One year later: Do we know if Domonic Brown's good or not yet?

One year later: Do we know if Domonic Brown's good or not yet?

One year ago today, in the midst of what was then a very confusing season for the 25-year-old outfielder, I asked the fateful question: "Is Domonic Brown Having a Good Year or Not?"

Most of the article's commenters seemed to think that he was, at least for a young player in his first season as a full-timer, and Dom would go on to validate those believers by hitting 11 homers in his next 16 games, one of the hottest hitting tears in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies. He won Player of the Month in the NL for May, made the All-Star team in July, and held the NL's home run crown for a short while, looking for all the world like he was becoming the star for the Phillies he had once been projected as.

But Domonic's post-All-Star break numbers were but a pale shadow of his first few months, as he hit his 27th homer of the season on August 14th and failed to go yard again a single time after that. In fact he had just three extra-base hits of any kind in his final 31 games of the season, a worrisome power outage that saw his slugging percentage drop over 40 points. Some wondered if maybe playing a full season for the first time was taking its toll on Dom, if maybe he had just hit the rookie wall a couple years late.

But now we're over a quarter way through the 2014 season, and the power is still out with Domonic Brown. Through 44 games, he has a total of ten extra-base hits, good for a slugging percentage of .317--second-lowest among the team's regulars, behind Ben Revere's historically (and predictably) anemic .294. Going back to last season, he now has just 25 extra-base hits in his last 100 games. (For contrast, Chase Utley has 25 XBHs in just 41 games so far this season.)

This would maybe be forgivable if Dom was contributing in other facets of the game, but power hitting is really just about all he has to recommend him as a player. He doesn't hit for average (a team-low .211 BA), he doesn't walk a ton (12 BBs so far, tied for fifth on the team), and he's lead-footed in left field. He rates as a negative on both sides of the ball, and his -0.7 WAR total on Baseball-Reference feels generous, if anything.

What's going on with Dom at the plate? Well, a Philly.com article from late April suggests that pitchers caught up to his weaknesses a little bit, pitching more low-and-away, occasionally on the inside, and rarely down the heart of the plate, where he did the majority of his damage during his hot streak last season. Dom also believes that he's streaky by nature, and GM Ruben Amaro suggests that he's been a little unlucky with some of his outs, as might be suggested by his rather low batting average on balls in play (.240).

But bad luck and needing to make adjustments only works as an excuse for so long. With over half a season's worth of evidence of slumping between the end of last year and the beginning of this year, it's pretty hard not to wonder if maybe this current rough stretch isn't the fluke for Dom, but rather the one month or so that he was super-hot last season. With Philly.com now writing that maybe it's time to send Domonic back to Triple A, maybe the Domonic Brown Actually Being Good dream is already close to over.

The really crazy thing about Dom's struggles this year, though? Philly's hitting, not predicted to be hugely productive even with a competent DomBro, has been decent regardless. The team is only 12th of 15 NL teams in runs, but they rank 5th in total OPS, with every Phils regular besides Dom and Ben Revere posting an OPS+ of over 100. With Brown producing at non-black-hole-type levels, this actually might be a half-good offensive ballclub. And maybe Domonic's turning it around a little: He's hit two homers (his second and third of the year) in the last week, though he's still gone just 4-21 total over that span.

Or maybe it's just like my Dad suggested to me one year ago: Domonic Brown is really just the Phillies' Evan Turner. As long as we have him, there'll be good stretches when he's scoring in bunches and looks like an All-Star and you think he's finally turned the corner and will be this way forever, then it'll disappear without warning and the shots will stop falling and he'll barely even look like a replacement player until one day he turns it around again. It's livable, as long as you don't let yourself get suckered in by the good times too much, too often.

The question of whether Domonic Brown is having a good year or not is a pointless one this season: He's not, and in fact he's probably been one of the worst regular players in all of MLB. But as for whether or not he's good at all...I'm not 100% ready to rule definitively on that one just yet. In baseball, you're never more than one white-hot 16-game stretch away from being good again, so here's hoping one of those comes sooner rather than later for Dom. This weekend against the Dodgers wouldn't be a terrible time to start.

Jason Kelce ignoring trade rumors as he tries to work on himself

Jason Kelce ignoring trade rumors as he tries to work on himself

Jason Kelce is aware of the rumors and reports that have surrounded his name this offseason. 

As much as he might try to avoid them, the Eagles' veteran center does not, presumably, live under a rock. So he's heard for months about the possibility of his long run with the Eagles coming to a close. 

After all, the Eagles have stockpiled an abundance of interior offensive linemen who can play center, and trading Kelce would save the team $3.8 million in cap space. 

So it all makes sense, but Kelce is trying to keep it out of his mind. 

"I think you'll drive yourself crazy if you're reading too much into what's going on," he said on Tuesday as the Eagles kicked off their voluntary OTAs. "My whole offseason has just kind of been really the only thing I can control is my game and the way I play and what I've been doing. So I've just really tried to hit the weight room, work on technique, work on things to try to get my game back to where it used to be."

How is he able to put it out of his mind? 

"Because worrying about it doesn't do any good," he answered.

While the Eagles have Isaac Seumalo and Stefen Wisniewski ready to play center if necessary, head coach Doug Pederson said on Tuesday that Kelce is still "the guy." 

Kelce, 29, was named to his second career Pro Bowl team last season, which might be a surprise to those who watched the Eagles throughout the year. Kelce wasn't as bad as some people think but he also probably wasn't a Pro Bowl-caliber player. 

He got off to a very slow start in 2016 but did seem to get better as the season went on.  

"I feel at times last year, there were times I was dominant and games where I didn't really do a great job," he said. "You go back and watch film and try to make the corrections, try to make sure that moving forward I'm the same player I was in the past."

A lot of his problems early in the season last year, the veteran has attributed to lousy technique. He's been trying extra hard to work on that part of his game as well as in the weight room. 

The center, often characterized as undersized, said he weighed 295 pounds on Tuesday morning. That's also his listed weight on the Eagles' website. 

All last season, Kelce said he played in the 290s, which was heavier than he had been in a long time. His goal this offseason is to make it up to 300 pounds by training camp and then hopes to keep the weight on. 

"I would certainly think so," he said. "As you get older, it gets a little bit easier to put on the weight and hold it on. I think everybody kind of finds that out."

Perhaps the biggest reason for the Eagles to keep Kelce around this season is the development of quarterback Carson Wentz in his second year. Kelce, as his center, might be integral to Wentz's growth. Although Kelce said he doesn't think of it like that when asked if that relationship gives him an advantage over others.  

Kelce has been with the Eagles since 2011 when he was a sixth-round pick out of Cincinnati. He's played and started 78 games in six seasons. 

During last season, Kelce admitted he needed to play better or he knew he would become expendable (see story). So the rumors and reports this season likely aren't a shock to him. 

He's still not going to pay attention to them. 

"The reality is, we always have guys coming in, coming out," he said. "Now we happen to have a lot of really good depth at interior line. But like I said, it doesn't do me any good worrying about the what-ifs. All I can control is what I can control and that's how I go out and play, how I go out and prepare and how I try to get back to the player I've been in the past." 

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Phils turn to Zach Eflin to stop the bleeding

Phillies (15-27) vs. Rockies (29-17)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies were supposed to take a step forward in 2017. Pete Mackanin went out on a limb when he said before the season that he thought they could be close to a .500 team, and so far they've fallen well short of that expectation.

At 15-27, the Phillies are on pace to go 58-104, an even worse record than 2015, the year of Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, etc.

They hope to stop the profuse bleeding tonight against the Rockies, who can't lose on the road lately.

1. Franco and Saunders sit
Looking for some more offense, or just a different approach, Mackanin is sitting Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders tonight in favor of Andres Blanco and Ty Kelly (see lineup).

Franco has actually been hitting a bit more in May, picking up a hit in nine straight games before going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts Monday. Still, he's hitting just .221 with a .281 on-base percentage, and his .657 OPS is 27 percent below the league average.

Saunders just hasn't done much with the Phillies. He's hitting .227/.273/.383 with four homers and 15 RBIs, and he's struck out 35 times in 150 plate appearances. Two of those four homers came in games that were already decided.

It's a rare start for Blanco, just his fifth of the season. Coming mostly off the bench the last four seasons, he's been a consistent hitter for the Phillies, batting .270/.333/.449 with 43 doubles, four triples and 13 home runs in 559 plate appearances, essentially a full season's worth.

2. Eflin's turn
Mackanin's hope is that with Aaron Nola back from the DL, Jeremy Hellickson appearing to turn a corner and Zach Eflin giving the Phils some consistent innings, the starting rotation can get into a groove, thus helping out the bullpen and giving the Phillies a chance to win more close games the way they did in 2016.

Jerad Eickhoff was just OK last night, allowing four runs in six innings as he dropped to 0-5 with a 4.70 ERA. A quality start tonight from Eflin against a strong Rockies lineup would go a long way because the Phillies really need more than half of their rotation to be clicking right now.

Eflin was rocked his last start in Texas, allowing seven runs on 11 hits and two walks over four innings. It caused his ERA to rise from 2.81 to 4.25 and his WHIP from 1.00 to 1.25.

As is usually the case when Eflin doesn't pitch well, he just wasn't getting his sinker low enough in the zone. He had induced 40 groundballs over his previous three starts before picking up just eight against the Rangers. 

An interesting note on Eflin is that he's struck out just five of the 70 right-handed hitters he's faced compared to 13 of the 85 lefties he's seen. Righties have hit .323 off him with a .798 OPS compared to .250 with a .715 OPS from lefties.

Current Rockies are 3 for 16 off Eflin with just one extra-base hit. He faced Colorado last season at Coors Field and gave up just two runs over six innings.

3. An unlikely start
Unlike most seasons, the Rockies are pitching well and winning on the road. Colorado has gotten off to hot starts almost every year the last five, but it's usually fueled by an unsustainably hot offense. 

Hasn't been the case in 2017. The Rockies are middle of the pack with a 4.29 ERA, a half-run lower than the Phillies. And away from Coors Field, they have a 3.45 ERA, the second-lowest road ERA for any team behind the Diamondbacks.

The run has been credited to a young starting staff that has been missing projected No. 1 Jon Gray. We saw former first-round pick Jeff Hoffman dominate the Phillies last night (seven innings, three hits, one run, seven strikeouts) and tonight the Phils face 22-year-old German Marquez (2-2, 4.34).

One of the biggest difference-makers for the Rockies in 2017 has been closer Greg Holland, who signed a prove-it deal with Colorado coming off a major injury. He has 19 saves and a 0.96 ERA in 20 appearances and has earned himself a whole of money this winter.

4. The book on Marquez 
The Rockies acquired Marquez along with left-handed reliever Jake McGee in the January 2016 trade that sent Corey Dickerson to the Rays, where he's thrived.

Marquez made just a handful of appearances in the majors last season but has been solid for the Rockies in five starts so far this year. 

He throws pretty much all four-seam fastballs (65 percent) and curveballs (24 percent), with his heater averaging 95.1 mph. He'll also mix in a few changeups to lefties and cutters.

In two starts away from Coors Field, Marquez has allowed just one run in 11 innings with 11 strikeouts. He's kept the ball in the park in four of five starts.

5. This and that
• Good to see Aaron Altherr pick up two doubles last night. He was 6 for his previous 33.

• Tommy Joseph in May: .345/.418/.707, six doubles, five homers, 13 RBIs. 

• Since beginning the season on an eight-game hitting streak, Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP, six walks and 35 strikeouts.

• Daniel Nava was placed on the 10-day DL with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. LHP Adam Morgan was recalled again from Triple A to take his place on the active roster.