Phillies’ Brown Finds Fastballs for Homers as Jersey Sales Jump

Domonic Brown is doing in June what made him the National League’s Player of the Month for May.

Brown, the 25-year-old Philadelphia Phillies outfielder, is fulfilling the expectations placed upon him as a top prospect, leading the NL with 19 home runs after starting the season at the major league level for the first time. He hit 12 in May, and set a Major League Baseball record by accomplishing the feat without drawing a walk the entire month. In 10 June games, he’s added four more homers and is batting .351.

The left-handed hitter’s success comes from being more aggressive at the plate and better at hitting fastballs, data compiled by Bloomberg Sports shows.

“He’s starting to believe he belongs in the big leagues,” said former Major League Baseball All-Star Sean Casey, now an analyst for MLB Network. “That’s the biggest thing.”

Brown’s blossoming at the plate has helped increase the Phillies’ television ratings and jersey sales as well as attendance at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Giving him time to succeed after being drafted seven years ago has paid off for him and his ballclub.

Brown made his major league debut in July 2010, playing 35 games and hitting .210. He also had 56-game stints with the Phillies in 2011 and 2012, each season hitting five home runs.

Data compiled by Bloomberg shows he’d swung at 53.9 percent of pitches in 146 plate appearances from May 1 to June 10, hitting 16 homers and batting .324. His swing percentage was 46.6 percent during 589 plate appearances from his July 2010 debut to April 30, when he batted .235 with 15 homers.

“I know he didn’t have any walks, but that aggressive mentality will also help him learn the strike zone, what he can’t handle, what he can handle,” Casey said in a telephone interview.

Finding Fastballs

Having worked to shorten his swing, he’s also hit fastballs better, batting .439 on them from May 1 to June 10 and .232 during the prior period. He has eight homers against fastballs since May 1 and eight against off-speed pitches.

Brown’s slugging percentage is .784 in June, compared to .688 in May. He has four walks and seven strikeouts this month.

While his strikeout percentage has remained about the same at 18.5 since May 1, Brown’s walk percentage has dipped to 2.7 from 10.2 during his career before May 1.

The Phillies, 31-34, were averaging 36,653 fans per home game at the end of April. They’re now at 38,277 per game, a 4.4 percent increase.

Brown, a 20th-round 2006 draft pick who’s making $500,000 this season, ranked 15th among outfielders in balloting for the NL All-Star team as of last week. The Phillies met yesterday to discuss how to get him more All-Star votes, spokeswoman Bonnie Clark said in an e-mail. With promotional giveaways decided before the season, the team does not have any planned around Brown for 2013.

Jersey Sales

Sales of Brown’s No. 9 jersey over the last seven days have increased more than 350 percent from the previous week on, one of the largest online retailers of officially licensed sports merchandise, according to the company, which doesn’t provide specific figures.

Phillies television ratings on Comcast SportsNet, the team’s flagship station, are up 22 percent this month over May.

Casey, a three-time All-Star who played 12 major league seasons, including eight for the Cincinnati Reds, had his best month in September 2000, batting .378 with 10 homers and 32 RBIs.

“When you are in those hot streaks you just appreciate them because they’re few and far between,” Casey said. “When you’re having success you cannot wait to get to the plate, you can’t wait to see a pitch and hammer something.”

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