While Reggie Jackson's "Mr. October" may carry more panache, Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown can now stake his claim to the "Mr. May" moniker. Brown blasted 12 home runs during the just-completed month, tied with Miguel Cabrera for tops in the majors. His 15 shots overall in 2013 tie him with Edwin Encarnacion for third, behind only Chris Davis and Miggy.
The former top-10 prospect performed like an oversized banjo hitter during his first few stints in the big leagues, but he has found his power stroke by taking a more aggressive, "grip it and rip it" approach. Will that philosophy, which led to all those May homers but also a 21-to-zilch strikeout-to-walk ratio, continue to pay off?
On the positive side, Brown is taking a cut at more pitches thrown over the strike zone and pounding them. His swing rate against in-zone offerings is about 76% this year, up from 69% from 2010-12 and well above the 64% MLB average. And, unlike in past years, Brown is using his 6-foot-5, 205 pound frame to turn on those pitches. He has pulled 43% of in-zone pitches swung at to right field, compared to 36% from 2010-12 and the 35% MLB average for lefty batters. That explains how Brown has raised his slugging percentage against in-zone pitches over 250 points, from .447 during his disappointing cameos in 2010-12 to .713 this season.
Brown's spray chart against in-zone pitches, 2010-12
Brown's spray chart against in-zone pitches, 2013
Swinging at more strikes certainly hasn't hurt Brown. His newfound tendency to expand his strike zone, however, could backfire. Brown has offered at about 31% of pitches thrown off the plate this year, up from 26% in years past and north of the 28% MLB average. In May, he chased 33% of those would-be balls. Some guys manage to do damage against junk pitches -- think Vlad Guerrero or Pablo Sandoval -- but Brown isn't one of them. He's batting .119 and slugging .169 when he chases a pitch out of the zone.
Brown's aggression has been a net positive so far, though his .306 on-base percentage and 4.4% walk rate show the perils of such an approach. He could be on his way to sustained stardom if he can keep crushing in-zone pitches while cutting his chase rate. The Phillies, graying and starved for young talent as the sun sets on their dynastic run, need as much to happen. Brown needs only to glance at Delmon Young in the on-deck circle to see what happens to unrestrained young sluggers.