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
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.