Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Domonic Brown is Where He Belongs

I read a post on Twitter earlier today where a writer who regularly covers issues surrounding the Phillies lamented on why so many people "hate" Domonic Brown.
You can certainly count me among numerous folks who have lamented Dom Brown's play on the field. 
I think that I understand the feelings of those folks, and I wouldn't call it "hate" of Brown. Instead, what I truly believe is being expressed is frustration, even exasperation.
The feelings being expressed are also, I believe, not really directed towards Brown at their very heart. 
Sure, he receives the "boo" from the stands, and perhaps some misguided social media posters are directing their frustration at him directly. But most of the actual frustration is felt towards the organization.
You and me, we're hack talent evaluators. We certainly have a valid viewpoint, and some of us even have a much more educated viewpoint than others. That comes from decades of playing the game, watching it, following it closely. 
But we're not professionals. For the most part, we haven't "studied the film", hung in the locker rooms, had talks with the players.
So we justly get exasperated when those allegedly professional talent evaluators in a multi-billion dollar business get something so obviously wrong as the evaluation of talent on a player such as Dom Brown.
Brown began this season injured. He left a Grapefruit League game back on March 19th with what was described as an Achilles tendon injury, one that had apparently been bothering him since early March
After resting and then beginning the season on a rehab assignment with both Clearwater and Lehigh Valley, Brown was activated today by the Phillies from the DL. He was immediately optioned back to the IronPigs.
It's my position now, has been for some time, that playing in the minor leagues at AAA is exactly where Domonic Brown belongs.
He is not an everyday major league caliber player, and any Phillies talent evaluator who tries to sell the fan base on such an idea is doing the entire fan base a disservice. 
Either such an evaluator is simply bad at his job, or they are outright misleading the fans. Either way, they are a part of the problem, and should be released from their position.
Baseball is one game where, over time, the numbers don't lie. They will reveal you to be a Hall of Famer, a good ballplayer, a mediocre role player, a minor leaguer, or someone who shouldn't even be wearing a professional uniform. 
Brown's numbers are bad. Not "out of baseball" bad, but definitely "career minor leaguer" available only in emergencies bad.
Brown is no longer an up-and-coming prospect. He is 27 years old now, beginning what are traditionally considered a baseball players "prime" seasons. So that is one thing he would appear to have going for him - a prime age.
What Brown also has, unfortunately, is a track record - and it ain't good. 
Brown has played in parts of a half-dozen MLB seasons in red pinstripes. He has appeared in 430 games, and strode to the plate 1,544 times. In that time he has fashioned a career .248/.308/.412 slash line.
We have often been sold on Brown being a potential power source. But the facts are that he has 49 homers and 240 rbi in his career. 
That comes out to an average of roughly 15-16 homers and 65 or so RBI over a full 162-game season. That is AAA starting caliber production.
Brown doesn't bring speed to the game. Despite some still lauding his "athleticism", he has just 20 career stolen bases, and has scored just 169 runs.
So his per-162 averages are roughly seven steals and 60 or so runs scored. That is again a AAA starting caliber level of production.
Another area of the game that could make Brown valuable is his defense. Unfortunately, he is awful defensively. 
Whether in right or left field, Brown has frequently made bad reads on balls in the air, and used bad judgment in making plays overall. Way too many overall errors of commission and omission. He does possess a strong arm, but that's about it.
Defenders of Brown frequently will hit you with arguments such as "he had that big All-Star year a couple of years ago, that's what he is capable of, maybe he can get back to that." 
Unfortunately, those people focus too much on the back of his baseball card, and have failed to read the fine print.
Dom Brown did not have a great season in 2013. What Brown did have was a great month in May of 2013. 
That month, he was the NL Player of the Month. From May 1st until the All-Star break (July 14th), Brown hit .286 and bashed 20 homers with 56 rbi. It was a red hot stretch of 2+ months, and no one could argue otherwise.
But it was not a great "season" at all. After that All-Star Game appearance, Brown had just four homers and 16 rbi the rest of the way. 
He hit the last homer on August 14th, and had no more long balls at all over the season's final month and a half.
The facts show that what Dom Brown has done in his six MLB seasons is get hot for a couple of months in the first half of 2013. That's it. Otherwise, he has been mediocre at best, and downright awful at worst.
In his minor league career, Brown has hit .294 with 291 homers in 2,341 plate appearances. He has been a mostly productive player, though much of even that production was between the 2008-10 seasons.
The Phillies were wrong about Dom Brown. He is not an everyday player. He will not be a part of their future. He will not bring back much value in trade. 
Thankfully, they also have never paid him very much salary. That would only have made things worse. But as it is, they have no commitment to him longterm.
That is how it should be. Dom Brown is at AAA now, where he belongs. The talent level of these 2015 Phillies at the major league level is certainly not the best. 
But the fact is that the players starting here now: Ben RevereOdubel HerreraJeff Francoeur, and even backups like Darin Ruf and Grady Sizemore, are better all-around options.
Odds are that we will see Brown back in Philly at some point this spring or summer in a Phillies uniform. But my bet would be that we will not be seeing him for too many more seasons in one. 
This isn't "hate" of Brown - it's simply an acknowledgment of the facts. That is something a truth to which some writers and fans have not yet resigned themselves.

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