2013 Reds

Redleg Nation 2013 Preview – Brandon Phillips

Brandon Phillips
2012 Slash Line: .281/.321/.429
2013 Projection: .270/.320/.420

2012 WAR: 4.0
2013 Best Guess WAR: 3.5
Projected Difference: -0.5
2013 Floor: 2.0
2013 Ceiling: 6.0

Brandon Phillips was worth 6 wins above replacement in 2011, when he was 30 years old. From ages 29-31, guess how many 6 win seasons there have been from second basemen since WWII? 28 This year, he will be 32. Since WWII, how many 6 win seasons have there been by 32-year-old or older second basemen? 19.

Brandon Phillips, kids, is getting older. This isn’t to say that his career is in danger of ending any time soon or that we should expect him to suddenly be terrible. Rather, I want to point out that we probably need to change the expectations for our All-Star second baseman. Indeed, we can see the aging pattern already taking shape. His power has declined steadily since it peaked in 2007, as have his stolen bases. It has become common in recent years for Phillips to play with nagging injuries.

To make matters worse, the aging curve for second basemen is famously steep. That is, when they lose it, they lose it fast.

But it’s not all grim. Phillips has shown an ability to adjust his game. When his power started to go, so did his strikeouts. More alarming, perhaps, is his drop in walk rate. A big part that drop was that he swung at more pitches outside the strike zone last year than he ever had before. It makes me wonder if maybe Phillips is starting to lose a little bat speed and thus has to commit sooner. It could just be a blip, but it was a clear and sudden jump that had him swinging at 5 percent more pitches outside the zone than he ever had before in a full season. However, if he can boost his walk rate back to his career norms, he’ll be in excellent shape to continue contributing to the Reds for several more years.

But he’s still on the way down. I suspect what we’ll see from Phillips going forward will depend a lot on how those injuries mount. When he’s fully healthy, I think he’ll continue to be the player he has been, at least for a while. But when he’s banged up, I think we’ll see a lesser Phillips, and that’s where the decline is really going to come. Once the injuries become more or less constant, it will be rough.

So I’m projecting Phillips for a 3.5 win season this year. Down slightly from his 4.0 last year. Given that he only makes $10 millions this year (only), that’s a pretty good deal the Reds are getting. In 2017, when Phillips is 36 and making $14 million, that might be a different story, but for now, we don’t have much to worry about, we just need to make sure we set a reasonable standard.

Redleg Nation Season Preview Schedule

Joey Votto – 2/27
Brandon Phillips – 3/1
Todd Frazier – 3/4
Zack Cozart – 3/6
Ryan Ludwick – 3/8
Shin-Soo Choo – 3/11
Jay Bruce – 3/13
Ryan Hanigan & Catcher #2 – 3/15
Bench – 3/18
Johnny Cueto & Mat Latos – 3/20
Aroldis Chapman & Mike Leake – 3/22
Homer Bailey & Bronson Arroyo – 3/25
Bullpen – 3/27
Updates & Preview Wrap-Up – 3/29

30 thoughts on “Redleg Nation 2013 Preview – Brandon Phillips

  1. First Jason, I went back and read all your preview stuff from last year. Much of it was remarkably prescient of the upcoming 2012. So, I looking forward to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays around here for the next two or three weeks.

    I think BP may have suffered some from all the jockeying from position to position over the past few years. His approach at the plate has to be significantly different when he’s at the 4 being asked to play slugger, as opposed to being at the top of the lineup. He’s also a confident guy and sometimes that outsized confidence makes him take questionable swings. I fully expect him to recognize that as he gets older. Choo is going to really help him. He’ll see him standing there on first alot and I suspect he’ll be thinking about driving the ball into the gaps where he can get him around to third.

    He might just have a pretty good year in him if, as you noted, he stays healthy.

  2. It’ll be interesting to see how Brandon Phillips does in a full season of hitting second, without worrying about adjusting his approach to hitting 1st, 3rd, or 4th. Will his power numbers go up? Or will he steal bases again? Will his numbers go up as he gets more strikes? Will he get walked in front of Joey Votto? I think Phillips’ role as a #2 hitter gives him a great opportunity to be successful. He’s getting older but I don’t think he’s at an age where we’re likely to see a big decline.

    I hope he can make a positive impression in the World Baseball Classic to improve his image. Making a good impression – not just as a loud, outspoken guy – seems key to winning another Gold Glove or Silver Slugger Award – I don’t think he can do much to improve his fielding.

  3. I think datdudeBP is set up to have his best year yet. Obviously batting in the same spot in the lineup consistently will help, but I think he’s hungry for a championship. He’s a highly motivated guy and after last year he appeared to be more disapointed than just about anyone. We’ll see! He’s definetly a fan favorite!

  4. Just an aside. Phillips, outwardly, is the Hines Ward of baseball. Love his attitude and his “let’s have fun” approach to the game. Without it, this may not be as fun a team to watch or to play for, just ask his teammates. While his flamboyance may rub some the wrong way (see MLB managers & coaches by way of Gold Glove omission) I’m more than ok with it. After all, they’re just boys playing ball.

  5. Perhaps someone needs to school me, but I’ve never understood why people think hitting in the 2 hole in front of Votto helps a hitter? If I was pitching, that person would get my best stuff. I don’t want him on in front of Votto, Ludwick, and Bruce. No way.

    On the other hand, I doubt Phillips will be swinging with his hands on the knob. Knowing how he is apt to adjust to his role, his thought will be to get on base in front of the guys behind him. Of course I expect he’ll still hack at the first pitch and any buttermilks that cross the plate.

  6. @TC: Look up the numbers for the guys last year when they hit first and second, for one thing. Over the last three years Phillips’ average is 30 points higher as a #2 hitter than a leadoff hitter… in 2012 his average was 96 points higher as a #2 hitter than as a leadoff hitter. Cozart’s batting average as ~90 points higher as a #2 hitter than a leadoff hitter. We can debate why #2 hitters get a benefit, but it’s clearly shown in the numbers.

    I believe the guy who hits before Votto will get challenged with strikes – in hopes that the hitter will get himself out – because the last thing the pitchers wants is to walk a hitter in front of Votto. The #2 hitter can expect to see pitches to hit, and I think Phillips can take advantage of that with singles, doubles, triples, and homeruns. He’ll face the best pitches, but usually he’ll see tempting pitches over the plate.

    Joey Votto on the other hand, doesn’t get many pitches to hit – they pitch around him, frequently preferring to walk him rather than give him anything he can hit.

    • @TC: Look up the numbers for the guys last year when they hit first and second, for one thing.

      Not a 100% correlation there. If it worked, then Stubbs would have excelled there. While he may have excelled in comparison to his other hole numbers, he was still a poor hitter in the 2 hole.

      If pitchers know how to get a hitter out, they are still going to look to throw them whatever is needed to get a them out. Apparently, they haven’t quite figured out BP yet, or BP continues to adjust. Stubbs never did adjust.

      • Not a 100% correlation there.If it worked, then Stubbs would have excelled there.While he may have excelled in comparison to his other hole numbers, he was still a poor hitter in the 2 hole.

        If pitchers know how to get a hitter out, they are still going to look to throw them whatever is needed to get a them out.Apparently, they haven’t quite figured out BP yet, or BP continues to adjust.Stubbs never did adjust.

        Alright, Drew Stubbs. In 2012 he hit .159 hitting leadoff vs .237 hitting second. ‘Poor hitter’ in the #2 hole or not, he was significantly better hitting second. Stubbs, Cozart, and Phillips ALL hit significantly better in the #2 spot than leading off in 2012, and that’s a fact. We can debate WHY they did, but for some reason they definitely did.

        In Stubbs’ case I hypothesize that he got more pitches near the plate as a #2 hitter while he was more desperate and chased anything anywhere near the plate when leading off in 2012. Stubbs is capable of taking walks and the last thing anybody wanted to was walk Drew Stubbs with Joey Votto coming up.

        • Stubbs is capable of taking walks and the last thing anybody wanted to was walk Drew Stubbs with Joey Votto coming up.

          Oh, yes, Stubbs is capable. But, I’m capable of taking walks, also. You are capable of taking walks. Anyone is capable of taking walks. Stubbs just doesn’t take walks very well at all. There’s a huge difference in that and being a good hitter.

          Just like with Gomes and Baker saying how he “has a bat that can carry a team.” Why, because he can hit a home run? I can get a couple dozen guys from the weight room at the local Y who can hit a home run. But, as far as “having a bat that can carry a team”, that’s a whole other thing altogether.

  7. It’ll be interesting to see how Brandon Phillips is treated as the #2 hitter. I assume that with a 3-0 count he’d have a green light to swing all season, even when hitting in front of Joey Votto.

  8. I also think Brandon has a big year behind Choo and in front of Joey. He should see a lot of strikes and that is a good combination with his aggressive swings.

    • I also think Brandon has a big year behind Choo and in front of Joey. He should see a lot of strikes and that is a good combination with his aggressive swings.

      I do think BP will have another good year. Career year, sorry I can’t see it. I can see him hitting 300 again. But, I also see him losing another step in the field and on the paths. I see him losing a little bit more power. I am not saying “right now”, but one has to look at how long Rodriguez may take to come along. I could go 1-2 more seasons with BP easily.

  9. As far as a career year by Brandon Phillips, I guess what that means might be open to debate. I think his 30-30 days (2007) are behind him but he won his first (and only) Silver Slugger Award in 2011 for hitting .300 with a .353 OBP, 18 homeruns, 38 doubles, with 14 stolen bases. I think he’s very capable of matching or exceeding all of those 2011 numbers.

    Only once has he hit more than 21 homeruns (30 in 2007) but hitting ~20 again is very reasonable. Only once (32 in 2007) has he stolen over 25 bases. Stealing 15-20 again seems realistic, and enough to make him as a distraction on the base paths.

    Shin-Shoo Choo and Brandon Phillips could have a nice friendly competition. Choo can hit 20 homeruns and steal ~20 bases, Choo could hit .300. I think Choo’s walks give him an advantage for OBP. I wonder which one of them will end up putting up better numbers… but Phillips might finally have a somewhat similar player to compete with. Maybe that’ll mean something.

  10. To elaborate on my comparison between Shin-Shoo Choo and Brandon Phillips, I don’t think Brandon Phillips has ever been challenged by anybody else who could make him the weak link at any part of the lineup. He’s usually seemed to hit before or after guys like Cozart and Stubbs who might be able to match him in certain aspects of his game (like power or stolen bases) but not surpass him all-around. Shin-Shoo Choo, on the other hand, seems to have the ability to exceed Phillips in every aspect of his offense, and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds. Maybe he’ll find some new motivation to exceed Choo in OBP to avoid being the weak link at the top of the lineup.

  11. @redsfanman: Maybe he’ll find some new motivation to exceed Choo in OBP to avoid being the weak link at the top of the lineup.

    I love this idea. Psychology can certainly play a role.

  12. Maybe DatDudeBP can try singing “Anything Choo Can Do” as a variation of “Anything You Can Do” from Annie Get Your Gun. Instead of talking about shooting things he can talk about stealing bases, hitting homeruns, hitting for average, and OBP.

    • @redsfanman: Haha, or Choo’s on first?Dat gets him to second.By the way, check out the hilarity that I just happened upon.Can’t believe who they chose on Wikipedia for an example of a leadoff hitter.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadoff_hitter

      Choo won’t be on firstbase for long because anything Choo can do DaDude can do better. DaDude can do anything better than Choo. La la la, sing along.

  13. @RedManifesto: Hmmm, interesting picture, must be some kinda prank. The same site specifically lists Cozart as the Reds’ leadoff hitter in 2012, and neither are mentioned elsewhere on the page. Not even under ‘Notable MLB leadoff hitters’.

  14. Anyone thinking BP will improve this year, and there are several of you, be cautious. 32 year old players very rarely get better, especially coming off the kind of very good season Phillipes just had. Consistent spot in the lineup or not, the body doesn’t last forever.

  15. I don’t think Brandon Phillips will continue to improve but I don’t think he’s shown signs of decline yet either, for example by hitting 18 homeruns three years in a row. I think hitting leadoff (.202 average in 114 ABs) was a big drag on his 2012 season, which they can hopefully exorcise in 2013. If used under ideal circumstances (hitting second in front of Votto) repeating his 2011 Silver Slugger season with a .300 average, ~.350 OBP, 18 homeruns, and 30+ doubles seems reasonable. It doesn’t seem to me like a matter of him getting better, it’s a matter of not asking him to do what he’s bad at (particularly hitting leadoff, and to some extent hitting cleanup).

    Once his power does start to decline it seems like he’ll still be successful as more of a contact and doubles hitter. Maybe he can teach Billy Hamilton a few things as far as hitting without power.

  16. I’m pretty worried about BP over the life of the contract. When a 31 year old’s walk rate and power drops, its typically a sign that he’s losing bat speed. He’s been an extremely durable player over the years…you just hope the Reds don’t pay for that it on the back end.

    I think Jason’s projections are pretty spot on for this season though.

  17. @redsfanman: As I pointed out, he has quite obviously shown signs of decline. Not dramatic decline, but decline, nonetheless. Sure, his HRs have been consistent for the last three years, but his overall power numbers have continued to decline. The walk rate is really scary. His walk rate isn’t elite to begin with, if it drops too much, it will quickly turn into a problem.

    I also don’t necessarily buy the leadoff thing. I’ve never seen any study showing that where a player hits affects his performance in a meaningful way. Noting the performance of Reds’ leadoff hitters last year is interesting, but probably just coincidence. Thought I’m willing to be proven wrong if someone can show me real data and not the anecdote that is one season.

  18. @CP: I think over the life of the contract, Phillips will be fairly paid. Unfortunately, that means he’ll be over paid at the end, which is, I think, what you were getting at.

  19. I also want to point out that BPs numbers would have been significantly higher last year if not for him playing hurt for several weeks early in the season. The way I see it, if he has a slight down tick this year, he’ll still put up similar numbers as last years totals.

    • @RiverCity Redleg:

      …if not for him playing hurt for several weeks early in the season.

      I completely forgot about that aspect of BP’s performance last season. Thanks for reminding me.

      This will be a very interesting season for BP. Anecdotally, I expect BP to adapt admirably to hitting in the #2 hole between Choo and Votto. For what it’s worth (ahem…nothing), I believe BP has a unique quality to adapt to the hitting role within the lineup, a chameleon of sorts. This has made him valuable for filling in anywhere in the top half of the lineup as needed, but this has not enabled him to excel as much as possible. If healthy, Choo, Phillips and Votto should all three have career seasons in 2013.

      I do agree that we are going to see diminishing returns from BP through the term of his contract, that’s natural. I just think he has a monster year left in him and I think he is carrying a chip on his shoulder this season that will drive him to show everyone what he can still do on the field. Personally. I’m not a big fan of BP’s antics and extravert personality, but I do relate to the slights he receives because of his personality and that makes me really root for BP to show ‘em between the lines.

  20. Lineup protection is a myth and every objective study demonstrates that. So, I don’t think we should expect an improvement simply because he’s batting in front of Votto every day.

    THAT SAID: I’m sure that with batting second, and with the understanding that he’ll bat second EVERY DAY, he can adjust his approach to focus more on OBP and less on power. I agree with Shichi, that he can adjust his approach somewhat. If that means less home runs, but more times on base, I’d take that trade.

    The key will be health. If he plays 155 games healthy, he’ll be a 4-5 win player. But if he’s hurt, he’s the type of player whose value will trail off dramatically because so much depends on his defense and if he’s hurt, that will suffer.

  21. @per14: In general lineup protection may be a myth but the same guys guys hitting better in the #2 spot than #1 spot last season was clearly demonstrated by facts. It happened with Phillips, Cozart, and Stubbs, they all put up better offensive numbers better hitting second than hitting first. Even if it’s a myth I think hitting second puts Brandon Phillips in a great position to be successful.

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