Month splits are stupid. Specific month splits are stupider. There’s nothing particular about a month, and there’s definitely nothing particular about May. But what month splits do is allow us to generate helpful trivia. Like this! I looked at the history of Mays, given at least 100 plate appearances. A total of 46 different times, someone has hit at least a dozen home runs in May. In Brown’s May, he didn’t walk one time. The next-lowest walk total among those dinger-hitters is six, by Ryan Howard (2006) and Bing Miller (1922). Meanwhile, there have been 12 Mays in which a player didn’t walk once over at least 100 plate appearances. In Brown’s May, he slugged 12 dingers. The next-highest dinger total among those non-walkers is five, by Carlos Baerga (1994). Domonic Brown had an unusual month, and it leaves us somewhat perplexed. Excited but perplexed.
The reason for the lack of walks? Brown is swinging at more strikes (and balls). From 2010 through April, he swung at 68%-69% of pitches inside the strike zone and 28%-29% of pitches outside the strike zone. In May? 77% and 36%, respectively. And there was a noticeable uptick in the frequency with which he would swing at strikes (Z-Swing%) in the second half of the month, when he caught fire– over 80%:
In the first half of May, Brown hit four homers. In the second half, he hit eight, and you can see a corresponding rise in his rate of swings at strikes. Brown says he’s more prepared to hit early-count fastballs, and the data supports the idea that Brown’s been more aggressive at the plate, generating encouraging results. He’s swung at more strikes, and while he’s also swung at a few more balls, he hasn’t been hacking. He’s been hitting, in the classic sense.
All of Brown’s home runs in May and June have been pulled – quite heavily – to right. Sullivan concludes that the obvious consequence of Brown’s swinging stick will be that he’ll start to get pitched around and see more balls. He’s crushing hittable strikes right now, but the real test – Sullivan calls it his “final test” – will be whether he can adjust when pitchers start Ryan Howarding him, something that will probably start, like, tonight.