DatDudeBP

Failing to Abide

Brandon Phillips has been a truly outstanding all-around player for the Reds since virtually the minute he took the field at Great American Ball Park in 2006 after being cast out by Cleveland. DatDudeBP has won four Gold Glove awards and deserved a couple more. Although he hasn’t had 20 home runs or 20 stolen bases since 2009, he did have a 30/30 season in 2007 and a couple 20/20 seasons right after that. According to FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference calculations, he’s been worth about 25 WAR in his eight seasons for the Reds.

Forget the stats for a moment. I’ve stood up to cheer more of Phillips’ plays than any other current Reds player.

***

In the final scene of the film The Big Lebowski, the main character played by Jeff Bridges famously shrugs his shoulders and says, “Yeah, well. The Dude abides.” Abides, meaning to be able to endure without yielding, to continue on and withstand change.

***

There were plenty of legitimate arguments last season about Brandon Phillips. But in 2014, there’s really no debate.

DatDude is failing to abide.

Swing and Miss BP’s strikeout rate in 2014 is around 24%, a huge increase from 14.7% last year and nearly 10% higher than any of his previous seasons with the Reds. Phillips now has the 13th highest swing-and-miss rate in the Major Leagues. His alarming whiff rate isn’t just due to him swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone, although that’s part of it; his contact rate on pitches inside the strike zone is also falling.

Power Phillips slugging percentage has also dropped steadily and precipitously the last four seasons (.457, .429, .396 and now .343). He has one home run and on pace to drive in about 30 runs. And it’s not because no one has been on base in front of him. Phillips has knocked in only 6% of the runners on base. That’s by far the lowest rate among Reds regulars, lagging behind the bench players and even most of the starting pitchers. (League average is 13%)

Plate discipline When a player realizes he’s losing bat speed, he tends to compensate by swinging earlier. As a result, he ends up swinging at more pitches outside of the strike zone and taking fewer walks. We saw that vividly with Scott Rolen. Phillips has never been particularly disciplined when it comes to swinging at balls, but this season the percentage of pitches out of the zone that he swings at has spiked from 39% to 44%. That’s now the second highest rate in the Major Leagues. (The only player who swings at more balls is Nolan Arenado of the Rockies, but his contact rate for those pitches is 74% compared to Phillips, whose seen his contact rate on balls drop suddenly from 66% to 59%.) Phillips’ walk-rate is less than half of what it was last year. He’s walked only three times.

Speed Stolen bases used to be one of Brandon Phillips’ strengths. But his stolen base numbers have become those of a slow-footed slugger. After averaging over 20 SB from 2006-2012, in 2013 he attempted only eight, and successfully swiped just five. BP (or his managers) are aware of his slowing down, as his attempted stolen bases have fallen, nearly in lockstep, the past few years (40, 33, 34, 28, 23, 17, 8). In 2014, he’s 0-for-2.

Batting average Phillips’ batting average, a somewhat respectable .262, is propped up by a BABIP of .338, more than 40 percent above his career rate. At this rate, when BP’s BABIP normalizes, he’ll be hitting around .230. Likewise, his OBP would be about .250.

Contribution to runs scored If you’re looking for fancier metrics, Phillips’ wRC+ has fallen the past four years (122, 101, 91 to now 69). Remember a league average player is 100.

To make a brief, but obvious point, he sure as heck shouldn’t be batting third in the Reds’ order.

When the advanced defensive metrics for 2014 become reliable with larger sample sizes, they’ll show a player with a smaller range and less sure hands. It’s early, to be sure, but there have already been wrong turns, dropped balls and missed plays that the old Brandon Phillips would have made as a matter of routine.

This relatively sudden change in BP’s performance isn’t anything that’s his fault. He’s just getting older.

***

The decline of our aging favorite players isn’t blame-worthy or shame-worthy. Nor should it be a surprise. We’d love for them to go on forever. But even Pete Rose reached a point where he was just another player, or worse. At some point, they all fail to abide.

Age and talent are mysteries in sports. Just as certain players break into our consciousness like a thunderclap at various ages, others fade away almost as suddenly. The tricky part for fans is realizing that players, for the most part, don’t have much control over the rate of their decline. There are examples of graceful, long exits. And others of shockingly abrupt collapse. The largest category, however, being those cases that aren’t so clear cut.

The Reds’ second baseman will turn 33 just before this year’s All-Star break. Convincing research shows that’s an age where Major League players begin to decline rapidly. The general notion of an aging curve and deterioration after the age 27 or 28 is well established. Decline rates accelerate around ages 32 and 33.

BP is in his decline phase and has been for a while. Again, no judgement to pass there.

Well, BP was hurt last year, his defenders point out. Here’s an important point: Injuries don’t exonerate decline, they are an integral and tell-tale part of it. Second base is a tough position physically, with injuries a greater risk than for any position other than catcher.

Two of Phillips’ strongest qualities over the years, speed and defense, are ones that peak early. Combine that with the research on steep aging curves associated with second basemen generally, and Brandon Phillips is a likely candidate for predictable backsliding at just this age.

About that research: Nate Silver (2005) found that second basemen decline faster than other players in their thirties. Dave Cameron (2012) learned that the drop off for second basemen for ages 31-35 is severe and even some of the best second basemen have just stopped being productive in their early thirties. John Shepherd (2010) found that fielding ability for second basemen peaks at ages 27-29 and falls completely apart in their early to mid thirties. He concludes “your typical second baseman and shortstop will be quite useful at their natural positions until they reach about age 32.”

Phillips wouldn’t be the first elite second baseman to fall off a cliff. In fact, there’s a substantial track record. [Seriously, google ‘second basemen’ and ‘fell off a cliff.’] Carlos Baerga, Chuck Knoblauch and Robbie Alomar are examples of great second basemen who became unproductive in the blink of a batter’s eye. Chase Utley, a few years older than Phillips, has battled debilitating injuries. And holy cow, Rickie Weeks.

On the other hand, Joe Morgan, Jeff Kent, Craig Biggio and Sweet Lou Whitaker stayed relatively productive in their mid-30s. But those players were more elite (measured by WAR) in their prime than BP. They each had multiple 6 WAR seasons and Phillips has had none. So they had farther and longer to fall before reaching mediocrity.

All this research must surely have been in the minds of teams when they resisted trade overtures for Phillips this off-season. The Yankees passed on extending Robinson Cano for fear of signing on for his decline phase. Cano is 31 years old.

***

The good news is even if Brandon Phillips has begun a sudden decline, he’ll still have good at bats, good series, good weeks, maybe even good months. Every time he hits a homer, drives in a key run or makes a Gold Glove play, we’ll hear “told you so” from his many fans. No matter what, Phillips will still have his days. The cliff is an imperfect metaphor.

And it needs to be said that BP might just be in an early season slump and that he’ll abide. This year. Not forever. No one does.

But all this evidence. The collapse in plate discipline. The swings and misses. The rising strikeouts. The plummeting walk rate. The fall off in slugging, RBI and stolen bases. Whether you prefer old school stats or fancy new metrics, the conclusion is the same.

If Brandon Phillips has fallen off the cliff, this unfortunately, is exactly what it would look like.

***

It’s possible I’m completely wrong about DatDudeBP and he’ll beat the odds and put up a few more outstanding seasons. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d been mistaken about his fate. Given he has a contract that runs through 2017 and the difficulty the Reds apparently will have moving him, I hope DatDude does find a way to cheat Father Time.

And I sure hope he makes it to the finals.

102 thoughts on “Failing to Abide

  1. I think what worries me about the numbers posted here, is that even if BP catches fire, as he is prone to do for a week or two, it will only be to improve numbers like (e.g. his slugging) that still are low in terms of where they fall on a declining line. Within a two week stand, he might look really good, but zoom out and your still going to find an average hitter I’m afraid.

    Here’s to putting an awkward and unrewarding April behind for BP and anyone else (ahem, Hoover).

    • I would love to see a metric that could take into account sustained numbers instead of inflated numbers due to a streaking player. Perhaps if they wer broken down into number of weeks plus and number of weeks minus

      • What you’re looking for would be something like the standard deviation of a 14-day (or whatever time period) moving average for any given statistic. This would give a measure of how “streaky” a player is, similar to how standard deviation in used as a mesaure of risk for securities.

  2. I don’t have a problem with Phillips’ decline and/or current slump. My problem is with the Reds’ reaction to it. First, he should not be hitting third. Bruce, Frazier, Mesoraco, even Ludwick or Heisey would be a better choice. Second, they have to stop thinking of him as a strong right handed bat in the lineup and recognize that there is currently just… no one fitting that description. The Reds are desperately in need of one, but can’t seem to recognize that, let alone address that need.

    On a slightly related note (re. lineup construction) count me in the camp of Hamilton is fine at lead off. I don’t see a clearly superior alternative, it takes experience to learn so I say more at bats is a good thing, and if Hamilton is not ever going to become a solid lead off hitter they’ll know a little sooner. But most importantly I am convinced that he will develop so I think he’s right where he should be. And I also know we would be much more patient about this question if Votto and Bruce we’re hitting right now. I think it’s WAY too early to draw any conclusions about Hamilton’s future based on less than a month leading off.

    • Mesoraco (1.297 OPS), Ludwick (.777 OPS) and Frazier (.772) OPS are all right-handed. I don’t understand your point that there are no strong RH bats in the Reds lineup at all.

      • Those 3 would definitely be better choices than Phillips. Even though Ludwick has the best career stats of the 3, I’d take Mesoraco as he has the most potential upside.

        This would be an ideal lineup for the Reds right now:

        CF BHam
        1B Votto
        C Mesoraco
        RF Bruce
        LF Ludwick/Frazier
        3B Frazier/Ludwick
        2B Phillips
        SS Cozart

        But again, do we really think Phillips would be willing to bat lower for the good of the team?

        • I have read the argument, ‘Do we really think Phillips would be willing to bat lower for the good of the team?’, in one form or another, from several contributors here. I guess my perspective on that issue is a big “WHO CARES!” Bryan Price is the manager and Walt Jocketty is the general manager. Those are the 2 individuals paid to make such decisions. Votto’s response (paraphrased) to questions about where he hits in the lineup was ‘it’s not my decision’. I don’t know how Phillips would react, but the perception that is even might be a problem is troublesome. If it is a problem for Phillips, he can always waive his limited no-trade clause and politely request a trade.

        • Oh, and for what it’s worth, that’s exactly the lineup the Old Cossack would propose if anyone asked (which they obviously won’t), with te one caveat that the #4 and #5 hole might be flipped depending on matchups.

      • I maintain that there are no strong right handed bats in the Reds lineup. Mesoraco may become one, and I genuinely hope he does, but that 1.297 number is a small sample size anomaly. If he qualified that would have him leading the majors. By 16%. I don’t think that’s sustainable, do you? If he could sustain .900 I’ll be dancing on tables, trust me. As for Ludwick and Frazier, both are respectable but neither is anything special. Frazier’s currently 85th in MLB in OPS out of 187 qualified hitters, sandwiched between the Indians sluggers Yan Gomes and David Murphy. Not exactly a force to be reckoned with. FWIW our beloved Zack Cozart is #187. I like Ludwick and Frazier, I really do. And I root hard for them. But I have never seen them come up in a critical spot and have real confidence they’ll produce. I have with Votto and Bruce of course, but I yearn for a right handed bat that will pass the sabremetric test and the eye test as a major right handed threat. Maybe we’re splitting hairs but bottom line I hope Mesoraco becomes that threat and I’d like to see him getting a lot more at bats in key spots after his return than Phillips does, and I’d like to think that Jocketty was out hunting for a strong(er) right handed bat to upgrade the Reds lineup.

  3. Phillips’ decline will be painful. Not only do the Reds lack a replacement anywhere in the system, but he doesn’t hit well enough to move to 3B, and his prickly personality puts the organization in an awkward position when they finally decide to start pushing lower and lower in batting order.

    • This is my major concern. What do you do with him now that you can’t move him? He’s already shown that he won’t deal well with any “threats” to push him aside and isn’t likely to gracefully yield to a backup role the way Rolen sort-of did. Given the love he’s garnered from local fans (myself included), it could become a bottom-line issue. When the trade rumors were flying around this winter, I heard a number of folks say, “If they trade Phillips, I’ll cancel my season tickets.” People love to watch him hot-dog and be cocky. It’s that attitude that has made the fans love him, but that same attitude could work against the Reds if he becomes unhappy with the Manager or FO and feels he has nothing to lose by going public with it.

      • Brandon Phillips is not going anywhere. No one wants to take on that salary for a middle infielder in a steady decline. The Reds are stuck with him.

      • My guess is that the number of people who said that who actually have season tickets was very, very close to zero.

        • Agreed. And the increase in revenue eventually realized from good management practices would outweight a few fans cancelling their season tickets due to BP being shipped out.

    • I really agree–very well-written and very depressing, too. I am curious, Steve, that you cite his rbi total as evidence given your stated opinion that rbi is close to meaningless. Small quibble, though. I’m a big BP fan but am disturbed by his hitting this year.

      • I did that to appeal to all segments of the audience. His RBI number and percent of runs driven in are both irrelevant to me. But I know there are people who read this who care a lot about RBI and use Phillips’ RBI total last year (103) as an argument that he actually had a great year. So including them was just a way of making my point more inclusive.

        • That stat really tied the article together, did it not?

          I am glad you did include the RBI totals for that very reason, many of us value the RBI more than the “advanced stats” especially for a hitter in BP’s usual slotting by the Reds skippers the last couple years.

    • We saw Price unwilling to move Mesoraco up in the order during his hot streak, so I’m guessing BP has until the All-Star Break to turn things around.

  4. Great article. Not surprising that there was not much of a trade market for BP in the off season. Hope BP can pick it up, he is very important to the Reds success this season.

  5. I’d like to also point out that he level of desire is clearly in the tank. He had a single yesterday if he wanted it … and was no where near running full speed to first base.

    Of all the counts against him; that one irritates me the most.

    • Did they ever show a replay of how he left the batter’s box?

      I was wondering if maybe he just thought it was an easy single when he hit it, and it was too late to reach first after he realized it wasn’t (even with the bobble).

      Obviously that’s still a huge mistake in terms of hustle and cockiness, but it wouldn’t be a problem with desire. Maybe it was ultimately desire, but I hesitate to call out a player’s desire without having a lot more evidence.

      • As I saw it the ball was hit pretty much right at Uggla with a fair amount of pace. It wasn’t so much a “single if he wanted it” as a case of he probably did not break hard out of the box because he saw it as a routine out then was left high and dry when Uggla misplayed it. He should have reached or at the least it should have been a bang/bang play. It turned out he was barely in the area code of 1B when the throw arrived.

        • I’d argue that any grounder to Dan Uggla should be considered a chance to reach base. He’s a scary defender :-)

  6. The one thing I disagree with in this article is the part on defense. Sure, his defense will slip some as he ages, but I haven’t seen any real evidence that his defense if falling off the same cliff as his offense. Some comments in game threads may have made it seem that way when he missed a ball or whatever, but that’s hardly reliable data if you’re calling into question the advanced metrics for small sample size.

    I think BP can still be a totally cromulent second baseman for the Reds, he just needs to hit 7th and someone needs to coach him to be more selective at the plate. My guess is that he ends up the year with around 2 WAR, mostly on the back of his defense, and that would be fine with me. Just not out of the #3 spot in the order.

    • At 33 you aren’t teaching Phillips to stop swinging at anything that is thrown up there. If he hasn’t learned by now there is absolutely no hope.

      • I agree with Kurt Frost above. Players don’t get coached into being more selective at age 33. I’d also add that as bat-speed slows, players need to start their swings early and cheat a little. This actually results in more swings and misses and a lower walk rate. Steve actually used that premise in his article as well. I love BP but I have to agree with Steve.

  7. I do not, did not and never will understand the contract extention offered to Phillips by the Reds. That was a gift, plain and simple, a thank-you for services rendered. That’s a contract that the Reds can not afford to extend. A gamble on future production (i.e. Bailey) I can understand, but a reward for past performance is the trap to which management (not just the Reds) has succumbed over and over in past years. The reds simply can’t afford such bad contracts. Hopefully negative budget impact of the $13MM per through 2017 will be limited by the new money coming into the coffers during the next 4 years, but I would certainly like to see that contract unloaded if possible.

    • Due to the influx of money in baseball, BP’s contract does not look all that bad. By the time his contract is finished with the Reds, the open market will probably be paying about 6.5-7M/WAR. By that metric, Brandon will need to put up about 2 WAR/year for the next 4 years.

      That will be hard, but even if he comes up a few WAR shot — his contract will by far not be the worst one the Reds have given out in recent years.

      If BP only puts up another 1.25 WAR/year over that time, then the Reds have paid about 100M to BP for about 29 WAR. Not a bad trade.

      • I agree 100% with everything you mentioned, particularly the career cost of Phillips contract with the Reds, but that’s really my point. Phillips’ last contract paid for prior performance, not future performance. That’s just a horrible business model.

        • I agree with what you are saying — the Reds had a lot of surplus value from his first contract that will disappear by the end of his second contract.

          At the time of the signing, BP was a very popular Reds player — I have to wonder how much that played into the front office’s decision to resign him. The Reds may also have been using broken age projection due to the PED-era. Its hard to say, but it seems like a collective failure given the number of teams that seem willing to give huge contracts to players over the age of thirty.

          Speaking of horrible business models, how ’bout them Angels?

    • I understand what your saying, but lets remember where the Reds were when the extension was signed. I didn’t think it was so bad at the time.

    • A little premature to label the Phillips contract as the worst. Broxton’s contract isn’t looking too good. Bailey’s money may prevent the Reds from locking up Cueto and let’s not forget the money Votto is getting to bat second and play a mediocre first base.

  8. With the Reds saddled with low offensive production from the middle infield positions and no help available from within the organzation anywhere on the horizon, that pretty much locks up the #7 and #8 hole positions in the lineup by the middle infielders. Every other position must provide offensive production. An OPS+ of 80 by Hamilton places him squarely in the leadoff position for the Reds. An OPS+ of 110 by Frazier and Ludwick would be a reasonable expectation and would fill the #5 & #6 holes in the lineup, but that leaves a strong offensive performance (120+ OPS+) needed from the catcher to fill the #3/#4 hole in the lineup. Mesoraco might provide that offensive production (and more), but that’s still an open question at this point.

  9. I think Brian Price will move Brandon down in the order when the time is politically right. It would signal that he is in firm control of the team and willing to abide any distractions that the move might cause. I’m hoping for tonight.

    I also suspect that the Reds will end up paying Brandon when he’s no longer on the team or even in baseball. He’s Walt’s Eric Milton. :)

    • I’m not convinced that Phillips’ contract was WJ’s decision or initiative. Without any supporting evidence, I believe that was BC’s decision and initiative, not WJ’s. That’s what really irked me about Phillips’ comments regarding the contract.

  10. I’m with the Cossack on the Phillips contract. It was a bad idea, always and forever, and the Reds should have duplicated Steve’s enumeration of cliff-diving second basemen before they re-signed him. I would have traded him for anything remotely plausible this off-season, including a case of Twinkies.

    And I restate my long-held position that Mesoraco needs to be in left field. He is too strong of a hitter to abide all the injuries at catcher. Yes, he pulled his hammy rounding third, but being stumped up at catcher leads to these kinds of injuries.

    It took me forever to figure out the new WordPress requirements, with patience not being one of my virtues.

      • Well, his desire to play LF is inconsequential. He plays where the people signing his paychecks tell him to play.

        With that said, it’s vastly easier to learn to play a decent LF than it is to learn to play just about any other position.

        • His desire to play LF is inconsequential? People get paid for doing their jobs, but still retain enough human nature to be affected–negatively and positively–by the varying demands of the job. Make him do it whether he likes it or not? Maybe he won’t do it very well under those circumstances. I certainly wouldn’t.

  11. After the off season that Brandon had with the trade rumors and being talked about so much to be in his decline I honestly thought he might start the season hot trying to prove to everyone he still had it. I thought he’d start hot but then cool off dramatically after a while but I didn’t expect him to be this bad. It seems like his whole attitude about this season is skewed or something. He doesn’t seem like he’s trying to show people he still has something left in the tank but more so lackadaisical. Now I know he works hard and is trying hard on every play but from an outside prospective it just doesn’t seem as such. I hate to say it but it almost seems like he’s just lazily going about things thus far. There have been issues with him and hustling in the past but I had assumed that he had matured and maybe the off season had hardened him a little and made him want to make sure reporters and critics had little to gripe about with him but that hasn’t been the case so far. I hope Brandon can somehow turn it around and have a decent season. We all want him to show us we were wrong in thinking he would decline but I’d doesn’t look as if that’ll happen.

  12. One of the reasons I thought it was so important for the Reds to trade BP this past off-season was that I figured this was their last chance to trade him when the contract might still be right-side-up. As Mike points out, the Reds are paying BP $50 million over the next 4 years. At a WAR going for $6.5-7 million (and inflation continuing) BP could potentially have provided enough value to pay for his contract, assuming he had a good 2014 as a starting point, before serious decline set it.

    I kept cautioning people here last year that BP’s contract was right around value so they couldn’t expect the Reds would get much in return for trading him. Perhaps other teams were scared off of his falling numbers. Maybe the Reds didn’t want to take the PR hit with fans for getting relatively little back for BP. Maybe both those things.

    But unless he turns things around for a while this season, his contract looks to be upside-down now.

    • I wonder if teams were scared off by his poor attitude in addition to his declining numbers?

  13. With the way MLB hands out bad contracts all the time I am not sure the big deal at this point. Teams will see his flash on the field and if they really want him won’t worry one bit about monies on his contract.

    • You might be right about that. His highest remaining salary in the contract is $14 million. For a lot of teams, that’s what they would pay a decent 2B. Two questions: will the see BP as a decent 2B? Will his no-trade powers block any move?

      • How bout he makes up for some of the decline with a little more hustle. Maybe chats up the local media just a bit. He is way to thin skinned for whats about to come with declining numbers.

      • Great article on Phillips decline but I’d be shocked if anyone is willing to take Phillips off the Reds hands. He won’t have to block a trade because there will be no trade to consider.

  14. I am a huge fan of Brandon Phillips. I tend not to put much stock into a single month of stats, but even I have to admit that career trajectory is troubling. I honestly thought Phillips would have a kind of Barry Larkin-esque tail end to his career, but of course as Steve said about other elite middle infielders, Larkin was starting from a much higher point to decline from. Phillips and Larkin were somewhat similar players in their prime with regard to counting stats, it’s just Larkin did everything better in the average stats.

    It is sad to watch, but one must conclude that Phillips is indeed on the decline. He leads the team in hits, but that’s because he swings at everything. I still think he can be a useful piece both defensively and offensively, but he definitely should not be hitting third when there are several obvious better choices, especially two younger players who could really grow into the role.

    I do hope that Phillips genuinely had a bad month at the plate and he will bounce back to put up some reasonable stats, but unlike younger players, there is no reasonable expectation for him to suddenly have an offensive renaissance. Defensively, he’s still well above average. Offensively… He COULD be pretty good relative to the position he plays. It’s not like 2B is some offensive powerhouse position.

    If Phillips can finish with a slash line of .275/.320/.400 with about 15 HR and 10 SB, that would be fantastic. I feel that’s about the best we can expect at this point from our once All Star secondbaseman.

    As Steve said, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about, but boy does it hurt watching your heroes get old.

    • I’ve always had the opposite perspective about watching aging players in their decline. It was just the natural way of things, rather than something that pained me to view. What really hurt was the sudden demise or curtailment of a career caused by injury (see Jim Maloney or Wayne Simpson). Those situations always made/make me sick.

      • It depends on which you find more painful: the unrealized potential with glory years stolen, or once great players reduced to shadows of their former selves.

        I guess in a way, in architectural terms, one is like seeing a construction site for a beuatiful building that only got halfway complete before funds ran out, and the other is like watching that same building complete, but slowly falling into derelict and disrepair.

        Is it better to have loved and lost or not loved at all?

        • Oh wow CI3J, that goes way beyond the Old Cossacks ability to philosophize. I’m just an old simple goat who loves Reds baseball.

      • Hmm. I’d be careful there. As unlikely as BP is to do that, we do get at least 3,500 unique views per day. :-)

        • Geez, ‘unique’ is among the nicest things anyone has called the Old Cossack in a very long time! Thanks Steve.

  15. Two quotes from Reds players I haven’t forgot:

    Brandon Phillips – I’ll bat anywhere 1-4

    Adam Dunn slinging golf clubs over his shoulder as the 2006 season and his production went down the toilet – what should I do, take more BP?

    • When Phillips first came to the Reds, he had a lot of success hitting 6th. Wonder if he’d go back to that?

      And Dunn…. I never liked that guy. He was a guy who was a good athlete, but not a good baseball player.

        • Dunn is too one-dimensional to be considered a “good” baseball player, isn’t he?

        • Please, I’m begging you, no more Adam Dunn arguments. Those caused me to leave the blog alone for a couple of weeks back in the day. Save the Big Donkey arguments for the Chicago folks. Please.

        • Yes, seriously. Apologies, Preacher, but there is relevance because evaluating players solely based upon offense (as Dunn fans must do) is missing more than half of the game. There. No more from me on this subject.

      • He’s considered to be a likely shoe-in for the first guy to have possibly hit 500 HR and not make it to Cooperstown. That says a lot.

  16. I am in mourning for BP. I am mourning the loss of unrealized expectations. I really do not care about the money since ownership has proven that they will pay for players that they like, and it is up to Walt to figure out if they are also the players that we need.

    I have really liked the way he was a team player and would hit anywhere in the order. I like how fan friendly he is. I love that he stirred the pot with the hated cardinals because even if he was wrong in what he did, well it was the hated cardinals…

    I tire of his approach at the plate this year. I would actually bench him for Shumaker when he is health if the Skipster can give me a better AB. I would not have said that in previous years. It is hard when you are a fan because you look past the pile of poop sometimes to find the pony (thanks Dutch for that).

    Phillips will be with us for 3.8 more years. I would love to see him take a team first approach in that time. Hey, if you are going to give up the out anyway, just become the designated bunter and at least move the runners.

    His swing from the heals is just not right. I like him much better when he hits to right, but he is not trying to do that much this year. And yes, I think he is less focused this year.
    I was really looking for this to be a comeback year for him…

  17. This team will never reach its full potential until we get a RH power bat. Phillips needs to hit 6th or 7th. We are lacking offense. I would trade both BP and Bailey, if possible. Bad contracts MUST stop, Ludwick, Broxton, Phillips, Bailey and Votto are bad.

    • So…. Hannahan is a good contract? That’s what I’m reading into this.

      It seems as if you are assigining “big numbers” with “bad contract.” A $1 million contract to a player producing negative WAR is SIGNIFICANTLY worse than a $20 million contract to a player putting up 5.5 WAR.

  18. The thing I am noticing game in and game out about BP is that the joy is gone from his game. We have no way of knowing what mix of mental, emotional, and physical wear has rendered him this way or what this issues might be. I’ve wondered if in truth he was ready to move on and is dissatisfied to still be in CIncy.

    I do think it is a bit of a cheap shot to speculate that might become a clubhouse problem if he is dropped in the batting order. Over the last several years, he has batted wherever he was asked/ told to and tried to bend his talents to what he perceived the position he was put in required.

    • You may think it’s a cheap shot, and it’s true that Brandon has willingly moved in the past. However, I think it’s absolutely fair speculation given the fact that he publicly called the owner a liar last year and is throwing a season-long temper tantrum so far this year.

      • Temper tantrum? I think that he’s struggling at the plate, and it might be that he will from now on. But he continues to play hard. Sending the media to coventry (if he’s still doing that) isn’t evidence of a general temper tantrum in my view.

  19. BP is in a sudden decline phase? Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man. It may be true, but I’d prefer not to draw grand conclusions on the basis of 103 ABs.

    Phillips was robbed of a HR by a spectacular defensive play early in the season, and more recently had an extra base hit taken away by another nice play. Without those two plays, BP’s slash would improve to .281/.302/.388/.690. Not very good, but roughly in line with last year. He will decline, probably sooner rather than later, but I think it’s simply too early in the season to assess whether we’re witnessing a sudden decline or just a sub-par month.

    • Go back and look at his numbers from the last three years. Put them in excel, make a line chart and then slide down it.

      • Of course the lines trend down – that’s what happens to athletes in their 30s. Mr. Mancuso asserts that BP’s decline may be abnormally precipitous, and that we can use his 2014 stats as supporting evidence. I don’t believe that 103 ABs is a large enough sample to draw any conclusions about what kind of year BP will have or how fast his production will decline.

        • I agree. If trhe whole crux of the article is about the rate at which BP is declining, I gotta see more than 100 ABs before passing judgement. Same with Hamilton…….or everyone for that matter.

        • The sample size is big enough to conclude his plate discipline stats are in rapid decline.

    • Swinging statistics stabilize withing 103 ABs. See Jason Linden’s article from last week. Sure, counting/rate stats aren’t great at 103 ABs, but his swinging and missing is not going away. It’s real. It’s here to stay.

  20. “He’s [Phillips] a better hitter than he’s been in the last week,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “I don’t have a concern. He’s got a huge resume of performance. It will be something special when he warms up and does what he’s capable of doing.

    “We just want him to hit not necessarily to the spot in the order, but just to hit,” Price said. “Get a good pitch to hit and hit it. Don’t worry about whether you’re hitting first, second or third, fourth or fifth.”

    I really hope that Phillips jolts out of his hitting funk, but I’m afraid that Bryan may be riding this horse with blinders on. For the past 5 series, Phillips has slashed just .197/.206/.230. This lack of production is hitting in the #3 hole, creating another black hole right in the middle of what should be the most productive portion of the lineup.

    I was pleased to see that Bryan extended his hitting analysis to the #5 hole, but with the carelessly aggressive hitting approach Phillips is utilizing, I would not rule out the #7 hole along with Cozart and his overly aggressive hitting approach in the #8 hole.

    • Important question. My *guess* is that Price isn’t blind, he’s just reluctant to demote Phillips for clubhouse/attitude reasons. I understand being sensitive about how your players will react, but this tolerance of BP’s failure batting third goes way beyond that.

      • Steve, that’s the read the Old Cossack had/has on the situation. I do think handling of the situation requires some degree of patience, discretion, and tact, but the time is nigh to make the change, unless we are misreading the situation and giving Bryan more credit than justified.

    • I also like that Price didn’t say we’d have to wait until August for BP to warm up, as Dusty once said about Renteria.

  21. I’ve only gotten a chance to watch 3 or 4 games so far this season, but each game had one thing in common: BP striking out on awful pitches. It’s gotten to the point where every time he comes up to bat, I expect a ground out, DP, or really bad looking K. That’s not what really irks me though; I’m more concerned about the way he has looked/acted in a good number of the at-bats. Mostly like he’s just going through the motions.

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