Can Phillies OF Domonic Brown Continue His Hot Streak?
Raise your hand if you saw this one coming. Honestly now. No cheating. That's right, zero hands.
After hitting 16 total homeruns in over 600 plate appearances in his career heading into the end of May, Domonic Brown put up nine homeruns in ten games before last night's 0 for 5 outing against Miami. His average rose from .248 to .291 between May 22 and June 3, and his season-long .578 slugging is now sixth-best in the National League. He's tops among all Phillies - even Chase Utley and Ryan Howard - in both slugging and average.
Because of this incredible stretch, numberFire places Brown as the No. 18 most valuable fantasy hitter so far this season. That's not half bad for a guy who was in the 300s on our draft list entering the season (his average draft position was No. 232).
So does that mean his recent run is sustainable? HAHAHAHAHA. Oh. That's a serious question? Well, now this is awkward. Umm... no. No it is not.
Down with the Streak
Over the rest of the season, we have Domonic Brown projected as the No. 228 most valuable fantasy player. No, I didn't accidentally add a third digit, and there's a very particular reason why he's that low.
Our data comes from past performance, not platitudes such as, "Oh, this guy is a top prospect, let's bump him up!" Will Domonic Brown grow as a hitter? It's possible. If given a choice, would we rather believe that he'll continue hitting as he did in this past small sample size (45 plate appearances since May 25) rather than the roughly 700 career plate appearances that occurred before that? Of course not. We'll choose regression to the mean and the larger sample size every time.
And it's so easy to forget now, but before that streak, Domonic Brown has never exactly lit up Broad Street with his play. Even the day before his first homerun of the streak, on May 24, his batting average sat at .256, his OBP at .296, his slugging at .446, and he had only eight homeruns. And here's the kicker: those batting average and homerun rates were already the best of his career.
Of course, it's easy to hold a higher average and homerun numbers when you're swinging at everything in sight. With no patience in the least, Brown has swung at 51 percent of total pitches this season. Previously, high from the past two seasons was only 47 percent of pitches, and the MLB average over his career is 45 percent.
That type of free swinging may yield pretty stats, but it will also absolutely cut down on a player's overall value. Even with his streak, Brown's current .321 OBP this season is barely above the .318 MLB average and still isn't even up to his 2011 .333 rate. It makes sense considering his 4.9 percent walk rate, far below 9.9 percent rate just last season.
So, what do we have when the homeruns inevitably slow down? A hitter who doesn't walk, who has a .281 batting average on balls in play (and given his .273 career rate, that's likely staying right there), and whose team has a below average .306 OBP that limits RBI opportunities. We have a hitter whose only positive projectable qualities are a slightly better than average 18.8 percent strikeout rate and this power that may or may not stick around.
I think I'll sell, please.
When we project Brown's future performance, we look at his entire body of work, not just what he's done since the last week of May. And when those numbers are taken into account, the rest of the season doesn't look nearly as pretty.
Domonic Brown positively, absolutely has the ability to leave these numbers in the dust. He also has the potential to crash and burn and be sent down to Lehigh Valley in about two months. That's the issue with young players - their overall scope of their potential outcomes varies wildly because there simply isn't that much data to go off of.
That's why Domonic Brown's recent streak isn't an issue. He simply had a couple of weeks on the high outlier end of the scale. But all players regress to the mean eventually, and it's much more likely to see him return to his pre-late May struggles than continue his hot play over the rest of this season. Sorry Phillies fans; it's been a nice run, but all good things will statistically come to an end eventually.