You may notice that I am willfully trying to knock out the most controversial players first. First, it was Votto. Now it’s Phillips.

At the end of last season, many on Twitter (I love Twitter, but there are some interesting folk there) would tell you that BP was the MVP of the Reds.  Because arebeeeye. Those people were wrong. Not only was Phillips not the MVP last year, but he had a second year of decline at an age when many second basemen fall of a cliff. Averaging the FanGraphs and BBRef WAR totals for the last three years gives us this:

2011: 5.3 WAR
2012: 3.8 WAR
2013: 2.2 WAR

That, kids, is a trend. And not a good one. However, as you are well aware, there are some mitigating factors. Phillips hurt his wrist early in the season and apparently it dogged him for the rest of the year. I was initially skeptical as he was still bad four months after he hurt it, but he went to see doctors about it during the offseason. So, I have changed my outlook on Phillips a bit. While I was initially prepared for a full collapse, I don’t think that’s most likely now. Here are my projections for Phillips.

Brandon Phillips
2013 Slash Line: .261/.310/.396
2014 Projection: .265/.310/.400

2013 WAR: 2.2
2014 Best Guess WAR: 2.0
Projected Difference: -0.2 WAR
2014 Floor: 1.0 WAR
2014 Ceiling: 4.0 WAR

As you’ll see, I am not projecting a real rebound for Phillips. Rather, I think his decline pauses for a year as better health holds off the ravages of age for one more year. Phillips is going to be 33 this year, and that is not a good age for second basemen. It’s quite possible that I am wrong, but this is pretty in line with what the projection systems see, and even the FanGraphs FAN projections aren’t much more optimistic than this.

Okay, let me have it. What do you think BP is going to do this year?

102 Responses

  1. Steve Mancuso

    Without question, the wrist injury was a factor. On the other hand, the pace Phillips was on prior to the injury was also unsustainable based on his career numbers. I’d probably be a touch higher than you are across the board on his numbers, but just a light touch. The thought of the Baker-style lineup, with his low OBP hitting after Billy Hamilton, conjures images of way too many two-out-no-one-on ABs for Joey Votto.

    A big uncertainty — and I fear there is only downside in this — is the repercussion of the off-again/on-again trade situation, especially if Phillips and Reds were to get off to a slow start. There was innuendo at the end of last season about Phillips’ negative role in the clubhouse. That could get even worse. And then the trade rumors might recur. Downward spiral.

    At some point, it’s inevitable, Phillips’ defense will become mortal as well.

  2. Drew Mac

    If the projection is right, it’s time to move him for a fungo bat. There is still a sense that the wrist thing put off his production. Toronto or Baltimore may bite. If he proves it wasn’t the wrist, nobody will give a pine tar rag for him. I hope you are wrong. If you right, this contract (and the whole situation) is going to get really ugly.

  3. Kyle Farmer

    Phillips is really an enigma this year in my eyes. He could have a bounce-back, I’ll show them, type of year that might resemble 2011. Or, he could fall right off the 2B cliff that many of us fear. I also think that injuries could really begin to affect his play at his age. I like how Jason is splitting the difference in his projection.

    I also agree with Steve that we could be in for a Terrell Owens-like clubhouse implosion. He certainly isn’t starting the year off on the right foot. I also wonder about what his relationship with Bryan Price will be like.

    Finally, how did I miss Jason’s Votto projections. Going to have to hit the archives!

  4. Johnu1

    I think some of my convoluted beliefs on the various players are related to my ambivalence over the metrics.

    While they suggest real values, I still believe baseball is a team game and that some of these projections place too much onus on the individual to deliver.

    BP is no exception and the arguments over his numbers are proof. A lot of what a player does is directly related to what his teammates do.

    Without spending any more time on explaining the obvious, I still want to wait and see what sort of lineup Price puts together and what changes in organizational approach — if any — occur, before I throw BP out with the soapy water.

    He’s not going to make the Hall of Fame, so that’s off the table. But what we want is for the team to win a divisional title. BP is integral to that objective.

    Personal opinion: We worry too much.

  5. Shchi Cossack

    The Old Cossack just realized that Bruce and Phillps have almost identical contracts over the next 4 years:

    Phillips: $11MM, $12MM, $13MM & $14MM
    Bruce: $10MM, $12MM, $12.5MM & $13MM

    Unlike many fans, I have seen a significant decline in Phillips defense over the past 2 seasons from an elite, other-worldly defense to a good, above-average defense. His defensive decline combined with his speed and hitting decline are worrisome. I also don’t think a trade is viable at this point. Seattle has 2 young 2B options (Ackley & Franklin) they need to accomodate with Cano signed as a fixture at 2B. Both of those 2B options are younger, cheaper and have more upside than Phillips with more years of team control. Of course such players are also more expensive in a trade than Phillips, so maybe WJ can find a trading partner.

    I believe the more likely scenario becomes a question of Phillips remaking his hitting approach as a top-of-the-order, selective hitter or the Reds relegating Phillips to an expensive, bottom-of-the-order hitter with declining defensive capability (see Dan Uggla).

  6. jordanmt

    He sure looks like a 2-3 win player. Looking at UZR his defense held even last year so it does not seem that is a huge decline. His offense is declining but not as bad as I think we make it out to be because we are comparing it to 2011. 2011 he had a .322 BABIP which is way over his career norm. Take that year out and he is a 3-4 win player through 2011. Now he has declined into 2-3 win player. The contract may not but good in the out years but for 2014 running out a league average 2B for $11MM is no problem.

    • Jason Linden

      @jordanmt: Yeah. The fielding is good for now. When 2nd basemen lose it, they tend to lose it fast, but it’s hard to predict when it will happen.

      • Johnu1

        @Jason Linden:
        At his worst this year, he’s likely better than most players we could get to replace him — meaning to replace him NOW, not in 2 years. It’s not like there are a dozen quality 2B in pro ball who can hit MLB pitching and play GG defense.

        And before you all jump on the GG reference … yes, I am aware of its comparative value. But it’s better than being “last” in the league.

        The issue is, I don’t think Cincy is in a position to experiment at 2B when it’s clear they are still experimenting in CF, probably in LF and definitely behind the plate.

      • Jason Linden

        @Johnu1: Yeah, I wouldn’t argue the point. It’s unlikely he’s still a starter at the end of that contract, though.

  7. Kurt Frost

    After using Twitter for a while I’ve come to the conclusion that Twitter gives a voice to the stupid and ignorant no one listens to in real life.

    • Jason Linden

      @Kurt Frost: I’ve actually developed quite a few solid and interesting internet friendships on Twitter. Of course, I’m reasonably quick to block people.

  8. Richard Fitch

    It will be fascinating to watch Phillips this season, provided he’s still with the team as the season wears on. I’m still convinced the Reds would look to move him if a suitor suddenly appeared because of injury.

    Defensive metrics still leave me a bit flummoxed. UZR likes BP, but DRS most definitely does not. Make of that what you will.

    What I’ve seen is that Brandon’s hands are getting slower. He’s being forced to decide earlier if, when and where to swing. The wrist injury may only serve to slow those hands down further, exacerbating the offensive decline. His hitting with RISP the first half was over the top and I don’t think he’s going to repeat that any more than I think the Cardinals are going to hit .330 with RISP.

    • Steve Mancuso

      @Richard Fitch: I agree with all of this, including the trade part. The window for his contract to be right-side-up is shutting fast. It concerns me that the Reds don’t have a viable backup 2B (Schumaker maybe?) even if a trade did present itself.

  9. redmountain

    Maybe I suffer from a terminal case of optimism, but I think that Phillips has a bit of a bounce back year. Since he is pretty good at hitting to the right side, he may benefit from the 1b having to hold Hamilton on and he may be able to get some hits through that hole that he did not get before. Of course, that will depend on Hamilton getting on base. I also do not know that a trade can and will happen, but the fact is that the Reds need to develop a 2b for the future. Whether through trade, or draft someone needs to be developed. Of course, maybe in a year, we may have enough options in the OF and Hamilton could be moved to the infield….or something.

    • hermanbates

      @redmountain: A couple of things. If Brandon was gonna benefit from the first baseman having to hold someone on, last year was the year to do it, seeing as he often bat with the two most prolific on-base machines in all of the major leagues on in front of him. Billy may allow Brandon to see a few more down the middle fastballs, but that’s about the only added benefit Hamilton will bring BP.

      As for your assessment of a trade, you’re right on. The Reds have no middle infield prospects worth a thought outside of MAYBE Ryan Wright, and that is if he has a big year this year in AA. Other than that, Corey Crawford in rookie ball last year is their best middle infield prospect. They’d have to get a second basemen back in any deal. Which calls to question which teams would trade for Brandon and give up a second baseman in the process.

      • Johnu1

        @hermanbates: Which, I think, is the issue. There aren’t any 2B that the Reds could get in a deal who could step in NOW — at least, nobody who is better than BP.

        Why deal for a prospect? We don’t need a prospect, we need a 2B. We already have prospects.

        If we trade the guy, it has to provide a FIX at one of our shaky positions — and LF is the only one at the moment that needs a fix.

        But that deal needs to be for longer than just a rental, and the guy has to be at least as good as BP. Otherwise, you trade one problem for another one.

        Somebody has to play 2B.

      • redmountain

        @hermanbates: I was referring to the fact that if Hamilton is on, someone will have to hold him close or he will be at second base and maybe third. Last year, he did not have a real SB threat on base in front of him. Choo, Votto, Cozart, etc. were not going to steal a lot; Hamilton will. As you stated, he will also benefit from more fastballs.

  10. hermanbates

    I’ve been labelled as a “doom-and-gloomer” on BP in past articles, but I stand by my estimation. I’m a very optimistic person in terms of baseball. The season is fresh, anything can happen, players can emerge and impossible feats will be done. Brandon could come out like gangbusters this year. He might hit for power, he may hit a lot, he may start walking. His defense could get better and he could regain his ability to swipe some bags.

    Realistically, those things are unlikely to happen. If Brandon is a 2 win player this year, I will be both shocked and thrilled. Unfortunately, I just think he’s past that point. Each year, balls get past him that I can’t help but think “Brandon 2 years ago would’ve had that easy.” He’ll swing at pitches anywhere, in or out of the strikezone. He made a lot of contact with pitches outside the zone last year; what happens when stops hitting those pitches, but is still swinging? I believe there are reasons for optimism, and I don’t have to look further than Mesoraco and Billy Hamilton. But BP is one thing I do not believe in this year.

  11. greenmtred

    The amount of angst about a gold glover who drove in 100 runs, hit 18 home runs, was willing to bat anywhere the manager wanted him to, and played with a difficult injury, is puzzling. I understand the disdain from many of you concerning the importance of rbi’s, and will again issue the so far untaken challenge: list the bad hitters who have driven in 100 runs. Do I understand that it is a dependent stat? Indeed I do. Do I understand that OBP is too? (Joey gets walked in part because other teams don’t fear the guy batting behind him) Indeed I do. Do I understand that having guys on ahead of you abets and is critical to RBI production? Of course. Do I understand that, in order to drive those guys in you have to do something right? Of course. And so on….BP is still a top-flight player, diminished or no.

    • Steve Mancuso

      @greenmtred: 1. Brandon Phillips

      Stats that isolate individual contribution and weed out teammate factors show that Phillips was a well-below average hitter last season, despite the RBI total. In wRC+ Phillips ranked 116 out of 140 qualified hitters in 2013. That’s what he did at the plate in terms of advancing runners. He was the world’s luckiest guy to have Choo and Votto on base so much in front of him.

      • Johnu1

        @Steve Mancuso:

        The RBI part of the discussion is probably irrelevant.

        Somebody has to get a hit with men on base.

        We can establish that BP isn’t a great hitter. I doubt if he ever was.

        This may not be a good contract and we can keep flying that “RBI is overrated” kite all day — but our backup 2B is Skip Schumaker.

      • greenmtred

        @Steve Mancuso: Funny, Steve. But of course, such a list would have to have more than one name on it–far more than one name–to support the validity of the premise. I freely admit that I don’t know the new stats, and I acknowledge that they probably have improved our ability to evaluate and understand the game. But…they are in there relative infancy, no? Would you think that newer evaluation tools might appear? Or that the current crop might be significantly refined? I will posit that if BP is the only hitter to drive in 100 runs–in the long history of the game–whom the stats show to be a “bad” hitter, then the stats are almost certainly wrong.

    • Jason Linden

      @greenmtred: Outside of hitting in front of the pitcher, studies have shown that the batters hitting before or after a player have no measurable impact on OBP or SLG or AVG. So no, OBP is not context dependent. And lots of bad hitters have driven in a 100. I’m eating lunch in the middle of doing a brake job, but if I have time later (and no one else gets to it), I’ll look it up.

      • Jason Linden

        @Jason Linden: Actually, I should amend that. Lost of mediocre hitters have driven in 100. BP was about average with the bat last year. And it’s not so uncommon for average hitters hitting behind or in front of great hitters to see their counting stats (runs or RBI) be better than they would otherwise.

      • Johnu1

        @Jason Linden: You may want to define “mediocre.”

        It’s kind of like a fast runner or a tall tree. I guess Hack Wilson was probably mediocre for his career, but for one shining moment.

        How does somebody drive in 190 runs?

        Despite this, if I didn’t know better, I’d say BP is being blamed for driving in 103 runs because we mistakenly believe he is a good hitter as a result.

      • Johnu1

        @Jason Linden: How many NL 2B were “mediocre” in 2013?

        Where would we get one, now in a deal, who would not be “mediocre” at 2B?

        See, this isn’t about getting rid of BP, it’s about replacing him.

        If he can’t play, I’d assume the Reds will deal with that at the time.

        So far, I don’t see anybody we can get who is even close to “mediocre.”

      • Johnu1

        @Johnu1: I suppose, going on, salary dump is all that is positive about replacing him for the moment. Salary dumps don’t play 2B and we sort of, kind of, generally, need one …

        So if you give me $20 million now and tell me to find a 2B, there still ain’t one I can get THIS YEAR.

        If we don’t care about this year, fine … I happen to be running out of next years. All of you will, someday.

      • Jason Linden

        @Johnu1: You are changing the argument a 91 OPS+ is a mediocre hitter, which came up when discussin mediocre hitters with 100 RBI.

        It happens, however, that 91 was almost dead average for second basemen last year. So, even for his position, BP is a mediocre hitter.

        Anyway, I never argued that BP wasn’t worth playing or that the Reds should try to replace him, but I don’t feel the need to pretend he’s still an all-star. He’s an average player now. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      • Johnu1

        @Jason Linden: I suppose I just wanted to clarify what we (as a group) are discussing.

        a. Is Phillips a guy we should keep?
        b. Is he a guy we should trade?

        Either way, we are stuck with (a.) because (b.) doesn’t yield us any benefit.

        I tend to zero in on the particular form of the TO BE verb … as “IS”.

        In any event, I am not deliberately trying to warp the discussion, but rather … hopefully bring it back to where we are all talking about the same thing.

        BP’s numbers suggest that in 2 years, we will want to replace him.

        In two years, that may have happened.

        For now, it’s a cyclical discussion about his decline. We ain’t got no real alternatives.

        That’s where I am with this. I can’t join a discussion on alternatives until some are offered. So far, it’s been Nick Franklin. He isn’t (please note, verb form) better than BP.

      • Jason Linden

        @Johnu1: This is a projection of what I think Phillips is likely to do this year. What we, as a group, are discussing is how accurate we feel my projections are likely. No one brought up trades except you.

      • Johnu1

        @Jason Linden: Trades have been brought up, maybe not in this thread. But it’s been part of the holistic BP discussion.

      • TC

        @TC: Notice the emphatic use of the verb to be, here. Specifically “it’s” (it IS) a blog.

      • Jason Linden

        @Jason Linden: Luckily, BBRef did it for me. Here’s a list of the worst 100 RBI seasons. It only goes through 2012, though.

        The category you want to look at is Rbat which is the number of runs above or below average a player was with the bat. (Some had decent years with the bat, but bad defense brought down their value).

        BP, for what it’s worth, wouldn’t come close to making this list. However, he was 5 runs below average with the bat last year.

        Also, we have to agree that the real measure of good hitting comes from rate stats. If you’re going to argue that hitters can’t have bad seasons and drive in 100 because driving in a 100 means you are a good hitter, well then, that’s some circular logic that I can’t argue with.

      • Steve Mancuso

        @Jason Linden: Although that’s a list based on WAR, which includes defense, and that wasn’t really greenmtred’s point. A better search would be 100 RBI guys with low wRC+ or similar stat.

      • Jason Linden

        @Steve Mancuso: Yeah. It’s not perfect, but it does have a runs created above/below average column (Rbat), which shows that this kind of thing isn’t all that common.

      • greenmtred

        @Jason Linden: That is circular logic, of course. But I would contend that your logic hinges on accepting that the stats you are using accurately measure what they purport to measure. They may, but as I said above, it seems unlikely that these stats are the final refinement: they will be improved upon, surely, because stats (or refinements of these) that are more definitive will be developed. And, yes, your logic is circular in the same way that mine is: I say BP must be good because bad hitters don’t drive in 100. You say that he’s bad (mediocre, sorry) because stats you believe in indicate it. Good reason to watch the games. Fun discussion, too.

      • greenmtred

        @Jason Linden: I think that a “bad” season is not the same thing as a “bad” hitter. A decent major league hitter having a “bad” season doesn’t necessarily forget everything he knows: some vestigial skills may remain. BP had, by some measures, a bad season with the bat last year, but again, as always, he had to do something right to drive in the runs when there were men on base for him.

      • greenmtred

        @Jason Linden: OBP, as a stat independent of winning the game, is not context dependent, clearly (although, it would be interesting to see Eddie Gaedel’s OBP over a full season). It makes intuitive sense as well that OBP would be a decent predictor of runs scored, but at this point it is no longer an independent stat. Joey walks, or drops a single over the shortstop’s head, and now he needs BP (or somebody)to drive him in if his at bat is going to matter at all. Stats measure things, indeed, but they may measure the wrong things or not enough things.

  12. Mike Martz

    I really feel that Bryan Price taking control of the clubhouse will change BP’s attitude for the better. With the addition of Skip Schumaker I honestly believe that Bryan won’t hesitate to bench BP for a game or two if his attitude gets out of hand. I know Skip is no BP but the option is there to settle BP down if the need arises. There won’t be any running back to (Pops) Dusty to get him to stroke BP’s ego this season and Bryan Price has proven to be the man to hold his players accountable!
    Phillips will be out to prove himself to the new coach and to repair his reputation this season, I think he’ll have a very large chip on his shoulder this season when he takes the field both on offense and defense.

  13. earl

    BP needs to go him a Craig Biggio model hand and wrist protector. The guy has gotten hit in the past two seasons on the hands and arms and slowed him down at the plate.

    I’m an optimist right now, so I hope Brandon Phillips comes in and is fired up and focused on being great and puts up a good season. Keeping healthy would be a big step towards getting this done.

  14. eric nyc

    I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: I don’t buy the “trend” on BP’s numbers. If you look at his major league career, 2011 was far and away his best year and 2013 was possibly his worst. When you use a 3 year period to try and spot a trend and two of those years happen to be a guy’s career outliers, it kind of defeats the rationale. Ravages of time? He’s 33 years old. He’s arguably at the tail end of his prime years or at worst at the very beginning of his declining years. And the whole “2B’s decline faster than other positions” is purely a product of diminishing defensive skills, which BP has not shown. He had a bad year at the plate last year – due in large part to lingering injuries – and still managed to lead the team in run production by a mile. I expect him to be healthy this year and a 33 year old healthy Brandon Phillips should put up something very close to his career norms which would be somewhere in the 3.5-4 WAR range. I just don’t see the logic in predicting he’d repeat a year that was hobbled by injury.

    • Steve Mancuso

      @eric nyc: Phillips didn’t really lead the team in run production, even defined old-school. Jay Bruce had more RBI. Using better statistics than RBI to measure run production, Phillips was fifth on the team, after Votto, Choo, Bruce and Frazier.

      • eric nyc

        @Steve Mancuso: I’m not really leaning on his RBI numbers to defend his 2013 season. I understand full well he had a very bad year at the plate and that the RBI numbers were a product of a lot of things going on around him, I was simply stating that he was still an asset to the team last year. I just don’t understand why you would predict him to have a worse year if he’s healthy. 33 is not over the hill. He’s been a very consistent major league player over the years and it seems like everyone actually punishes him for having such a stellar 2011 since he can’t repeat that kind of performance.

      • greenmtred

        @Steve Mancuso: If run production is rbi plus runs minus home runs, Jay had 168 to BP’s 165. Close, eh? What other stats do use to figure the runs a player accounts for?

      • greenmtred

        @Steve Mancuso: If run production is rbi plus runs minus home runs, Jay had 168 to BP’s 165. Close, eh? What other stats do use to figure the runs a player accounts for?

    • Jason Linden

      @eric nyc: Yeah. If I were a gambler, I’d wager with you on Phillips. 33 is actually well past the prime of most players, and kind of a magical fall off for second basemen. I might be wrong. I hope I’m wrong, but a 3-4 win season from Phillips is unlikely at this point.

      Still, I do have 4 wins as his ceiling, so it’s not like I’m saying it can’t happen. I just wouldn’t bet on it.

    • Jason Linden

      @eric nyc: Also, number of seasons BP has posted a WAR of 4.0 or higher: 2. Number with 3.5 WAR or higher: 4.

      That’s in 8 seasons with the Reds, and again, he’s 33. Just not seeing it.

      • Johnu1

        @Jason Linden: Just to add a pinch of ‘maybe’ on this, let’s assume that the Reds revamp their offense. From what I read today, the emphasis on running game is likely to be a centerpiece in ST.

        Let’s say it works. Let’s say BP’s entire approach is modified by a lot of components. Now, since you can’t identify the components or evaluate whether they will work, that’s a hypothetical question.

        But it is something that the Reds dugout staff is working with, it would appear.

      • Jason Linden

        @Johnu1: Sure it’s possible. But, BP has pretty much been the same player for most of his career. Usually, players are who they are. There are exceptions (Jose Bautista), but betting on the exception will make you poor in a hurry.

      • Johnu1

        @Jason Linden: I buy this. We both agree on statistical probability, but the fact is, if BP had played in August like he did in May, the Reds would have finished 2nd or maybe first. That assumes his offensive decline last year WAS injury-related.

        I suppose there is a General Custer comparison in there somewhere.

      • eric nyc

        @Jason Linden: That’s the point – BP has been very consistent throughout the majority of his big league career, and yet you’re using his WORST year, one that was clearly effected by unlucky injuries, as a barometer for what he’s going to do this year. Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to predict something closer to his career norms, even if it was on the low side? You’re basically saying that 2013 was not effected by injury but rather was the moment he fell off a cliff that his broken down 33 year old body won’t be able to come back from. And if his 2011 hadn’t been SO good as to make a convenient 3 year “trend” seem to appear then I don’t think you’d be this pessimistic. Basically, he had a great 2011 and his 2012 was a very ordinary BP year and then he got hurt in 2013. I’d expect something very similar to 2012 out of him, which is exactly how he was playing before he got hurt last year. That doesn’t even strike me as optimistic – that just seems logical.

      • eric nyc

        @Jason Linden: Let me put it this way: Let’s say 2011 had played out like basically every other year BP’s had in a Reds uniform until last year. Let’s just use WAR for the sake of time since pretty much all of his numbers follow a similar curve. 2010 he had a WAR of 3.8 and 2012 it was 3.7. So let’s say that rather than having a borderline MVP season in 2011 he had just kept on being BP and put up a WAR of 3.5. Then your 3 year “trend” would look like:

        2011: 3.7
        2012: 3.5
        2013: 2.2

        Even if you discount the injuries, I don’t think you would have been saying “That, kids, is a trend.” It would be clear that 2013 was an anomaly and that something (like injury) probably contributed to it.

      • Bill Lack

        @Johnu1: But the guys I’ve heard them talking about running (other than Hamilton) are Cozart and Frasier…haven’t seen any mention of Phillips.

  15. Shchi Cossack

    Prior to the HBP injury (243 PA) in Pittsburgh (where else!) on June 1st, Phillips slashed .296/.347/.481. After the HBP injury (423 PA), Phillips slashed .241/.288/.349. I don’t think there’s any question that the injury impacted Phillips hitting negatively, even if some of the regression was due to an unsustainable BABIP early.

    Looking to 2014, Phillips will almost certainly be asked to hit in the #2 hole, at least early. If Phillips is going to have success hitting in the #2 hole, he simply must become more selective at the plate. Phillips invariably has an OBP about 50 points higher than his BA with a BB% around 6%. The league average is an OBP around 70 points higher than the BA with a BB% of 8%. Personally, I don’t care if Phillips maintains a BA of .280 with a BB% of 6% or a BA of .260 with a BB% of 8%, but he must maintain at least a league average OBP of .330 if he is going to hit in the #2 hole. If Phillips can’t hit effectively in the #2 hole, then he needs to hit at the bottom of the lineup with Cozart.

    The Old Cossack is holding out hope that Phillips will recognize and step up to the challenge by making the necessary adjustment and hitting effectively in the #2 hole, giving Votto, Bruce and Ludwick the opportunity to flip Phillip’s RBI’s from 2013 into RUNS for 2014. I would like nothing more than to be completely wrong about Phillip’s regression and allow him a well deserved opportunity to figuratively thumb his nose at all the nay-sayers after a successful season in 2014.

    • Johnu1

      @Shchi Cossack: I fear that if he repeats 2011, at the end of 2014, we will be right back at this point — wondering if he can do it again and wondering why we can’t trade off a 34-year-old 2B with diminishing defensive skills.

      I’d recommend the Reds F.O. do less chewing on their toes about this contract and spend a little more time developing a 2B who can hit, instead of signing every .188 utility infielder who is looking for a job.

      • eric nyc

        @Johnu1: If he repeats his 2011 I think we’d have people lined up to trade for him. Diminishing defensive skills? Fine, but considering where his defensive skills were at their peak he’s still one of the best defensive 2B’s in the game and should continue to be for another few years. Even if you believe this is when defensive skills tend to fall off quicker, I’d say he still has 2 years of being a very good-to-elite defender. That’s how good he was at his peak.

    • eric nyc

      @Shchi Cossack: I still think that you have to assume a 33 year old player who has been very consistent in his career will put up career norm numbers if he’s healthy. Nothing about BP’s injuries seem to have been cumulative or chronic – they have pretty much all been bad luck, like the HBP last year. Taking out his outlier years of 2011 and 2013, Phillips has an OBP+ and wRC+ of exactly 100 in his time with the Reds. EXACTLY 100. So he’s not going to set the world on fire, but he’s going to be perfectly competent in the 2 hole and continue to play elite defense. I don’t know why so many people are so down on BP. They think he acted up last year and I think that effects the projections. An even remotely more unbiased look at his overall career trends should point to a good year.

    • eric nyc

      @Shchi Cossack: And by the way, should someone disagree with me excluding 2011 and 2013 as outliers on principle, including those years actually make his numbers go up.

  16. ToddAlmighty

    Nick Franklin.. and here’s why. Any 2B the Reds trade for turn into pure gold. Be it BP in 2006 or Joe Morgan in 1972. So if they trade for Nick Franklin, he’ll be a Reds HoF at worst, an MLB HoF at best….. that’s how it works, right? 😆

    • Johnu1

      @ToddAlmighty: Looks like Skip Schumaker is due for a rebirth! Unless signing a free agent isn’t the same as making a trade.

      Jason Donald, why did you go and leave us all alone?

      • ToddAlmighty

        @Johnu1: Nope, trades only, have to be under 28, and already be at major league level. The Reds 2B magic that I am making up right here and right now on the spot is very specific. I am calling it that Schumaker will hit more than his customary 1-2 HRs per year. I’m seeing 3.. maybe even 4. I figure if Hannahan can hit one, who can’t? Lol

      • Johnu1

        @ToddAlmighty: Skip will DOUBLE his HR output as a Redleg?

        Put me down for seats in the Moon Deck!

  17. Johnu1

    Here’s a part of the Nick Franklin discussion that confounds me. If he’s an MLB-quality 2B who fits into a team that is trying to win a World Series, why did Seattle spend $200 million on a guy to replace him?

    • ToddAlmighty

      @Johnu1: Because Nick Franklin doesn’t get people to go to games.

      They peaked in 2002 at ~3.5 million people. Been on a pretty steady decline since. 2.7m in 2005, 2.2 in 2009, 1.7 in 2013. They signed Cano because he had a big name, and as soon as they signed him, they had at least a solid week of national news coverage talking nonstop about the Mariners. There’s fans excited that they got the crown jewel of FA. Also.. there’s a difference between being a young 22-year-old MLB-quality 2B, and an 8 WAR type All-Star.

      But mostly, they paid so much because of name recognition/star power to try to lure more fans. That’s why normally when I talk about trading for Franklin, I mention Chapman as being who should be traded. Huge name, fastest pitch in history. Gets the crowd fired up when he pitches. Sounds like something the Mariners would want despite him being just a league average closer.

      • Johnu1

        @ToddAlmighty: I agree on Chapman but would rather GABP seats be filled with the flamethrower on board. Don’t think they’re buzzing around town because Alfredo Simon is getting lose.

        But I am joking. I also think the Mariners are going to realize it’s folly to do business that way. I’ve been around Seattle enough to know that that’s a yawner at times.

        I was there one night when King Felix pitched and, by the 6th inning, the ballpark was about empty.

      • ToddAlmighty

        @Johnu1: I think GABP seats will be filled regardless, and they probably will eventually realize it’s folly to do business that way. I wouldn’t mind take advantage of them before they do though. Hah

      • Johnu1

        @ToddAlmighty: As much as I’ve danced around it, I’d like the Reds to land a starter-type potential infielder like Franklin. Not sure exactly what that would cost.

        Just finished reading the Toronto pre-season outlook and, man oh man, those guys could sure use a pitcher.

        Maybe we could get their left fielder.

      • ToddAlmighty

        @Johnu1: No thanks to Melky. Guy was subpar his entire career then all of a sudden he has two monster years. Sure enough, he gets suspended and comes right back into his subpar lifestyle. I think he’ll go back to being an 80 OPS+ type player again now that he’s on MLB’s radar for getting a chemical edge. At least when we were all musing about the Braun trade that’d never happen, we all knew Braun was a good player without PEDs, he was just a better one with them. Melky is a bad player without PEDs.

      • ToddAlmighty

        @Johnu1: Oh, my bad. I had to look up Toronto’s depth chart to see who plays LF for them and it had Melky in LF and Bautista in RF.

        But yes, I wouldn’t mind 3yr/$42m of Bautista batting 3rd or 4th. If Hamilton HAS to bat leadoff, Hamilton/Votto/Bruce/Bautista/Frazier/Mesoraco/Phillips/Cozart sounds pretty nice.

    • redmountain

      @Johnu1: I agree with you, but it is worth noting that Cano was on the trade block early in his career and that Phillips was not working out with the Indians. All that this says is that players sometimes need a change of scenery to succeed. All it takes is a good GM to take advantage of a lesser skilled GM.

  18. Johnu1

    As an aside, the MLB camp story today delves into baserunning. I suppose the question was going to be asked eventually but what a lot of complaints about the team’s offense in the past are apparently part of the spring discussion.

  19. immaculateconcepcion

    Many things I’ve loved about BP over the course of his Redlegishnesh, but his peevish, jealous, small-time behavior of the past few years is mind-boggling. Hey, DatDude, step away from your high-hat self-image and put it in place. It’s all about glove love, baby–your stats without are almost weak. And the speed-wheels are gone, baby, gone. You’ve been well-tended, so don’t be a jealous god. Ask Jeff Kent about the ease of piling up RBI when you’re in the inevitible downpour of baserunners.

  20. steveschoen

    Is BP still one of the best 2nd basemen in the game? Yes. But, is he on the decline? Yes. He is a bit slower in all phases, more than obvious. BP needs to learn adjust. As soon as we get a Plan B for 2nd base, I can’t help thinking letting him go if someone will take him. But, we can’t let him go until then.

  21. Brunt

    Just joined the site which I have enjoyed for quite some time. I’ve been reading the articles posted here for about a year, but haven’t jumped into the conversation until now. Long time Reds fan that is cautiously (very) optimistic about this year. I am a Brandon Phillips fan, but acknowledge some decrease in certain tools. However, I know this article speaks pretty specifically to his offensive numbers. The main skill that has decreased is his speed (which he never really utilized it on the base paths when he had it). He is much more than an above average fielder, and I suspect that trend will continue in 2014. If he is healthy all year (big if) then I see a .280 type year with the same production in power. He is a much better hitter when he chooses to shorten his stroke. If he tries to hit for power I suspect your line will be accurate. I think his offensive production is that simple – does he take the appropriate approach. Here’s to hoping he chooses the former rather than the latter. At least for us Reds fans. As BP goes, we go.

    • steveschoen

      @Brunt: Entirely agree, the same adjustments many make when they start to slow down.

  22. BigRedMike

    A WAR of 2 and a OBP of at least .320 would nit be terrible. 2nd base is not that strong in the NL and those stats would be top 10.

    I cannot see any team wanting to trade for Phillips, other teams see the clear decline. Too bad the Phillies have Utley, that could be a destination

    The potential OBP at the top of the order could cause some issues this year

    • Jason Linden

      @BigRedMike: 15 teams in the NL. Top-10 doesn’t mean much.

      But look, I’m not saying he stinks (though others seem to read it that way). I’m saying he’s aging. His stats last year were buoyed by an uncharacteristically great first two months, and then he got hurt. He’s probably about average now. And that’s fine.

      Agree about the top of the order (sort of). I have a hard time getting worked up about batting order, though.

      • Johnu1

        @Jason Linden: I think, without going over depth charges … er, charts … BP ranks as the top overall 2B in the NL-C. Those guys would include Wong, Carpenter, Barney, Bonifacio, Walker, Gennett, Weeks.

        So, just for the halibut, if you could swap, even up, BP for one of that group, would you?

        Now, my definition of “top overall” is not specific. It’s generally, which of the group I’d rather have.

      • Jason Linden

        @Johnu1: Are you kidding? I’d take Carpenter in a heartbeat. I don’t think he is who he was last year, but he’s four years younger than BP and he’s better right now.

      • Johnu1

        @Jason Linden: Why would he not be who he was last year? That seems to be the theme. The guy is a doubles machine.

      • ToddAlmighty

        @Jason Linden: Agreed, Carpenter instantly. Guy finished top 5 in MVP voting last year, had 6.6 WAR, and is only heading into his age 28 season.

      • Johnu1

        @ToddAlmighty: I don’t know that his MVP standing is what matters. I don’t know that he’s better with the glove than BP, but … again, my query was a rather vague ‘top overall’ choice. I need to see if Carpenter can do this well again. Of course, he’s probably moving to 3B, so comparisons generally end there.

      • ToddAlmighty

        @Johnu1: Maybe his 2013 was a fluke, but even in 2012 he hit .294/.365/.463 in 340 PA and his 22 doubles, so his doubles pace from 2012 to 2013 isn’t that vastly different. Sure BP is still better with the glove, but that is more than overshadowed by the fact that Carpenter had a 6.7 oWAR and 35 Rbat last year. BP’s career high oWAR and Rbat are 4.1 and 16, respectively. Both from 2011.

        I’ll take the 2013 NL leader in runs scored, hits, and doubles, who also knows how to take a walk, for Pre-Arb money, Alex.

      • ToddAlmighty

        @Johnu1: I didn’t hear about him possibly moving to 3B though. Who do they have at 2B to replace him?

      • BigRedMike

        @Jason Linden:
        I agree, top 10 in the NL is not great, but, it would not hurt the Reds if Phillips plays above average defense

        My preference is that Phillips is gone, but, as others pointed out, who would replace him?

      • Johnu1

        @BigRedMike: That doesn’t seem to be a question that anyone is endeavoring to answer.

  23. redmountain

    Like him or hate him, he is the 2b for the foreseeable future.

  24. Steve Price

    Dug a little deeper–the list from is through 2010. You will find six Reds seasons on the list (bottom 200). Not all are negative numbers….just the “worst” 200 seasons of hitters with 100 or more rbi. The six Reds are Gus Bell (twice), Vada Pinson, Jim Greengrass, Farmer Vaughn, and George “High Pockets” Kelly.

    I don’t know how many other MLB players would have made or altered this list since 2000, but Brandon Phillips would have been included. His RBAT for 2014 was -5, which would have tied him at 35th from the bottom (assuming no one else entered the list at -6 or worse since 2010). Phillips would have tied Bell in one of his two seasons on the list. Vaughn had a -9 season and Hall of Famer Kelly had a -10 season in 1929.

  25. reaganspad

    I have to agree with Brunt:

    “He is a much better hitter when he chooses to shorten his stroke. If he tries to hit for power I suspect your line will be accurate.”

    And stevechoen has a point but i do not think that is the case for BP.

    “Entirely agree, the same adjustments many make when they start to slow down.”

    BP has hit at 1, 2 and 4 all at the request of the manager and what is best for the team. His long swing last year I believe was due to trying to hit like a #4. If he would have had the approach to hit like a #2 last year, he would have had an even better year.

    In all his time with the Reds, I think he has shown his best hitting 2. But that has been such a small sample. What I do like about his hitting is his ability to go the other way. What i do not like is when he swings for the fences.

    As far as his fielding, BP is an Elite athlete, one who could have been good at the college level in 3 sports, and at the pro level in a few. Baring a knee, ankle or hip injury, he should add a few years to the scale for decline because of his pedigree.

    If we traded Chapman or Leake for Franklin today, I would make that deal. But Walt was quoted as trying to extend Chapman so for all the discussions we have, he sees it differently.

    Leake for Franklin. you bet. Franklin becomes my opening day center fielder until or unless BP is traded.

    But playing 2014 with the players we have will not disappoint me. I can see BP with a 280/330 year where he hits to right a lot

  26. steveschoen

    I’m not sure how much the wrist injury was affecting BP. I mean, after all, he did have 100+ RBI’s last season, his highest ever (yes, probably from batting 4th behind Votto and Choo, but he still had to hit the ball). He did bat 338/404/469 with RISP. I can understand coming back from injury could be difficult. But, then, he did bat 304/328/473 in August; hard to say he wasn’t back from injury yet. Then, he went back down to 211/276/263 in Sept. Then, he sure had no problem mouthing off a couple of times, either.

    Granted, again, I don’t doubt there could have been other circumstances. Like, maybe Baker pressing him to get back in there too early (hey, I know Baker said he normally holds players back from returning from an injury, but then he also said he was going to mix up the catching rotation last season, also, and he never did). Or, when players just start learning they are slowly losing their game, many do go into a rut in order to learn how to deal with it. Or, if they haven’t learned that, they think they can and have to keep playing hard every second, including coming back from injury, too much for their body to handle.

    Is BP one of the best 2nd basemen in the game? Yes. Will he show it this season? I believe so. Will he improve from last season? I don’t think so. “If anything”, I believe he will continue to decline, unless he starts to play with his head instead of just physical ability, which has been declining each season.

    • Johnu1

      @steveschoen: Those September numbers might suggest he was tired.

      In fact, the whole month of September suggested the whole team was tired.

      I doubt there’s much way that can be proven.

      • steveschoen

        @Johnu1: That would go onto not only the players but also the manager and coaches as well. These are experienced players; they understand what it’s like to play a full season and how to prepare for it. As well as, those were experienced managers and coaches. They are suppose to understand what it’s like to prepare the players for a 162 game schedule, prepare them for the post season, etc. I’ve said numerous times on here and Fay’s blog how during Dusty’s tenure, the Reds had, for example, the most players in the top 30 of any other team in number of games played for the season. But, then, we are talking about Baker, the manager who out of the first 15 relief appearances last season, 12 were done by 2 pitchers from the pen. If there’s anything Baker didn’t understand, I do believe one thing was how to use his players, to properly prepare them for the long schedule as well as the playoffs. I mean, the relief appearances and games played I mentioned, bunting Stubbs to 2nd so often, having to have the batting order left-right-left, playing players because “we have to get them going”, but then sitting them when they get hot, etc. Probably one reason why his playoff record is so horrible compared to his regular season record. Baker was probably so busy being their friend that he never looked to prepare them properly to actually be able to handle the long schedule, never actually thought of giving them some regular rest during the season and at the end of the season.

    • Brunt


      I think you hit on something here with the RISP line. BP changes his approach with RISP, especially with two strikes. I think this is further evidence that his production hinges on his approach.

  27. Redsfanx

    Phillips will not be his usual smiling self. But he will have a ‘I’ll show them’ big year in 2014 and lead the Reds to the playoffs.