Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
What can Brown do for you?
A lot of things, actually.
For Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown, the full arsenal was on display Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
You got it. Brown bashed two of them in the win over Boston.
What about stolen bases?
Yeah, he does that too. Brown's theft in the second inning was his third of the season.
But is he clutch?
Well, let's see. Brown's second home run of the night, an eighth inning blast off of Koji Uehara, was the winning run.
And circle gets the square.
Everything looks easy for Brown right now but it wasn't always like that.
Like most 20-somethings working their way up to the major leagues, Brown has done plenty of traveling. From 2010 to 2012, Brown must have made the 90- minute trek from Allentown (home of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs) to Philadelphia at least a dozen times. You almost wonder if he spent more time on route 476 than he did on the diamond.
But on July 31st of last year, the front office made a bold decision. In a span of only a couple hours, Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence were both traded, making Brown the center piece of the Phillies' outfield.
Suddenly, the trips back and forth between Philly and Allentown stopped happening. Whether Phillies fans liked it or not, Brown was here to stay.
Even with high heels and a ladder, the 6-foot-5 Brown couldn't stand up to these skyscraper-tall expectations.
The pressure was enormous and you could see the added burden was having an effect on Brown's numbers. He finished the 2012 campaign with just five homers and a disappointing .235 batting average.
Philly sports fans aren't a patient bunch. When they don't see results right away, you're going to hear about it.
Some said Brown, who passed on a football scholarship to play baseball, picked the wrong sport. Others said he belonged in Triple-A.
Good thing he stuck with baseball.
Brown (13 HR in 53 games) is on pace to smash 39 homers this season. Victorino (career-high of 18 homers) and Pence (25 HR) have never come close to those kind of numbers.
Over the past two weeks, Brown has been downright unstoppable. In his last nine games, Brown has launched six homers with 12 RBI, producing 12 hits in 35 at bats (.343 AVG). Since May 15th, only Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera and Adam LaRoche have crushed more homers than the Phillies left fielder.
Finding the root of Brown's sudden success wasn't easy.
Brown's strikeout rate is so similar to the one he posted last season (and the year before that) that I thought I must have made a mistake. Take a look.
2011: 35 K's in 184 AB
2012: 34 K's in 187 AB
2013: 35 K's in 187 AB
How mysterious. Brown's ground ball/fly ball numbers didn't add up either. The higher ground ball rate (0.91 in 2013 compared to 0.82 ground balls to fly balls in 2012) would explain the increase in batting average (.235 to .262) but not the enormous leap in home runs (one homer every 14.4 AB this season versus one every 37.4 in 2012).
That was before I stumbled upon another puzzling stat. Brown has walked only nine times in 2013 compared to 21 last year and 25 the year before that in roughly the same number of at bats.
Finally, it all started to make sense. Brown might actually have been a little too patient last year when he averaged 3.89 pitches per plate appearance (and a whopping 4.09 in 2011). Now Brown is seeing the pitch he wants and he's jumping on it. His average at bat this season has lasted only 3.77 pitches.
Brown's aggressive nature at the plate has been supplemented by an improved approach against lefties. The lefthanded Brown entered the year with a .214 lifetime clip versus lefthanders. In 2013, however, he's actually hitting better against southpaws (.310) than he is against righties (.248).
2013 was supposed to be make-or-break for Brown. Now the only question left is whether he'll make the All-Star team.
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