Domonic Brown’s New Approach – Phillies Nation

Domonic Brown’s New Approach

Domonic Brown may be walking less, but he’s hitting the cover off the ball. Photo: AP

This past offseason, Ruben Amaro drew quite a bit of criticism when he told reporters that he didn’t value walks very much. The quote, taken from Phillies beat writer Matt Gelb, went like this:

“I don’t care about walks. I care about production. To be frank with you, I’ve said this all along. All of the sabermatricians and all of the people who think they know exactly what makes a good club… to me, it’s more about run production and being able to score runs and drive in runs.”

If you’re anything like me, you had a good laugh after reading that one (laughter to keep from crying). After that laughter subsided, though, I was left wondering how Amaro could say he doesn’t care about walks and then go on to say winning is about driving in runs, something that is made possible from teams getting baserunners, which sometimes come from–you guessed it!–guys getting walked. Logically, Amaro’s statement just didn’t add up.

By now, you’re probably beginning to wonder what exactly this has to do with Domonic Brown. So, I’ll get there: Amaro’s quote above was particularly alarming for Brown supporters like myself. This is because, as Brown has struggled the last few seasons to catch on full-time, many of his believers (again, me) would point to his excellent plate discipline and ability to draw walks as a reason for optimism when there was little else to be encouraged by.

Finally, it seems Brown is beginning to “get it.” His success over the last few weeks has been widely reported, and with good cause. Check out his numbers since April 24: In 79 plate appearances, he’s hitting .286 with an .811 OPS, 5 home runs, 3 doubles, 9 runs, 13 RBI and 17 strikeouts.

Compared to his first 20 games, in which he hit .206 with a .623 OPS, 2 home runs, 1 double, 6 runs, 6 RBI and 13 strikeouts over 72 PAs, Brown’s recent stretch has been a revelation.

You’ll notice that there is one statistic conspicuously missing from Brown’s lines above. That is the number of walks he’s had. One would assume that because he’s been hitting better, Brown has been walking more since April 24. That is far from the case. From the beginning of the season through April 23, Brown walked eight times, with two intentional walks and one hit by pitch for a grand total of 11 walks of some form. Since April 24, he’s walked one time, period. No IBBs, HBPs.

As much as I don’t like to admit it, because I still think walking is a very valuable tool (you only need to check the Phillies walk rates since 2007 and how their decline has coincided with a steep decline in offense to see how important patience is at the plate), but maybe this is what Amaro meant when he said he doesn’t care about walks.

Brown’s success seems to be more approach-based than anything else.

It’s not as though Brown is expanding the strike zone more often (his current 32.8% swings at pitches outside of the strike zone rate is only 2.8 percentage points higher than his career average of 30.0%). Instead, he is recognizing hittable pitches when he gets them, and he’s not missing them. Some might say he’s going up there looking for a hit instead of waiting out a walk, something he seemed to be in the habit of doing in his younger days. He’s being more productive.

And while I still think patience is something every lineup needs to exhibit, I’ll take a lineup full of guys who OPS over .800 if it means they walk only once every 20 games or so, the way Brown has done since April 24.

Still, with an OBP of just .291 in his last 20 games, imagine where Brown’s OPS would be if he got back to walking the way he knows how. If he can get there, then we may finally see the special player we all expected Brown to be three years ago.




  1. Manny

    May 17, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Man, re-reading that RAJ quote really gives me no hope about the future of this ballclub. The guy doesn’t get it… Ugh.

    That being said, I’m extremely happy with Brown and I’m glad he’s doing great things already. Thankfully, Charlie hasn’t been platooning him with Delmon Young as we initially expected.

    • Manny

      May 17, 2013 at 10:02 am

      *near-term future (while he’s the GM).

    • Phillies fan from Germany

      May 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      The quote still makes me cringe. It is so full of stupidity and ignorance, unbelievable. For me it’s inexplicable that you let someone like that run a mulit million dollar business.

  2. Alex Lee

    May 17, 2013 at 10:16 am


    • Alex Lee

      May 17, 2013 at 10:22 am

      Whoops accidentally pressed submit.

      Nice post Ryan. I will happily take the production from Brown in lieu of the walks, because like you said at the end of the day, the hope is that he reverts to his patient ways once he is fully comfortable with major league pitching. The fact that he has now shown he can do both at separate time bodes well for the chances he will do both simultaneously in the near future.

      I tweeted this the other day, which is pretty revealing:
      It looks like he is still being pretty patient against right handers, but against lefties he is up there hacking at anything he deems hittable… and it has worked. I haven’t crunched the #s, but those two vastly different approaches may be the biggest contributor to what you’re examining.

      • Lefty

        May 17, 2013 at 11:29 am

        His ability to continue to hit left handed pitching is so important to this lineup.

      • Ryan Dinger

        May 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm

        That definitely would explain the discrepancy. Maybe Brown’s struggles against lefties earlier in his career have caused him to take on the new approach, attacking hittable balls when he gets them because he’s aware of the possibility that he may not see another pitch in the at bat.

  3. Don M

    May 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    OFF-TOPIC … but wanted to post it here to keep the thread going to see other’s reactions . . .

    As there has been in recent weeks, there was an article somewhere today questioning if the Phillies should trade Chase Utley … obviously the overall view is that we need to wait to see A) where we are at the deadline. and B) what type of a return you could get for Utley.

    the thing that boggles my mind though is the number of Phillies “fans” that take this firm stance against trading Utley EVER. … “Utley is the only one that hustles, trade Rollins instead.” ….”Utley is the only reason I watch the Phillies.” …. “Utley should be a Phillie for life… he is to the Phillies what Jeter is to the Yankees.” ( <—- Pretty sure Jeter won more than 1 WS, but anyway, I get the point)

    I just can't imagine that there are that many Phillies fans that don't see why trading Utley would potentially be a good move for the franchise. If you can get some decent value for hiim, wouldn't it be smart to move him? Or is the fact that he won a WS here, and hustles a lot, worth it to keep him around? ….I really don't understand my fellow fans sometimes.

    • Ryan Dinger

      May 17, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      Don, not only is Utley my favorite current position player on the team, he may be my favorite Phillie of all time. Like most, I love the way he approaches the game and his apparent sixth sense on the baseball field. Having said all of that, if the Phils are out of it in July, he’s one of the first players I dangle out there as trade bait. Because this is the last year of his deal with no guarantee of his return, and because he has been playing very well this season, it would make sense to at least see what you can get. Utley may net them more than any other tradeable player not named Cliff Lee. Another year of mediocrity with this aging group, and it’d be obvious to me that the team at the very least has some retooling to do. Utley gets dangled first because of his contract and his performance this year.

      • Rudy Canoza

        May 17, 2013 at 2:25 pm

        If Utley is healthy and producing at the deadline he’s definitely their most valuable trade chip. I still compare the scenario to the Mets trading Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler a couple of years ago. If they catch a contending team under the right circumstances, they definitely have a chance of bringing back a blue chip prospect.

    • schmenkman

      May 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      I love the way he plays the game, he’ll always be remembered as part of the WFC team, and he was arguably the 2nd best player in baseball over the last decade.

      But what is pertinent today is that he’s still a very good player and one of the best at his position. It’s possible the Phillies could get enough value for a 2-month rental of Utley, and if so they would need to seriously consider it.

      • Don M

        May 17, 2013 at 2:31 pm

        Thanks ya’ll . . . . I wanted to make sure I wasn’t crazy. Comments on and 94.1 WIP’s twitters make it seem like anyone that would consider trading Utley is crazy, because Utley plays hard …

  4. Don M

    May 17, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    For years, we’ve heard that Brown has the tools to be the eventual #3 hitter in this lineup …. I think we might see him get that chance at some point in the near future. He’s still a young guy, and still developing… can’t wait to see him in his prime!

  5. Lefty

    May 17, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Did the Phils bring up Rosenberg and send Valdes Down?? I just heard it unconfirmed, can anyone verify it?

    • Ryan Dinger

      May 17, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      They sure did, Lefty.

      • Lefty

        May 17, 2013 at 3:42 pm

        Thanks Ryan, I see Ian’s new posting now.

  6. George

    May 17, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    All I can say is that Brown’s performance lately may very well be due to patience. Patience isn’t just about waitiing for a walk, it’s about waiting to get a pitch you can drive.

    Sure, if the pitcher can’t hit the corners, you can take walks to beat him, but walks, to me, should still be a by-product, and not the ultimate goal of a hitter.

    • schmenkman

      May 17, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      I disagree about walks being just a by-product (in most situations), but do agree that he is still being patient. His pitches per PA is essentially the same in the two periods:

      3.94 through 4/23
      3.87 since 4/24

      • George

        May 17, 2013 at 11:42 pm

        I think you misinterpreted my comment. Last time I looked, hitting was still the ultimate goal of the hitter, which makes walks a byproduct of not getting something one can hit. If walks were the ultimate goal, then a hit would be the byproduct of trying to prolong the count.

        Certainly, it’s good to make a pitcher work, IF YOU CAN. It takes a ton of skill–more skill than most fans realize–to deliberately foul a pitch to prolong a count, probably even more than to hit it in a forward trajectory. A lot of hitters will never have that specific skill, but can, perhaps hit a weak grounder that advances a runner when that hitter knows the guy on the mound has great command and he won’t get another chance.

        There are many ways to be productive; I think Brown’s current stats show it doesn’t have to be based on walks.

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