Domonic Brown Has Made Some Changes

It’s been five years since Domonic Brown cracked the public consciousness as a five-tooler in the Phillies system. Five up and down years. Three of those years, he failed to impress in short samples with the big league team, and yet the team’s outfield crumbled around him gradually. So this year, playing time in the outfield is embarrassingly available. Domonic Brown made some changes, and looks to be ready to capitalize, finally.

One thing that sticks out in Brown’s profile is his batting average on balls in play. Despite owning above-average speed and power, and hitting the ball on the ground more than he hits it in the air, Brown’s career BABIP in 492 plate appearances is .269. It might only be bad luck, but his 19.7% line drive rate, though close to average, is doing him no favors. Nor are his nine infield fly balls in less than a full season’s worth of plate appearances.

Speaking of infield flies. We can’t ask Joey Votto what he would do, at least not right now, he’s busy, but we could guess: maybe Brown should level his swing plane a bit. Joey Votto isn’t Brown’s hitting coach, but Wally Joyner is. And Joyner was known for using the whole field, making a lot of contact, and having some plus BABIPs in his time. Joyner helped Brown make some changes:

Joyner, now 50, and hitting coach Steve Henderson have lowered Brown’s hands. Most of the time, his once-hyper lower body stands as still as a tiger’s before attacking its prey.

The videotape backs up the hitting coaches. Check out Brown’s 2012 swing on the left, and the 2013 version on the right. Both were singles to center-ish field off a right-handed pitcher. One came September 11th of last season off of Nathan Eovaldi, and the other just yesterday off of Brandon Morrow. Both pitches were reasonably low in the zone.

dom12dom13

It certainly looks like a different swing plane. Most stark is the placement of the hands. In 2012, Brown had to adjust his hands downward as the pitch was moving towards the plate. In 2013, his hands are ‘readier.’ You can also see in the finish that his bat plane is more level, if that might be slightly obscured by the particular placement of the ball in each case. It also looks like Brown is trying to keep both hands on the bat through the end of the swing.

In any case, it’s working. We’ve talked a lot, recently, about how important spring stats are. Carson Cistulli has attempted, with SCOUT, to focus on the more ‘controllable’ aspects of a small sample such as spring training. Jeff Sullivan tried to quantify how important spring results were to the participants. I pointed out how some pitchers are working on things, so results can be obscured by irregular spring processes. John Dewan once found that a 200-point difference between spring slugging percentage and career slugging percentage can be a harbinger of good times.

Domonic Brown is at the nexus of all of these aspects. He can control his swing, and has made some changes. But he can’t control how hard pitchers are trying, or what pitches they are using. So most likely his numbers are inflated by the rites of spring. And yet they are so impressive that they probably mean something. His .671 slugging percentage this spring is well beyond his .388 career slugging number.

Domonic Brown has made some changes! We might have to wait until the regular season to see how important they are.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


22 Responses to “Domonic Brown Has Made Some Changes”

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  1. DK says:

    The Eovaldi pitch was at the knees. Morrow’s was mid-thigh. Sometimes we see what we want to see to justify our conclusions. Brown should improve, most players at his age do, but be careful not to overpay on the spring hype.

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    • Evan says:

      The pitch is definitely higher in the second GIF, but Brown has made the adjustments that were mentioned. The article’s conclusion is “Brown has made some changes!” which is clearly being careful not to hype his Spring performance too much. It is reasonable to think he might be the best player in the Phillies outfield (it’s basically a two man race between Brown and Revere).

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    • E-Dub says:

      He said both pitchers were “reasonably low in the zone”. Since the top of the strike zone is the hitter’s armpit, his characterizaton is perfectly accurate. And since he’s talking about the swing plane and where Brown starts his hands, and not pitch location, you’re criticism is even less valid. But then, some of us are so attached to our own opinions (spring stats/changes in approach don’t matter) that we reject new evidence when it doesn’t mesh with our conclusions.

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  2. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    Maybe he, i.e. Domonic Brown, has changed from black chocolate to brown chocolate.
    That would fit rather perfectly since he is brown and is named Brown.

    I love me some chocolate…

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    • Cody says:

      Not sure why this is being down voted so much. It is exactly what I would expect a heavily intoxicated English man to say.

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  3. KM says:

    His stance has changed significantly too, as has the starting point of his hands and his grip on the bat. observe:

    http://i.imgur.com/xx3DLFV.png

    He is less upright, his hands and elbows are in a more “normal” (For lack of better word sprining to mind) position, and wrists are somewhat closer together. Result: he can cover more of the plate and generate more power.

    I’ve been a Brown skeptic for a long time, largely because of his funky stance/swing and poor defense. Both of these things seem to have improved markedly, and I’m in the process of revising my opinion. Very interested to see how this year plays out for him.

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  4. Dave S says:

    Hadn’t particularly noticed him keeping both hands on the bat throughout his swing this spring training. I’ll have to keep an eye on that.

    The finish of his new swing looks almost “Utley-esque” in that 2013 gif.

    I’m still not sold on his fielding, but I do think his bat has turned the corner. We shall see…

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  5. El Guapo says:

    But can he catch a fly ball?

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  6. swfcdan says:

    Single-handed to double-handed change? Sounds like E5 to me.

    As a late flyer im buying.

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  7. Robbie G. says:

    What’s the anticipated Phillies batting order? And anticipated platoons? Seems to me that a lot of things have to go right in order for this offense to not be terrible. A good year from Domonic Brown would be one of those things.

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    • Richard says:

      something like:

      Revere
      Rollins
      Utley
      Howard
      Brown
      M.Young
      Mayberry/Nix
      Ruiz/Kratz

      doesn’t look ‘terrible’ to me

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      • Robbie G. says:

        Revere = questionable leadoff hitter
        Rollins = age-related decline should be anticipated, right?
        Utley = at what point do we concede that a large number of missed games due to age-related injuries is inevitable?
        Howard = very steep decline in production over the last few years
        Brown = unproven
        Young = was terrible last season
        Mayberry/Nix = both were terrible last season
        Ruiz = isn’t he out for the first 50 games due to a suspension?

        Seems to me that a whole lot of things have to go right for this team. I hope I’m wrong!

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        • Tim says:

          Robbie,

          You aren’t wrong about injury risks, but these guys are far from “terrible”. They range from slightly above average to below average offensively in the categories below. You could do better, but you could do a lot worse. I hope you’re wrong too.

          ’12 MLB avg:.253/.317/.402, 16 HR, in 600 AB
          Mayberry: .245/.301/.395, 14 HR, in 441 AB
          M. Young: .277/.312/.370, 8 HR, in 611 AB
          D. Young: .267/.296/.411, 18 HR, in 574 AB
          L. Nix: .246/.315/.412, 3 HR, in 114 AB

          There is value in average.

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  8. TroutKingFisher says:

    Going back to the basics, leveling the swing plane, and attempting to hit to all fields is always a great solution. After reading the Votto article last week, I am convinced that every struggling hitter should do this.

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  9. tahititaco says:

    You can see the first is a HR swing, he extends the arms, dips the bat, and has a huge backswing. The second is a quick WHAP! on the ball. Rickie Weeks has a similar swing and he’s fast enough with his wrists that he can hit screaming line drive home runs. But mostly, this approach will get you a lot of contact, solid singles to the outfield, and a lot less fly balls.

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    • KM says:

      Except Brown has been hitting with more power than he has before… Utley also generates good power with a very similar swing.

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  10. Steve Carter says:

    Digging deeper, we can see a top hand at work. Something Brown has never had. My biggest hesitation with him has always been the wide arced-around the shoulders plane, one also devoid of any top hand. Whether it was a new focus on working the top hand or something as simple as using two hands, we don’t know, but the result is a more controlled and direct path. That is huge for his development. Hopefully they give him full PT this year, that’s the only way he can finalize his adjustments.

    The only way he can make more adjustments is regular PT against ML pitching. Can only learn so much against AAA pitching

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