Looking to 2012: Brandon Phillips


There is not a single player on the Reds roster that owns a bigger personality than Brandon Phillips. Most of the talk this offseason has centered around offering him a suitable contract extension. The Reds have already picked up the $12 million option, but everyone must be asking themselves if BP will be a Red beyond the 2012 season.

With the calendar turning to 2012, some thought there could be an impasse in negotiations for that extension. What some are forgetting is that this matter was tabled for the holidays. (Almost sounds political, I know.) The talks should ratchet back and will be deemed high priority by GM Walt Jocketty. Some Reds fans prefer this be item #1. Other fans feel there is work to be done elsewhere. One thing I think all fans can agree on is that Phillips does provide the Reds with a boost. That just might be what can propel the Reds in 2012.

Here’s the look…

Stats and projections

G AB H HR R RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG BABIP
2011 150 610 183 18 94 82 44 85 14 9 .300 .353 .457 .322
2012 156 619 173 19 91 79 44 89 15 8 .279 .334 .435 .301
Total 1041 3997 1086 130 567 524 260 625 139 57 .272 .322 .434 .292

Positives

Was BP's 2011 an aberration? (Image: Bo Hussey)

1. Coming off his best offensive season
I know there will be those to argue that BP’s best offensive season came in 2007 when he joined the 30-30 club. That was an excellent season, but 2011 saw BP post his highest WAR on both FanGraphs (6.0) and Baseball Reference (4.1). Phillips also posted career highs in batting average (.300), on-base percentage (.353) and OPS+ (119).

Some of that was aided by a move Phillips took upon himself. He implore Reds skipper Dusty Baker to move him to the top of the batting order. It was a move paid nice dividends. From August 17 until the end of the 2011 season, BP posted a slash of .350/.417/.573 with 7 HR and 19 RBI. He was also 7-for-8 in stolen base attempts over the same time frame. Projected for a season of 162 games (at those same percentages) and you have an MVP. And for the last month and a half of 2011, Phillips was the Reds MVP.

2. Contact!
Over the last three seasons, Phillips has seen a decrease in swinging strikes…along with a better contact rate.

2009: Contact%: 80.6%, SwStr%: 9.8%
2010: Contact%: 81.9%, SwStr%: 9.3%
2011: Contact%: 83.4%, SwStr%: 8.7%

Put the ball in play and good things can happen. I don’t think a whole lot of analysis needs to go here.

3. Lineup flexability
Phillips was thrust into three different offensive lineup positions last season: leadoff, second and cleanup. All carry a general difference in hitting philosophy. Most like the leadoff guy to see a lot of pitches and try to get on base by any means possible. The guy in the 2-hole must be ready to “sacrifice” his numbers to advance a runner should the proper situation arise. Hitting in the cleanup spot puts a greater emphasis on hitting for power.

While no one will legitimately thrust BP as an elite leadoff or cleanup hitter, he did perform well enough in all three. The cleanup spot was his weakest last year and also displayed the lowest in slugging. I doubt we see him there again in 2012. I prefer him batting second.

Negatives

1. Baserunning
It’s easy to point this out after the debacle in Philly, but miscues on the basepaths occurred more than just that one time. More than it should have. But you can also go to BP’s success rate in the stolen base department, too. Here’s the lowdown since Phillips landed in Cincy…

SB CS SB%
2006 25 2 92.6%
2007 32 8 80.0%
2008 23 10 69.7%
2009 25 9 73.5%
2010 16 12 57.1%
2011 14 9 60.9%

I suppose I could also point out a decline in the number in thefts as well.

2. Too much personality?
This has been brought to the attention of a fan or two. Some believe Twitter hasn’t always been the best of friend with BP. Others love that he’s willing to use the social media site in order to stay atop of area activities. There are also those that will see one of his tweets and shake their head due to its content.

This could go for other forms of media as well. I still remember a post from Dames on Games by Emily Poynter. She posted such after Phillips won his third Gold Glove and his first Silver Slugger. Why? Because BP was talking about his new found leverage…on national TV.

This topic has been talked to death. Cincinnati is a small market team. We can’t keep Phillips AND Votto for too much longer. My fear is that we’ll lose both and with Phillips talking about using these awards as leverage proves (to me) he’s all about the money. Sure, he may love the fans and the city but if can’t get enough money, then he’ll take his services elsewhere.

This point alone has led to many a Twitter rant from Reds fans. Emily couldn’t have been more on point here. I know of a few other Reds fans that are of the same opinion, too.

3. BB/K rate
I’ll get this out in the open. Phillips doesn’t walk a lot and he doesn’t exactly strikeout a lot either. If BP is the leadoff guy for 2012, he must take a ball or two more than normal. You remember, that whole see more pitches thing I spoke of earlier.

That said, Phillips BB/K ratio has never been higher than 0.59 (2009), which is not as bad as you’d think considering what I said about his sheer numbers relating to both walks and strikeouts. Some numbers. Phillips has struck out more than 100 only once…and that 109 back in ’07. Contrast that with the most walks he’s taken in a season is 46 in 2010. With Phillips posting that .353 OBP from last season, it was not as much as his eye as it was a combination of his eye and his swing.

Wrap
Oh, you want to read about his defense? It’s the one merit of Phillips that can stand on its own. Three Gold Gloves in four years is all you have to read. I’m not as concerned defensively as I am offensively. 2011 may have been a bit of an aberration. The career numbers tell us that was the case. You have to wonder if there was the factor of being in a contract year as to why 2011 broke as it did.

I honestly do not expect the same for 2012. While I’m hopeful BP will post a similar stat season, we all need to be realistic here. I would take a season that’s in between 2010 and 2011. That would work just fine for me as those are the best two WAR seasons in Phillips cache.

No need to be embarrassed about that.

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Tags: 2012 Player Projections 2012 Projections Baseball Brandon Phillips Cincinnati Reds MLB Player Projections

  • FrankieBrown

    Good article. I also would like to see him bat 2nd. But on the other hand, he WANTS to bat lead off, which is half the battle. And he may be the Reds’ best leadoff hitter, as Stubbs simply hasn’t shown any ability to adapt his ‘swing for the fences on every single pitch’ mentality, nor has he shown much willingness to bunt. Plus, Stubbs doesn’t want to bat lead off, which is a bad sign. That leaves Chris Heisey, who strikes out way too much for an ideal lead off man, nor has he been very prolific at stealing bases despite his very good speed. So I hope Dusty Baker has the sense to go w/ what has worked, and not what he THINKS should work. As for keeping both Phillips and Votto, it certainly does sound unlikely to happen. Votto is 2 yrs younger, is more valuable, and so would be the one we hope to keep long term, over Phillips. We could end up w/ neither player, losing 10+ WAR in the process. The Reds’ mgmt has a quandry that I don’t envy. If we can’t keep both, my vote is to pass on Phillips, as his skills and value to the team are going to start eroding in a yr or 2 most likely. Try like heck to sign Votto long term, and trade for or develop our new 2nd baseman. This might be unpopular in the short term w/ the fan base, but long term Votto has far more value.

  • FrankieBrown

    Good article. I also would like to see him bat 2nd. But on the other hand, he WANTS to bat lead off, which is half the battle. And he may be the Reds’ best leadoff hitter, as Stubbs simply hasn’t shown any ability to adapt his ‘swing for the fences on every single pitch’ mentality, nor has he shown much willingness to bunt. Plus, Stubbs doesn’t want to bat lead off, which is a bad sign. That leaves Chris Heisey, who strikes out way too much for an ideal lead off man, nor has he been very prolific at stealing bases despite his very good speed. So I hope Dusty Baker has the sense to go w/ what has worked, and not what he THINKS should work. As for keeping both Phillips and Votto, it certainly does sound unlikely to happen. Votto is 2 yrs younger, is more valuable, and so would be the one we hope to keep long term, over Phillips. We could end up w/ neither player, losing 10+ WAR in the process. The Reds’ mgmt has a quandry that I don’t envy. If we can’t keep both, my vote is to pass on Phillips, as his skills and value to the team are going to start eroding in a yr or 2 most likely. Try like heck to sign Votto long term, and trade for or develop our new 2nd baseman. This might be unpopular in the short term w/ the fan base, but long term Votto has far more value.

  • beeker

    Full disclosure: I say this as someone whose favorite player has been BP for years now.
    The trick w/ BP’s contract is that, with Billy Hamilton in the farm system, the Reds only need him for another 2-3 years. No doubt he wants more years than that. It makes sense to give him more years so that they can trade him when Hamilton is ready to stay in the bigs. But at what rate? It can’t be so high that at 34-35 his salary makes him untradeable.
    As for social media, much of that is driven by distaste for Chad Johnson. IMO. The two are different. BP has not shown himself to be trying to become a media icon like Chad. He’s just being who he is, a people person.
    Lastly, I don’t mind seeing him lead off. True that he is not prototypical, but he is likely the best option they’ve got.

  • beeker

    Full disclosure: I say this as someone whose favorite player has been BP for years now.
    The trick w/ BP’s contract is that, with Billy Hamilton in the farm system, the Reds only need him for another 2-3 years. No doubt he wants more years than that. It makes sense to give him more years so that they can trade him when Hamilton is ready to stay in the bigs. But at what rate? It can’t be so high that at 34-35 his salary makes him untradeable.
    As for social media, much of that is driven by distaste for Chad Johnson. IMO. The two are different. BP has not shown himself to be trying to become a media icon like Chad. He’s just being who he is, a people person.
    Lastly, I don’t mind seeing him lead off. True that he is not prototypical, but he is likely the best option they’ve got.

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  • Steven Engbloom

    @beeker We rarely disagree on something, but this is such a case as it pertains to the social media. I do not believe it is the dislike of Chad that drives some fans away from BP. It’s the message delivered in a few tweets that have done this. Those tweets are not Chad’s.

  • Steven Engbloom

    @FrankieBrown The Reds do not have a “true leadoff” guy on the roster. Common knowledge, I know. I do not mind BP leading off, but can anyone foresee him keeping the pace he did over the last month and a half last season? That’s unrealistic. That said, I do not think there is another viable option with this roster.

    I don’t get too caught up in retaining BP and/or Votto. While I’d like BP for at least two more seasons and Votto forever, we all know how the business end works.

  • Steven Engbloom

    @beeker We rarely disagree on something, but this is such a case as it pertains to the social media. I do not believe it is the dislike of Chad that drives some fans away from BP. It’s the message delivered in a few tweets that have done this. Those tweets are not Chad’s.

  • Steven Engbloom

    @FrankieBrown The Reds do not have a “true leadoff” guy on the roster. Common knowledge, I know. I do not mind BP leading off, but can anyone foresee him keeping the pace he did over the last month and a half last season? That’s unrealistic. That said, I do not think there is another viable option with this roster.

    I don’t get too caught up in retaining BP and/or Votto. While I’d like BP for at least two more seasons and Votto forever, we all know how the business end works.