The Phillies Should Replace Domonic Brown in LF

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Phillies LF, Ideally - Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Why a Ruf/Mayberry platoon in LF makes more sense than anything involving Dom Brown.

(Ed. note: True Phillies-philes will recognize that Brown's line has changed somewhat since the publication of this article. Still, the methodology and points herein are sound...so use your imagination, True Believers! -Tenacious Trev)

As LTG8 demonstrated recently, Domonic Brown has struggled in 2014 with the one pitch that Major League hitters are supposed to hit, at least according to conventional wisdom. While fastballs have certainly been an issue for Brown, his problems likely extend beyond one pitch. A .201/.258/.313 line is a symptom indicative of more than one cause. He's been well below-average against both LHP and RHP according to wRC+.

As dramatically bad as his performance has been this season, Brown's career stats tell the same story: he's a below-average major league outfielder. For years, I was a Domonic Brown apologist, arguing first that he had too few PA to draw any meaningful conclusions and, later, that he was a victim of organizational wishy-washy-ness. Those arguments don't really hold up well anymore, though, now that Brown has amassed over 1200 PA with the Phillies and a full season of consistent playing-time in 2013. Over those 1200+ PA, he's been a tick below league-average (98 wRC+) overall and only slightly above average against RHP (103 wRC+).

That Brown is an average starter, at best, does not constitute surprising news. What might be surprising, however, is that the Phillies' best option in LF probably doesn't include Dom Brown. Let's have some fun with mystery players!

Player

2014 wRC+

v. RHP

Career wRC+

v. RHP

2014 wRC+

v. LHP

Career wRC+

v. LHP

Player A

26

81

199

131

Player B

37

103

82

82

Player C

-100 (4 PA)

136

201 (6 PA)

115

If you've been following along with both this post and the season, you have already identified each player, probably. Player A is John Mayberry, Jr.; Player B is Domonic Brown; Player C is Darin Ruf.

Based on career splits, it's pretty clear that a Ruf/Mayberry platoon would be the best way to solve the Phillies' LF problem. I don't expect the plan of starting JMJ over Brown against LHP will meet many objections; Mayberry is widely perceived as both a better hitter against LHP and a better fielder than Brown.

What might be more shocking is the proposal to start Darin Ruf over Brown against RHP. Over his major league career and with AAA Lehigh Valley in 2013, Ruf has posted a reverse platoon split. Regardless of whether that platoon is a phenomenon that will persist (he's had fewer than 250 PA v. RHP in the majors), Ruf is likely a better hitter against RHP going forward, barring  a pretty significant drop-off in performance.

But outfielders have responsibilities that go beyond hitting, namely, they must also field a position defensively. While it seems that Brown should be better defensively than Ruf--he's more athletic, runs faster, has a better arm--the stats don't show a huge difference. Granted, Ruf has logged fewer than 450 defensive innings in the outfield, which is too small a sample from which to draw any meaningful conclusions, but his numbers have not been much worse than Brown's.

The stronger point is that Brown has been bad defensively in the outfield, costing the Phillies a bit over a win every 150 games he occupies LF. Any human athletic enough to be in consideration as a major league outfielder can only be so bad. Even if Ruf represents the absolute floor of defensive MLB talent, how much worse is that than Brown? I don't know, but my guess is the offensive upgrade will overcome whatever defensive downgrade there may be.

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