Results tagged ‘ Domonic Brown ’
There has been plenty of focus in the past 24 hours on the Phillies’ pitching staff (and pitching coach), but I maintain the biggest reason for this team’s losing is its struggling offense. They are averaging 3.7 runs per game, which is 11th in the National League and 23rd in baseball.
But a couple key bats have started to show a pulse, which could get the offense moving. Domonic Brown and Ryan Howard have homered in consecutive games. Brown is hitting .382 (13-for-34) with two doubles, three home runs and eight RBIs in his last nine games. Howard has four homers and 12 RBIs in his last nine. He also is hitting .348 (16-for-46) with five doubles, four home runs, 13 RBIs and a 1.090 OPS in his last 13. It goes without saying the offense stands a much better chance if these guys start producing on a consistent basis.
(Ah, for the days when fans complained the Phillies relied too much on home runs. They sure seem to like them now.)
The offense needs to continue to build this weekend against the Marlins. Yes, the Marlins are terrible, but the Phillies need some positive vibes before they fly to San Francisco on Sunday evening to open a seven-game road trip in San Francisco and Arizona. The Giants are 17-12, and tied for first in the National League West. The Diamondbacks are 15-14. Things won’t be easy out there. If the Phillies move to .500 with a sweep of the Marlins or split the remaining two games to head West 15-17, it would be another bad sign if they limped back from the trip 2-5 or worse. At some point this team, if it’s as good as it thinks it is, needs to go on a run. And that won’t happen if they aren’t hitting.
He does not believe it is serious.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Brown, who dove for a ball in the first inning in an 11-2 loss to the Reds. “We’re going to get an MRI and see exactly what’s going on. I don’t think it’s anything major at all.”
But Brown added, “I felt some pain immediately. Once I took a couple of swings, I really felt it.”
He left the game in the fourth inning.
The Phillies returned home last night, and most things in camp went well except for Roy Halladay. I don’t include Darin Ruf here because I think people in the organization hoped Ruf would fare well in the outfield, although they did not necessarily expect it. And starting him in Triple-A isn’t the worst thing in the world, nor is it a crushing blow to the team’s chances. But Halladay’s importance is obvious, and the fact he had so many issues and struggles leaves one enormous question mark on the mound.
I said a couple weeks ago I thought the Phillies would jump at the opportunity if somebody told them Halladay would finish 14-10 with a 3.80 ERA in 30-32 starts this season.
I believe that even more today.
I’ve never seen a premiere pitcher struggle like this in the spring. I mean, I’ve certainly seen great pitchers struggle in spring training before, but it never looked like this. He labored, he struggled to command his pitches, he lacked velocity, he didn’t have a feel for his cutter, which has been a money pitch for him. But if you’re an optimist, then you believe each of Halladay’s explanations for his struggles following his last five starts. He mentioned “dead arm” March 6, when his velocity dipped for the first time. He said he felt lethargic March 12, when the Tigers battered him in 2 2/3 innings. An extra bullpen session in between starts, plus the rigors of a more intense workout program, sapped his energy, he said. He promised he would pull back before his next start and there would be improvements. But he suffered from a stomach virus March 17, and lasted just one inning against the Orioles. Then last Saturday in a minor league game against Toronto’s Triple-A hitters, Halladay allowed 11 of 18 base runners to reach base. He blamed a “mushy mound” for his lack of velocity and said throwing more hard stuff against minor league hitters hurt him. Then yesterday he allowed two runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays with Toronto picking up three of those outs on the bases. He said he found it difficult to grip the baseball because the balls were not rubbed up with mud properly before the game. The Phillies also said he is still trying to recover his strength following his sickness.
Again, each of these explanations are completely plausible, but coming off last season’s struggles it would unwise to take them at face value.
If the over/under on Halladay’s ERA this season is 4.19 (average ERA for starters last year) I’d have to take the over.
Conversely, Domonic Brown has been Halladay’s polar opposite. He has looked incredible this spring. I wrote earlier how Brown’ spring training numbers could indicate a successful 2013. John Dewan said players that show a 200-point increase in their spring training slugging percentage from their career slugging percentage have performed significantly above their career marks in the upcoming season 60 percent of the time. Brown finished the spring with a .675 slugging percentage compared to a .388 career slugging percentage. That is a .287 difference, which puts him in that group. Like I wrote in my story, eight of the 12 Phillies previously on Dewan’s list ended up surpassing their career slugging percentages during the regular season. Of the four players that fell short, two were not everyday players (Eric Bruntlett in 2009 and Pete Orr in ’11) and one got injured midway through the season (Jim Thome in ’05). Maybe Brown will make Dewan 9 for 13.
If the over/under on Brown’s slugging percentage is .428 (average slugging percentage for outfielders last season), I’m taking the over.
Ryan Howard also had a great spring, compiling a .663 slugging percentage, but his career slugging percentage is .551 so he fell .088 short of Dewan’s mark. But Howard’s slugging percentage the previous two seasons is just .468, so maybe he is in line for a bounce back season, too.
Opening Day is three days away.
Predictions for Halladay, Brown and Howard?
There have many storylines in camp, but as Spring Training in Florida comes to a close everybody seems to be talking about five things.
Let’s take a look at those five topics here:
Roy Halladay. There is reason to be concerned about Halladay. He looked fine in his first two Grapefruit League starts, throwing his fastball in the 89-91 mph range. But his velocity has dropped since then as he has had issues in each of his previous three starts. In his third Grapefruit League start his velocity fell into the 86-88 mph range as he talked about experiencing “dead arm.” He got shelled in 2 2/3 innings in his fourth start March 12, saying he felt lethargic. Then he lasted just one inning in his fifth start Sunday because of a stomach virus. Everybody is asking if Halladay is healthy. It is a fair and legitimate question to ask because Halladay and others in the organization said he was fine last March when he was experiencing lower back problems. But while the health question is justifiable, one also might ask this: Is Halladay simply running out of bullets? He turns 36 on May 14. He has pitched 2,351 1/3 innings from 2002-12, which ranks third in baseball. He has thrown 34,423 pitches in the regular season and postseason in that span, not including Spring Training games, bullpen sessions and warm ups. Maybe time is catching up to him, although he said in February he does not think he is there yet. It is a grim reality if it is true. Meanwhile, the Phillies are putting a positive spin on things, saying Halladay’s problems simply stem from a few mechanical issues and some problems with his cutter. They say all is well. They certainly hope they are right because it would be a blow to their chances if it is not. Halladay threw a bullpen session Wednesday and Rich Dubee said through a team spokesman, “Roy threw very well. He almost lost 10 pounds, so he’s just got to gain some weight back and get his strength.” Halladay is scheduled to make two more starts this spring before the regular season, including Saturday in a Minor League game at Carpenter Complex. It is strange to be writing this, but while in the past nobody would think twice about a couple poor Spring Training starts from Halladay, some positive results here would put some minds at ease. And not just the minds of fans. Phillies officials are putting up a brave face, but they would like to see some, too.
Domonic Brown gets his hand stepped on and still hits.
He went 2-for-3 today in a 3-2 loss to the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. He singled sharply to left field in the first inning. But once he got to first, Rays first baseman James Loney stepped on Brown’s right hand as he dove back to first base.
It left a mark, but he stayed in the game after getting the hand treated. He singled to left in the third.
“It’s all good,” Brown said.
Brown is hitting .424 this spring. Charlie Manuel once again called Brown the biggest bright spot in Phillies camp.
That’s great, but does it really mean anything?
“It’s good for someone who we think needs to show us something,” Charlie Manuel said following today’s 10-6 loss to the Twins at Bright House Field. “That’s definitely good. But at the same time, when the season starts we’re talking about two different seasons. But it is very encouraging when you see somebody swinging the bat like Brown. I’ve seen some real big improvement out of him.”
But keep an eye on Howard, Brown and other Phillies hitters through the end of spring.
Particularly, pay attention to their slugging percentages.
Baseball statistician and author John Dewan found that players who beat their career slugging percentage by more than 200 points in Spring Training have more than a 60 percent chance at beating their career slugging percentage during the regular season (minimum 200 regular season at-bats and 40 Spring Training at-bats).
It is not a fail-proof predictor obviously, but it is something interesting to watch before the Phillies open the regular season April 1 in Atlanta. Consider for a moment that since Dewan started writing about his Spring Training predictor in 2005, eight of the 12 Phillies on his list ended up surpassing their career slugging percentages during the regular season. And of the four players that fell short, two were not everyday players (Eric Bruntlett in 2009 and Pete Orr in 2011) and one got injured midway through the season (Jim Thome in 2005).
Delmon Young took the redeye from Los Angeles to Tampa last night, and showed up in the Phillies clubhouse early this morning at Bright House Field. He came straight from the airport to the clubhouse after sleeping on the plane.
He took batting practice with his teammates a short time later.
“That was the first time I had someone throwing to me since the last World Series game,” he said.
That must have been nice, right?
“It’s batting practice,” he said. “I really don’t care too much to hit on the field.”
But Young got good news in Los Angeles, where the doctor that performed the microfracture surgery on his right ankle in November told him that he can progress his rehab. That includes full-weight bearing on the treadmill, participating in batting practice and standing in the right field to get acclimated to fly balls. That does not include shagging or making lateral movements, although that could come in the next week or so.
He didn’t get the fuss as he answered a few questions about his rehab and trip to L.A. in front of his locker today.
“You guys trying to write a soap opera here or something?” he said.
Roy Halladay pitches for the Phillies. They were encouraged with what they saw from him in Sunday’s start against Detroit, but it was just one start in February. You can’t draw any conclusions from anything you’ve seen so far in camp. Of course, the players that are playing well say it’s great to get results and those results mean something to them. The players that aren’t getting results? Well, they’re just getting their work in.
I took a look yesterday at the outfielders competing for jobs and playing time. Domonic Brown clearly has taken a step forward, but there is time for the others to state their case. Interestingly, Charlie Manuel pulled John Mayberry Jr. to the side during batting practice before their 10-5 victory over Atlanta and had an animated conversation with him about just that. Delmon Young also talked about his trip to the doctor in Tuesday in LA. He’s optimistic he will get good news, which will allow him to step up his rehab.
Domonic Brown assessed the first 492 plate appearances of his Phillies career this way today at Bright House Field:
“That stuff I’ve been doing in the big leagues — that’s not acceptable in my eyes.”
That stuff he has been doing in the team’s first four Grapefruit League games? That could earn him a starting job in the Phillies outfield. He crushed a solo home run over the batter’s eye in center field in the seventh inning in today’s 4-3 victory over the Yankees at Bright House Field. Brown is hitting .429 (3-for-7) with two home runs, two RBIs and one strikeout this spring.
Brown said he has added 10 pounds of muscle, which might be why he is showing a little more power at the plate.
“Eating better,” he said. “I’m getting better checks so I can eat better. It feels good to be healthy again. … Lot of core and legs this winter because of the knee injury. I think I’m stronger down there and that might be why I have a pretty good base.”
Brown is going to get every opportunity to win a job this spring, especially with Delmon Young expected to open the season on the disabled list. He has taken advantage of the opportunity to this point.
“What you see is what he can do,” Charlie Manuel said. “His swing is more fluid and compact. It’s more explosive.”
And Manuel thinks if Brown can just find that consistency he has lacked in the big leagues, he could fulfill the potential that made him an untradeable prospect in the past.
He thinks he could become a game changer in the Phillies lineup.
“He’s that kind of guy,” he said. “Yeah, he is. Without a doubt. When you see him hit balls like that in the last three or four days. He’s swung the bat good. When I see him rip balls to right field, balls inside, it shows he’s strong. He’s got quick hands. He’s getting through the ball.”
Said Brown: “I’m just keeping it simple. Just going up there and making sure my approach is good. I’m seeing the ball well and trying to swing at strikes. I wouldn’t say I’ve changed approach, just fine tuning. That’s it. … I making sure I’m going out there and working hard and not putting pressure on myself and having fun and doing it because I want to do it like Chuck always says. I’m out there because I want to do it, not because they’re forcing me to do it.”
On new third baseman Michael Young. “Golly, I was talking to (Phillies president) David Montgomery about him 10 minutes ago. What a lot of people don’t realize and I haven’t heard it, Michael Young could retire tomorrow and he would be a strong candidate for the Hall of Fame. He’s probably two Michael Young years away from being a first ballot Hall of Famer. I don’t know if anybody has thought about that. I don’t know what his career hitting numbers are, but he’s a little like Derek Jeter, is he not? He’s that kind of player and he’s had that kind of career. Obviously it’s not playing in New York, but if he played in New York, imagine what people would be saying about Michael Young’s career? Somebody would have mentioned the Hall of Fame a long time ago.”
On connecting with Ryan Howard early in camp. “I’ve got to tell you right out of the chute, Ryan Howard to me is very interested in my input in his hitting. To me that makes me really feel good. We’ve chatted over the years about hitting. I’ve always been a Ryan Howard fan, but he’s picking my brain a little bit more. He looks good. He’s thin. He’s doing some of the things we talk about. It’s not going in one ear and out the other. He’s taking it all in. I’m only in my second day here and I’m really excited. I feel like I’ve made more strides in my temporary coaching role than I ever had to this point. Of course we’ll see in a couple weeks how it all works out as they get game at-bats.”
On how he can help Howard the most. “He’s stuck in a game situation against the best pitcher, one of the best left-handers in the league, probably 60-70 times more than other any hitter in the league. He probably creates 20 jobs in the Major Leagues. There’s 20 left-handers that wouldn’t be in the Major Leagues if Ryan Howard weren’t in the major leagues, right? I guess what we’re kind of working on is a mindset that may allow him to become a little stronger in those at-bats. A little more contact. He’s still going to strikeout. I’m in the top 10 all time in strikeouts so I’m pretty comfortable with striking out. But I think he needs to and we were talking about ways where we might get him to be a little less strikeout prone in those kind of (Jonny) Venters at-bats, against Atlanta late in the game, when you get that nasty left-hander to get him out. We need contact in this at-bat. I don’t care if it’s a grounder to second or a chopper up the middle. Even if it’s on the first pitch or second pitch. Less foul balls and two-strike vulnerability in those at-bats. He has bought into the discussion 100 percent.”
On Darin Ruf. “At this point I’m a big fan. I chatted with him really quickly, told him, ‘Congratulations on your great start with the Phillies in the Major Leagues.’ I think he opened a lot of eyes when he came up. I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I would guess they want him to play … I just like him. He’s a great young kid. He has no fear as a hitter against tough right-handers. You see that sometimes. He can give you a hell of an at-bat against a nasty right-handed pitcher. He’s very mature for 26. I wouldn’t discount him being your Opening Day starter (in left field). Let’s wait and see. He has everything you need to win that job.”
On Domonic Brown. “From a hitting standpoint, even now he might be ahead of where I was at that time, a little better idea of hitting. I couldn’t hit a ball to the opposite field to save my butt back then. I couldn’t hit a curve ball, I couldn’t hit a slider. But I sure could hit a long home run down the left-field line and play third base. I was afforded the time to make adjustments and sort of become an everyday, consistent Major League hitter. He doesn’t have that luxury. He has Darin Ruf hounding him … he’s got like six guys who want his position. For him to get that guarantee of, ‘You’re our left fielder, you’re getting 500 at-bats’ is very, very hard. … It’s about time that Domonic does the things that everyone thinks he can do. And not do them over a day, but does them over a month, then two months. And that’s when he gets his name inserted in the lineup every day.”