sail to an area to which it wouldn’t have sailed were it not for the wind. Though Domonic Brown cleared the dead-center batter’s eye, maybe it wasn’t just Domonic Brown who did it. Maybe the ESPN Home Run Tracker would make this home run out to be an awful lot more modest.

Good news
Observe the American flag during the baseball’s flight:


Sure enough, the wind was blowing, but the wind wasn’t blowing out. It was blowing to the right, and it wasn’t the horizontal angle that made Brown’s moonshot a moonshot. Can we eliminate the wind as a variable? No, we cannot, but we have reason to believe this was pretty much all about Brown’s strength.

Bad news
The pitcher on the mound for the Yankees wears number 95. Good players in spring training don’t wear number 95, and our hero in question is one Zach Nuding. Nuding hasn’t pitched above single-A, and a few years ago he was a 30th-round draft pick. He’s not a top prospect and he hasn’t missed bats. This is one of the problems with spring-training performance analysis — the things that happen in the later innings often don’t happen against big-league baseball players. Who cares what Brown can do against a single-A starting pitcher? Brown isn’t being held back by his inability to hit single-A pitchers. You don’t see a lot of single-A pitchers in the major leagues.

Good news
So what about the identity of the pitcher? That matters, generally, but specifically, what matters is the quality of the pitch. An unfamiliar or lesser talented pitcher will just throw good pitches less often than a good pitcher, but it’s not like a single-A pitcher can’t throw good pitches. Nuding is a big guy and his fastball gets into the mid-90s. It was a Nuding fastball that Brown hit out. Maybe the pitch wasn’t bad. Maybe it was a big-league-caliber pitch thrown by a non-big-league-caliber pitcher. Additionally, it was a home run with two strikes, which is impressive. But, yeah, maybe the pitch was fine, and Brown applied a better swing.

Bad news

Two batters later, Nuding allowed a double to Cody Asche. One batter later, Nuding allowed a homer to Tommy Joseph. It wasn’t a great inning for Zach Nuding, because Zach Nuding isn’t great. Brown destroyed a fastball in just about the very center of the zone. That’s right where Brown would’ve wanted it.

Our conclusion is that Domonic Brown did a good thing, made somewhat less impressive by the identity of the opposition at the time. But still, for anyone wondering about Brown’s power, it’s still in there, which he proved on Tuesday. Charlie Manuel spoke highly of him after the game, and if these are the early signs of Brown turning the corner, then Phillies fans could be in for something special, and for a lot less Delmon Young than they’ve feared. It’s way too early to say that Domonic Brown is going to take a leap forward, but it’s not too early to talk about it. A home run like this has a way of getting people talking.

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

34 Responses to “Domonic Brown Good News/Bad News”

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  1. Souled0ut1 says:

    Domonic Brown started in Left field today, whereas Delmon Young is targeted to start in Right field. The more likely scenario is that Darin Ruf is competing against Domonic Brown for the Left field starting job.

    Good News: See Domonic Brown’s 2011 at bat against Justin Verlander while Brown wore number 78 on his jersey.

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    • NEPP says:

      Delmon Young will be lucky to be back by the AS Break so it’ll likely be a moot point anyway. He had micro fracture surgery on his ankle in November. The recovery time for that surgery is closer to 9 months than the 6 they suggested when they signed him. He’s behind in his rehab anyway from a report about 10 days ago.

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      • Souled0ut1 says:

        It certainly is doubtful we’ll see him in April, so there’s a chance the Phillies break camp with Brown and Ruf in the corner outfield. Brown can play all three outfield positions, and was originally a Center fielder. The point of my original comment however is that it looks like Brown is no longer competing against Young, but rather Ruf is going to have to ultimately overtake Young.

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        • NEPP says:

          I kinda have the feeling that Young will pull a Tartabull and pretty much disappear. Ruf might have a shot to split time with Mayberry in LF while Brown handles RF going into April.

          Its definitely not ideal but they dont have a lot of options right now. I’d imagine Nix will get a look at a platoon spot too.

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        • LTG says:

          Brown is not an MLB CF. And the Phillies have shown no interest in trying him there in MLB even when they didn’t really have a CF last season after they traded Vic.

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  2. deadpool says:

    Seeing guys who haven’t hit a ton of HRs give one a real ride like this is fun. I remember Kasey Kotchman once hit a ball so far it almost left the park in Turner Field.

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  3. jfree says:

    You must have turned the game off. In the bottom of that inning, Zach Nuding hit a HR that nailed the batter’s eye. Rumor has it that he too is now in the mix for an OF/RP utility job.

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    • David says:

      That’s not at all what happened. Nuding didn’t even get an ab and nobody scored again after Brown’s homer. You must have never had the game on at all. JR Murphy hit a homer in the top of the 7th, maybe that’s what you’re thinking of?

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  4. jimireland6 says:

    Good News: he also hit one out Sunday off of AL Albuquerque who certainly does have a big league fastball

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    • Brandon T says:

      Is Al Albuquerque the greatest name or what? Like, for the hero of an action movie that goes straight to video.

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      • Jay29 says:

        Last year, his name got my dad and I on a run of possible names where the first name is the first syllable of the last name which is also the name of a city.

        Sid Sydney
        Vlad Vladivostok
        Jack Jacksonville
        Mel Melbourne
        Phil Philadelphia
        Bill Billings
        Cal Calgary

        Should’ve written them all down…

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  5. KM says:

    I tend I think that if Delmon Young is not really in completion with anyone… By the time he’s healthy, both Ruf and Brown will have had at least a months or two of regular time. The jobs are theirs for the taking, and if one of them is really that bad, young is probably (hopefully) more of a backup plan…

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  6. gnomez says:

    “Good players in spring training don’t wear number 95.” Perhaps not, but Oscar Taveras wore 91 last year, and is wearing 87 this year.

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  7. Billion Memes says:

    Bad News: I’m leaving my wife.
    Good News: I found someone much better.

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    • Will Middlebrooks says:

      Bad News: I’m leaving my wife.
      Good News: Your wife just became available.

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      • balticfox1917 says:

        Good news: I’m not leaving my wife.
        Good news: I’ve never been married.

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        • Super Mario 64 says:

          Good news: I just found the sixth star of the level.
          Bad news: I’m not having as much fun compared to if I was playing Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time.

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        • Billion Memes says:

          Bad News: Your playing video games at 4:18 in the morning.
          Bad News: balticfox is 96 years old.
          Bad News: Will doesn’t know what he’s getting himself in to.

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        • Jason B says:

          Good news: I’m leaving my wife for someone better.
          Better news: “Someone better” is named Bruce.

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  8. tbonemacd says:

    Ryan Raburn hit 6 HR and 19 RBI last spring… done and done.

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    • LTG says:

      In Brown’s case, the return of his power is a good sign because he hasn’t shown much since his hamate injury. The injury tends to sap power and can take up to 18 months for full recovery. In this way, ST power means something for Brown.

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      • tbonemacd says:

        Hearing that he hit a real long batting practice home run might be a good sign, too, but means about the same as a ST bomb, unfortunately.

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        • LTG says:

          I wouldn’t go that far. ST games with live pitching are harder than just BP. That Brown is able to generate power when he doesn’t know beforehand the type and velocity of the pitch is a good sign. We just shouldn’t use it as sufficient evidence to conclude he’ll be above average.

          Honestly, what is more important is that he convince Charlie and RAJ that he ought to get a starting job so that we finally get a good idea of what he can or can’t do. If hitting ST homers does that, great!

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  9. Jon L. says:

    Just pulling two players from memory, something about the fact that Don Mattingly topped 30 home runs twice, while Butch Huskey maxed out at 24, tells me that brute force plays only a small role in home run frequency. Hitting a fastball down the middle very far may not translate into many ML home runs.

    That said, LTG makes a legitimate point above. This homer may not indicate much about the quality of Brown’s hitting, but it does suggest the injury isn’t hampering his ability to hit for power anymore.

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  10. Greg Simons says:

    I read this study from three years ago that indicated a large spring training jump in a player’s slugging percentage was an indicator of real improvement, though I don’t know if it’s been vetted:

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    • It’s a useless study. ISO should have been the metric used, not SLG. SLG includes singles, so if a hitter bats .600 in the spring with no extra-base hits, guess what, his SLG is also .600 and it looks like he had a big ST from a power perspective. No idea why this wasn’t considered when the metric for the study was chosen.

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  11. Angelsjunky says:

    The Bad News: Spring Training is so boring that it leads authors to write about such inane topics as a single at-bat.
    The Good News: Spring Training will be over quick as a flash and we’ll have some real baseball, and stories, to talk about, with Jeff Sullivan’s talents used for more meaningful purposes.

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  12. Ken Bland says:

    As a Domonic Brown fan, and talent admirer, his situation boils down to this.

    Good news: He appears to be healthy.

    Bad news: That’s a day to day condition, even for ironman types. And Dom hasn’t won any iron man awards that I’m aware of.

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  13. Megary says:

    More importantly, to me anyway, is the fact that he was originally down in the count 0-2…and then laid off a very good down-and-in slider on 1-2. The 2-2 pitch is then seen in the video above.

    His previous at bat he had shown some more decent plate discipline against a lefty who had him down in the count as well. He managed to work the count even before eventually getting plunked.

    He just seems to have a bit more of a clue up there then when he first came up.

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  14. CircleChange11 says:

    The problem with guys like D-Brown is “us”. We hear “he could be the next Darryl Strawberry”, and then “we” expect it. When it doesn;t happen right away, then we assume he’s not doing something he should be.

    How much of Brown’s comparison to “Straw” has to do with them both being tall, lanky left-handed swinging ballplayers that are black? How much has to do with actual skills/abilities?

    Brown had a “strawberresque” type year in AA-AAA at age 22 … but that’s comparing Straw’s year in AA at age 20.

    By mentioning (perhaps not here at FG) that Brown is comparable to Straw, is basically setting the bar at “being an All-Star for the 1st 6 or 7 years of your career”, which is a ridiculously high expectation.

    I like Brown and hope he puts it all together, but we need to temper our expectations a bit.

    The most important thing said in the article was that a single-A pitcher layed a 2-strike pitch right over the plate and a MLB caliber hitter destroyed it.

    The Good News is that Brown hit a really long home run. The bad news is that it’s the amount, not the distance that matters.

    If only he could get single-A centered fastballs regularly in MLB, he’d be a beast … but then so would everyone else.

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  15. Matt says:

    I’m in total agreement with LTG who said that the bigger issue here is that Domonic Brown is perhaps convincing his manager that he deserves to play every day. The manager is the one with the line up card, so winning the opportunity to get consistent playing time from said manager is the key for a guy in Brown’s shoes.

    I’m just hoping Brown can get 3 months of consistent at bats, as well as the opportunity to play through slumps, before Philly even thinks about playing Delmon Young over him. If Brown can’t get it done in that time frame, OK, at least he had a shot. But please, don’t jerk the guy around for Delmon Young.

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  16. Joe Borchard says:

    I hit a 500-foot Dinger in a REAL game once. And I was supposed to be hot shit.

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