Sep 21, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; For as hard as Phillips plays the game defensively, his durability is rarely mentioned. (Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

Is Brandon Phillips Underappreciated?


Seems like an illogical question on the surface, doesn’t it? Underappreciated: not duly appreciated.

I don’t believe it is an illogical question. When people view the Reds second baseman, they have some thoughts that cross their minds.

One obviously leads to the incident involving BP, a rather infamous quote, a brush-up with Cards catcher Yadier Molina, and the subsequent clearing of the benches. There was a scuff-up last season involving Jared Hughes of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Whenever a player is involved in multiple “incidents”, a stigma could potentially develop that one likes to stir up a little trouble. Or maybe it’s more that one likes to get under another’s skin. Or, as I’ve read and heard quite frequently, he’s a guy you want on your team, but dislike seeing him in the opposing dugout.

Aug 25, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Phillips reacts to hitting a single driving in Mike Leake during the third inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park. (Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

That might be the Brandon Phillips some Reds fans have come to enjoy. I hope that’s not all for your sakes. You’re missing out if it is.

BP has provided Reds fans many magical moments, mostly in the field with his glove work and athletic plays, that few other players can deliver. He’s delivered more than that, too. We know of his aptitude for using Twitter. He’s got almost 950,000 followers. Make no mistake, he will tweet something that will either irk you or make you applaud him even more. As with most anything these days, it greatly depends on your view and sensitivity.

Call me one that has had an eye-bulging moment or two upon viewing his Twitter timeline or reading some of his quotes.

For many, that’s where any and all references of BP end. The flash. The tweets. The talk. There is barely a mention of Brandon Phillips, Reds second baseman, baseball player. You know, how is he as a baseball player and all. Not too many notes on that, are there?. Very few to be honest.

Well, time to change that up a little.

As 2012 commenced, Phillips got what he was so vocal about wanting, a new deal. The Reds signed the Stone Mountain, Georgia native to a contract extension for 6 years and worth $72.5MM. (This subject on its own managed to ruffle some feathers within the Reds fanbase.)

So what do the Reds have here? Aside from all the “extracurriculars” previously mentioned, we also have…

1. Consistency

When the Reds traded for Phillips in April of 2006, I’m not sure they realized the player they got in return. The Cleveland Indians seemed all too happy to send BP packing , and the player the Reds sent to the Tribe (Jeff Stevens), is once again in the Reds system.

For all the grief your hear about how the Reds lost this trade or that trade, we sometimes pass over the fact that Cincy lifted Phillips from Cleveland with little effort.

Here’s some BP numbers for you (all since Phillips came to Cincy):

  • No season with less than 17 HR (’06)
  • No season with less than 14 steals (’12)
  • No season with an OPS under .750 (was at .750 in ’12)
  • Only once has struck out more than 100 times in any season (109 in ’07)
  • Only once has failed to drive in at least 75 runs (59 in ’10)
  • Only once has failed to score 75 runs (65 in ’06)
  • Only one season with a WAR (according to Baseball Reference) under 2.5 (0.3 in ’06)

Of course, it could be debated that since BP usually sits in the top half of the batting order, reaching some of these numbers makes it easier for him. Circumstances do permit such performance, but a guy that has this type consistency has proven he can handle day in, day out, duties of being among the lineup’s top four spots.

Oh, you have the negatives (who doesn’t?) such as he doesn’t walk a lot (most in a season: 46 in 2010) and that affects his OBP or he hits into a fair number of double plays (average of 18 per season). Both are fair to mention as he is consistent in those areas as well.

2. Durability

As Reds fans, it’s easy (sometimes, too easy) to overlook precisely this aspect of BP’s game. According to WasWatching.com, Phillips has played in the 13th most games (904, or about 150 per season) from 2007-2012. Phillips is one of only three second basemen on this list. The other two: Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees and Dan Uggla of the Atlanta Braves.

He is also one of seven players on this list of 25 to play all of his games for one team. The other six are Cano, Michael Young (which won’t be the case come Opening Day this year), Derek Jeter, Nick Markakis, Ryan Braun and David Wright. That’s some pretty good company there.

3. Flexibility

This point has been made on a number of occasions, but it does bear repeating. Put BP in any lineup spot and he can usually produce. Noteworthy here is that for his career, BP is most productive as a cleanup hitter for any spot in which he has at least 100 PAs (.282/.331/.454 with tOPS+ of 108). Don’t think we’ll see that a whole lot in 2013. If you look at BP’s career splits for the top three lineups spots, his tOPS+ for all three is 99 (100 is considered average).

(tOPS+ refers to OPS for this specific lineup spot as it relates to all other lineup spots.)

It is thought Phillips will be batting in the #2 slot for the upcoming season. With Shin Soo-Choo batting ahead of him, we should see an increase in his production from that second spot.

Lost in all the tweets, the talk and on-field “disturbances”, we forget that Brandon Phillips is as much a Red as any player on the roster. We lose sight that he has become one of the Reds most consistent and durable players we’ve seen in Cincinnati in quite some time.

I know the day will once again arrive when BP will tweet or be quoted and that will rub me the wrong way. And when that day occurs, I will most likely spout off about it, if not here, then to some of those around me. But it won’t stop this thought…

I recognize what Phillips brings to this Reds team. With all the flash and chatter, some ignore the fact that BP is first and foremost, a baseball player. It’s time we stop that.

Tags: Brandon Phillips Cincinnati Reds

  • Cliff@RedsToTheBone

    I am one who does not think that he is under appreciated. I think he receives alot of credit for what he does. I like him and think he is ONE of the best 2B in the game. He is a solid player, good everywhere but on the basepath. He seems to lack focus as a base-runner.

  • beeker

    I think you could add Levity to that list. BP has been my favorite for several years, and the fun he has on the field is a major reason why. He looks like he is having as much fun playing as I did when I was a kid. I appreciate stoic figures like Votto too, but clearly he knows that he has the greatest job in the world and savors every minute of it.