A Closer Look At Jeremy Brown's 2005 Season

After two straight seasons of mediocrity at AA-Midland, catcher Jeremy Brown broke through with a stellar season for the Rockhounds in 2005. Brown posted a full-season career-high OPS of 846 and clubbed an impressive 20 homers. He then capped the season by hitting a blistering .419 in the Texas League playoffs. We take a closer look at Brown's season and analyze his numbers to see what his strengths and weaknesses were in 2005.

Jeremy Brown probably knows Midland, Texas better than its most famous son, President Bush. The former University of Alabama catcher has spent each of the past three seasons in Midland, playing for the Rockhounds. In his first campaign with Midland in 2003, Brown suffered a thumb injury and was only able to play in 66 games. He followed up that season by showing good durability in a 122-game effort in 2004. However, his numbers at Midland were mediocre, as he posted OPSs of 779 and 718 in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

Less Patience Equals More Power?

Brown's power numbers, in particular, were of some concern, as above A-ball he had yet to post a slugging percentage greater than .400. Brown answered those criticisms in 2005, as he posted an excellent power season, slugging at .487 and pounding 20 homeruns.

Ironically, Brown appears to have sacrificed some of his patented plate patience in order to add to his power totals. During the first three months of the season, Brown hit only six of his 20 homeruns. However, his BB:K ratio during those three months was 28:39. Over the final two months of the regular season, Brown smashed 14 homeruns and watched his BB:K ratio decline to 23:46. Brown also drove in 45 runs in July and August after pushing across only 26 from April through June. So it appears from this sample that when Brown is aggressively looking for pitches to hit at the risk of striking out more, he is also putting himself in position to hit for a lot more power.

No Home Field Advantage

Interestingly, Brown's home/road splits are almost identical, with the exception of his homerun totals. In 2005, Brown hit .258 with nine doubles, one triple and 15 homers on the road. At home, Brown hit .265 with 18 doubles, zero triples and 5 homers. There isn't an obvious explanation for why Brown's homer totals would be so much better on the road. Midland's Citibank Ballpark has played roughly in the middle of the pack in terms of Park Factor in the Texas League, so it shouldn't have been a significant hindrance or help to Brown's homer total. In fact, in 2004, Brown hit four homers at home and two on the road.

Rockhound teammate Andre Ethier, who had a similar break-through season in the power category, also had the strange home/road split in the power category in 2005. Ethier hit 12 homers on the road and six at home. However, Rockhound sluggers Jason Perry and Brian Stavisky each homered more at home. And all five of these players (with the exception of Perry) had almost identical home/road splits in every other category.

Warming Up For The Stretch Run

Getting back to Brown, there is a distinct difference in how he started and ended the 2005 season. Brown hit only .241 in April, and, although he hit .302 in May, he managed to drive in only 10 runs the entire month. In June, Brown was limited to 18 games and had only a .226 batting average with one homer and four RBI.

In July, however, something seemed to click for Brown at the plate. Although he hit only .239 for the month, he surpassed his homer total for the year to date (seven in July and only six through the end of June) and he nearly equaled his RBI total. This was also the month where he swung the bat most freely, as he struck out a year-high 24 times and walked only 10 times. In August, he was able to put it all together, as he got the hits to fall in like he did in May and got the homers to fly out of the park like it was still July. For the month, Brown hit .306 with seven homers and 22 RBI. He bumped his walk total up from 10 to 13 and lowered his strike outs a bit, from 24 to 22. He also set a year-high in doubles, with nine, and hits with 26.

Brown carried that red-hot hitting over into the month of September during the Texas League playoffs. He drove in an incredible 15 runs in only nine games played and hit a Ted Williams-like .419. He also managed to slam three homeruns in those nine games. Brown earned MiLB.com's AA Playoff Performance of the Year award for his efforts. Brown had a similar post-season surge in 2004, when he hit over .300 during the Arizona Fall League season.

Reverse Platoon Candidate?

Unlike many right-handed hitters, Brown did not hit lefties better then he hit righties in 2005. In fact, he hit for a higher batting average (.266 vs. .250) and with more power (36 extra-base hits in 274 at-bats vs. 12 extra-base hits in 120 at-bats) against right-handed pitching in 2005. That trend was similar in 2004, when Brown hit .286 with four homers against righties and only .241 with one homer against lefties.

Where Should He Hit?

Brown hit at his best when he was in the seventh spot in the batting order in 2005. In only 80 at-bats, Brown smacked eight of his homeruns and drove in 24 runs. He also hit well in the fifth spot in the order. In 71 at-bats, the right-handed hitter posted a .366 average with three homers and 10 RBI. Brown received most of his early season at-bats in the sixth hole in the order and, not surprisingly, his numbers in that slot were down. In 138 at-bats, Brown hit only .239 with four homers and 19 RBI. He also struck out 29 times against 19 walks.

Brown was Midland's best hitter with the bases-loaded in 2005. He hit .571 with one grand slam and 15 RBI in 15 plate appearances (seven official at-bats). Perhaps most importantly, Brown managed not to hit into any double-plays with the bases juiced, quite a feat for a guy who hit into 17 on the season. In fact, he drove in at least one run in every at-bat with the bases-loaded, save one. That is a skill the Oakland A's were sorely lacking in 2005. Brown did an equally good job hitting for power with the bases empty as he did with runners on. In 2005, he hit 10 homers in each situation, although he managed six more doubles with runners on base in eight fewer at-bats.

Conclusion

With good friend John Baker being claimed by the Florida Marlins, Brown finally has a clear pathway to AAA. He should be the River Cats' starting catcher in 2006 and could find himself in Oakland if either Adam Melhuse or Jason Kendall were to be injured. As we can see from these numbers, Brown's hitting really came together starting in July. If he can carry over the approach that allowed him to post an OPS over 900 during July and August and to set the world on fire in the playoffs in September, he should have a productive season in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.


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