When Domonic Brown belted a solo home run in the fifth inning last night, it appeared like just another home run in his incredible hot streak, but upon closer review it represented much more.
Ryan Howard did not hit any home runs because Ryan Howard did not play. Charlie elected to sit Howard due to bad career numbers against a lefty spot-starter named Tom Gorzelanny. Not Steve Carlton, not Tom Seaver - Tom Gorzelanny. Howard had a chance to watch from the bench as Domonic Brown deposited a down-and-away slider (Howard's nemesis) off a left-hander (another trouble area for Ryan) into the seats.
It was an interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new. It just might represent a changing of the guard, as Ryan Howard is no longer a top slugger in the league or even on his own team. That job now belongs to Dom Brown.
Domonic Brown leads the league in home runs and leads the Phillies in six major offensive categories, yet he has not batted fourth in a single game. With Howard out of the lineup and Brown swinging such a mighty bat, last night was the perfect opportunity to move him up to the cleanup spot, but Charlie chose Delmon Young instead.
What does DoBo have to do before Charlie rewards him for his hitting?
There are two answers to that question. The first is that Charlie does not want to pressure his young slugger too soon. You might recall that Charlie rarely allowed Utley or Howard to face lefties early in their careers for a similar reason. He wanted to pump up their confidence before putting them in the spotlight just as he is doing with Domonic Brown.
Charlie knows that Brown's bat belongs in the cleanup spot. So does Brown, so does Howard, and so do all the fans. But it is too soon in Charlie's mind.
Included in that thinking is the realization that Brown is in a hot streak and by definition that streak will end. That is not to say that Brown is just a hot hand, but even Babe Ruth cannot maintain such a stretch throughout the season. If Charlie moves Brown up to fourth and he starts to struggle, fans and media will immediate attribute it to a player who can't handle the spotlight. Better to wait for Brown to cool down and heat up again before making him the official cleanup hitter.
The second reason why Brown won't bat fourth is that Charlie does not want to embarrass Ryan Howard. While it might seem ridiculous to handle delicately a player who makes $25 million a year, decisions exactly like this one are what makes the Phillies win down the stretch every single season with Manuel at the helm.
At the same time that Charlie forces players like Brown earn their way, he allows them an extremely long rope when they get there. He also understands that he needs Ryan Howard if he has any hopes of winning a World Series so he will ride him as long as he needs to.
That might have to change soon. The stats demand that Brown hits fourth over Howard. Here is how the two compare:
And here are their rankings on the team:
Howard and Brown team rankings
The last two columns are the most revealing. Ryan Howard ranks fifth on the team in slugging and OPS while Brown leads in both categories. When Kevin Frandsen is beating you in slugging percentage, you know you have a problem.
Breaking down their numbers a little further, you realize how far apart the two are offensively:
Howard and Brown advanced stats
The evidence is clear on who should bat fourth in the Phillies lineup, but there is an added reason why that person should be Brown: he will have more runners on base if Howard is not hitting in front of him. Howard sees runners on base in 50 percent of his plate appearances while the rate for Brown is only 44 percent. Dom will knock in more just by removing Howard's sub-.300 on-base rate. More baserunners means more RBIs - it is just that simple.
Brown also performs much better than Howard with runners on base. Brown is hitting .298 with 7 HR and 35 RBI with runners on versus .224 with 1 HR and 24 RBI for Howard. With runners in scoring position, Brown is hitting .316 with 6 HR and 31 RBI versus .229 with 1 HR and 24 RBI for Howard.
It shows the value of the number four hitter. Howard was able to equate a .229 average with RISP into 24 RBI just by virtue of hitting fourth, which on its own is the fourth best mark on the team.
The stat sheet makes its decision clear, but don't expect to see DoBo as the cleanup hitter any time soon. Say what you want about the Big Piece, but he has produced for this team for nine years and helped bring a World Series to Philadelphia. He earned the right to have a long rope. But with each slider Howard waves at and each long ball from Brown, that rope is getting shorter and shorter.
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