Is Domonic Brown Having a Good Year or Not?

Is Domonic Brown Having a Good Year or Not?

Even if the Phils ended up a .500 team or worse this season, I think I could be pretty OK with that if I was convinced by year end that Domonic Brown was gonna be a really good player for years to come. Talking to my dad about Dom recently, he hit the nail on the head: "He's Evan Turner." True: Like perhaps no other Philly athlete of recent years besides the Extraterrestrial, Dom tantalizes with his seemingly boundless ability, showing flashes that assure you of his inevitable superstardom, but spacing them out over 1-9, 2-12, 3-15-type stretches at the plate, and mixing them up with fielding and base-running blunders that make you wonder to what degree he really gets it.

I want to believe in Dom. I take a game like last night, where he laced an RBI triple and hit another couple balls hard on the nose, and I want to take it as evidence that he's turning the corner. But then I look at his actual line for the evening: 1-4, no walks--and think that if that's a particularly good game for Domonic, that's maybe not such a good thing. I want to be patient, to say he's still young and learning, but at age 25 (and he'll be 26 by season's end), he's not really all that young anymore, and if he can't do it this year--his first with uninterrupted opportunity to prove himself in the Phils' outfield--it just might not happen for Dom, at least not in Philly.

However, as there often is with Evan, there's an argument to be made that he's improving this year, that he's actually doing pretty well, that there's reason for encouragement. Is there? Let's take at the cases for the pro, the con, and the confusing:

DOMONIC BROWN IS HAVING A GOOD YEAR:

  • Slugging. Dom is leading the team in homers with eight, already easily a career high, and on pace to at least approach the "30-homer potential" that so many have long cited him having. His slugging percentage of .442 is also an unchallenged career high, and ranks third on the team, just barely behind Ryan Howard's .444.
  • Staying in the lineup. Partly due to a lack of competition here, but Domonic's role as a starter in the outfield was never a certain thing going into this season, and it was previously thought that the return of Delmon Young could result in a diminished role for Dom. But he's played in all but one of the team's games this year, ranking fourth on the team in plate appearances. The job is Brown's to lose, which is the first time you could say that about our prodigious young outfielder.

DOMONIC BROWN IS NOT HAVING A GOOD YEAR:

  • Getting on base. Any criticism of Dom's play this year has to start with (and be mostly comprised of) this. His batting average certainly isn't great to begin with, a paltry .248, though remarkably, that still rates as the career high from Dom's three seasons in Philly. That's not really the problem--the problem is that he doesn't walk anymore. In fact, in the month of May, he's taken zero walks, after taking a decent-but-unremarkable nine in April. Dom's batting eye used to be one of his greatest assets as a hitter, but now, perhaps in the name of being More Aggressive at the plate, he's an even bigger OBP sinkhole (.290) than Ryan Howard (.297) or even Delmon Young (.304). It's a disturbing trend, to say the least.
  • Baserunning. He's not having a particularly miserable year here, but wasn't speed supposed to be an asset of our athletic young outfielder? He didn't even attempt a stolen base--partly because of lack of opportunities due to that miserable OBP, sure, but even still--until last week against the Reds, a solid quarter of the way into the season. FanGraphs, which originally rated his speed at 75/100 during his debut year with the Phils, now rates it at just 64, another disturbing trend for a player who hasn't even reached his supposed baseball prime age yet.

DOMONIC BROWN IS MAYBE HAVING A GOOD YEAR?

  • Fielding. Nobody's going to be confusing Brown with Jason Heyward in the field just yet, but by his own standards, Domonic's defense has been...better, anyway. FanGraphs still has his UZR as being a pretty subpar -5.5, but he ranks fifth in the NL in assists and fielding percentage from left field, and Baseball-Reference has him breaking even in runs saved per year (after posting a -23 and -16 in the last two seasons). Baby steps.
  • Righties/Lefties. Dom's got it a little backwards this year at the plate--despite being a left-handed hitter, he's done a disproportionately large chunk of his damage against lefties, batting like an All-Star (.293/.302/.585) against southpaws. But of course, that means that he's been fairly brutal against righties, where about 80% of his ABs come from, posting just a .248/.286/.395 against them. No idea what to make of that--Dom's career splits still have him being more effective against righties, so it probably won't continue, but it's hard to tell which of the two averages will regress to the mean first, and which will have a greater impact on his overall line when it does.

In the end, it's still hard to say with Dom. It's easy to get on him for his walk-less May--seriously, how the hell do you get 23 days into a month without a single free pass?--but that non-existent walk rate has come with the best hitting month of his career, with five dingers and a .515 slugging percentage, so maybe it's a worthwhile trade-off? Meanwhile, Baseball-Reference has him breaking into the positives with his WAR (0.4) for the first time in his career--though according to FanGraphs, he's still at a -0.2.

In the end, as with Evan Turner, it's probably still too early to tell with Domonic Brown. It's always too early to tell. We just have to keep watching and waiting, whether we like it or not.

Some impressive numbers for Joel Embiid's All-Star campaign

Some impressive numbers for Joel Embiid's All-Star campaign

Tonight, the All-Star starters will be announced on TNT. It is unlikely the East's starting five will include Joel Embiid -- he was only third among frontcourt fan voting at last check, and coaches and media will likely go with a safer choice (i.e. one that doesn't rank only eighth on his team in total minutes played) anyway. But I think we're officially at the point where it's absurd to think of JoJo possibly not getting considered at all, so before the reserves are announced a week from tonight, here's some numbers that tell the partial story of Embiid's dominance in his rookie season: 

107.1: The Sixers' overall defensive rating, tenth best in the NBA. 

99.3: The Sixers' defensive rating with Embiid on the court, first-best in the NBA. 

99.7: The Sixers' overall offensive rating, worst in the NBA. 

105.0: The Sixers' offensive rating with Embiid on the court, 15th best in the NBA. 

7.7: Embiid's block percentage, highest in the entire NBA. 

15.4: Embiid's assist percentage, third-highest on the Sixers (behind their two point guards).

10: Embiid's current streak of consecutive games with 20 points or more, longer than any Sixer since Iverson. 

7: Number of games where Embiid has shot more than ten free throws. 

4: Number of games last season where anyone on the Sixers shot more than ten more free throws. 

68: Embiid's (positive) plus-minus for the entire season. 

224: The Sixers' (negative) plus-minus for the entire season. 

42.5: Embiid's defensive FG% at the rim, highest for any center in the league. 

28.2: Embiid's scoring per 36 minutes, seventh best in the NBA. 

1: Number of other rookies who have ever scored at that rate before (Wilt Chamberlain). 

10: Number of wins the Sixers had all of last year. 

12: Number of wins, after last night's season-highlight win over the Raptors, that they have this year with Embiid in the lineup.

Eagles Stay or Go Part 4: Chase Daniel to Dillon Gordon

Eagles Stay or Go Part 4: Chase Daniel to Dillon Gordon

In the fourth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 4 is Daniel to Gordon.

Chase Daniel
Cap hit: $8M

Roob: Carson Wentz’s backup had a heck of a year — completed all his passes, passer rating of 118.7, averaged 16 yards per attempt. Project that over a full season and Chase Daniel is going to Canton. OK, so he threw only one pass. But that’s two straight years Daniel has been perfect. Last year, he was 2 for 2 for the Chiefs. Most importantly, Daniel has a $7 million base salary in 2017, and that makes him the 25th-highest paid quarterback in the NFL in 2017, and the sixth-highest paid Eagle. The numbers are ridiculous, but Daniel is clearly a good influence on Wentz, a valuable mentor. He’s a solid backup, but that contract is just way too lucrative. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I know fans don’t understand why Daniel is getting paid this much money to be a backup who doesn’t ever play, and at times I have trouble figuring it out myself.  But here’s the reason. When Wentz arrives to the facility during the season at 5:15 a.m. and starts watching film, he’s not watching with Doug Pederson or Frank Reich or John DeFilippo. He’s watching it with Daniel. So while it might not make sense to pay a backup quarterback this much money, don’t think of Daniel as a backup quarterback. Think of him as an asset to the franchise quarterback. Then it doesn’t sound quite as bad. 

Verdict: STAYS

Anthony Denham

Roob: The Eagles must like Denham because he had two stints on the practice squad this year and they re-signed him to a futures deal when the season was over. But barring an injury, there just isn’t room on the roster for another tight end.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Denham is a tight end who was on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2016. Maybe he’d have a shot to make the roster if the Eagles aren’t able to bring back Trey Burton, but I don’t see that happening. They’ll bring him to camp and let him compete and maybe get another year on the practice squad. 

Verdict: GOES

Jon Dorenbos
Cap hit: $1.08M

Roob: Assuming he’s healthy, Dorenbos isn’t going anywhere. Rick Lovato did a nice job filling in at the end of the season, but until Dorenbos decides he wants to pursue magic full-time, there’s a spot for him on this roster.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: During last year’s training camp, I watched Dorenbos walk along the sideline, shaking hands and kissing babies (not literally). Then I looked on the field and saw his “competition” snapping footballs repeatedly to a goal post. That’s when I realized Dorenbos wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And now he has a new contract. He’ll end up playing more games as an Eagle than anyone in the history of the franchise. 

Verdict: STAYS

Zach Ertz
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: Even though he had the second-most catches in the entire NFL over the last 10 weeks of the season, a large segment of Eagles fans have decided Ertz is to blame for everything that went wrong with the Eagles this year. Never mind that he got off to a good start on opening day, then suffered a very serious rib injury, then came back after missing just two games, then after getting healthy finished the season with 67 catches for 685 yards and four TDs in the last 10 games. Not the last one or two or three games. The last 10 games. With a full offseason and preseason with Wentz, I fully expect Ertz to finish 2017 well over 1,000 yards. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I don’t understand the Zach Ertz hate. He isn’t Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce. So what? He’s a really good tight end. Now, I understood why some people questioned the non-block play. I was one of them. But look at the numbers. Here’s a list of tight ends who had more receiving yards than Ertz in 2016: Kelce, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Kyle Rudolph. Not bad company. And some look at his production and say, well, it all came in December. Maybe there will be a year in which his late-season production finally helps the Eagles with a playoff push. And he just signed a new contract, so he’s here for a while. 

Verdict: STAYS

Najee Goode
Unrestricted free agent

Roob: Goode, an unrestricted free agent, is a capable special teamer and emergency backup linebacker, but he would earn $775,000 even on a minimum-wage deal in 2017, and considering the Eagles’ salary cap crunch, they may elect to replace him with a rookie late-round pick or undrafted guy who would earn about $300,000 less. Based on ability, he would stay. But those mid-career veterans with high minimum salaries who don’t play much on offense or defense can be tough to keep around.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: In each of the last two seasons, Goode has managed to be on the team after missing out on the original 53-man roster. Maybe that’s a possibility for this season, but first the Eagles need to re-sign him. It might be time to move on from Goode and find a younger linebacker/special teamer. 

Verdict: GOES

Dillon Gordon
Cap hit: $543M

Roob: Gordon is an intriguing prospect. Like Jason Peters, he was a college tight end who moved to offensive tackle soon after arriving in the NFL. He’s big and strong and athletic, he’s just very new at offensive tackle. The Eagles liked him enough to keep him on the active roster all last year, and I’m guessing they see him as enough of a prospect that they’ll keep him around for at least another year. Especially with so many question marks at offensive tackle.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Gordon was on the Eagles’ roster for the entire season and was inactive in all but one week. He was a college tight end who came to Philly and is learning how to play offensive tackle. (Peters once made the same transition.) Gordon is crazy athletic for his size and the Eagles thought enough of him to put him on the active roster instead of risking losing him by placing him on the practice squad. He’s a project, but one worth keeping. 

Verdict: STAYS