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Quick look: Seth Brown off to hot start since MLB debut

The A’s rookie is making a big impact in his first week.

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s called up Seth Brown on Monday, and he’s already made a big impact in the majors.

The left-hander has played six games, and he’s gone 11-for-25 with 7 RBI. We haven’t yet seen the power that led to 37 homers in 112 games in Triple-A, but he’s at least making some good contact and racking up some hits.

Brown, MLB: 11-for-25, .440/.462/.560, 3 doubles, 0 BB, 5 Ks, 7 RBI, 179 wRC+

Some of the contributions have been significant, too. His MLB debut came in Monday’s 19-4 rout of the Royals, so his two hits there didn’t mean much, but since then he’s been a difference-maker in nearly every game. (Here’s a video of those first two hits from Monday anyway, though.)

On Tuesday he took an 0-fer, but on defense in LF he threw out a runner at the plate, in an eventual one-run win. He also made a nice diving catch in that same game.

On Wednesday the A’s ultimately lost, but in the 1st inning he drove in a run (RBI groundout) to help give them an early lead.

On Thursday he went 4-for-5 with a pair of RBI, in an eventual one-run win. He also scored three runs, including what proved to be the game-winner in the 9th. On a day when Oakland needed every run it got, more than half of them were either driven in or scored by Brown.

On Friday, he only played four innings off the bench but still went 3-for-3 with 3 RBI. The A’s were trailing 2-1 when he entered as a pinch-hitter in the 6th inning — Oakland had two runners on base and was looking to make some noise, and Brown stepped up and delivered a double to tie the score. He came up again in the 7th and 9th and both times he drove in another insurance run, helping put the game far enough out of reach that the A’s didn’t need to use Liam Hendriks to close it.

He was quieter on Saturday in Oakland’s loss, but he still singled against the Yankees bullpen. He also reached base against Adam Ottavino after a tough eight-pitch at-bat — it goes down as a hit-by-pitch, but it came on a 3-2 count so you could just as easily say he drew a walk.

Looking good overall! But what do the numbers say?

Overall Statcast isn’t yet impressed by the small sample, calculating a .298 xwOBA even before his relatively modest Saturday (MLB average is .319). That doesn’t mean his hits were all flukes, though — most of them were legit, he just also has made several pieces of auto-out weak contact to offset them. Here are his hits, in order of xBA, which measures the chance of a batted ball becoming a hit based on its exit velocity and launch angle. I’m also including exit velo, to show which ones were particularly hard contact:

  • .958 xBA (76.5 mph)
  • .900 xBA (79.7 mph)
  • .868 xBA (92.4 mph)
  • .740 xBA (109.7 mph) (double)
  • .703 xBA (107.5 mph)
  • .584 xBA (105.5 mph) (double)
  • .532 xBA (96.3 mph) (double)
  • .518 xBA (107.8 mph) (grounder)
  • .237 xBA (98.9 mph) (grounder)
  • .187 xBA (96.9 mph) (grounder)
  • .140 xBA (72.0 mph) (popup)

Most of his hits were well earned. That doesn’t mean he’s destined to keep making this good of contact this consistently, just that the hits he’s gotten so far haven’t all been a bunch of lucky bloops and grounders-with-eyes. There have been a few of those, sure, and he’s made several easy outs with low xBA marks plus a handful of strikeouts, but he’s making some great contact along the way.

All of this quick success has already earned Brown a place in the team’s history books. He’s the first Oakland player ever with 10 hits in his first five games, with the franchise’s last instance coming in 1954 in Philadelphia, via info manager Mike Selleck. His performance on Friday was also the first time an Oakland player has come off the bench to supply three hits and three RBI in a game he didn’t start, also via Selleck.

Of course, we’ll still have to wait to see how Brown shakes out long-term. We’re still firmly in small sample territory here and we shouldn’t draw any conclusions from this early hot streak, especially considering most of it came against subpar Royals pitching. His .550 BABIP won’t last forever, and his minor league track record suggests he won’t walk much, so he’ll need his power to show up as his batting average drops.

But for now, let’s ride the wave. Brown is banging out clutch hits all over the field, and it’s fun to watch a new player start out with some immediate success. Can he keep it up long enough to earn a permanent role on the team?