Over the past few seasons, Brandon Phillips has been shuffled around the batting order. The second baseman batted leadoff, second, third, and clean up. While he remains one of the best hitters in the national league, what is his ultimate role on offense?
Phillips is not an on base guy. He usually swings for contact. And he usually makes it. But it feels like over the past several years, Phillips never seemed to be in the right position in the batting order to fully maximize his offensive strengths. So what’s the answer? Where should Brandon Phillips bat?
We first need to examine the offensive purpose of Brandon Phillips. As I stated earlier, he’s more of a contact guy. So while Phillips usually makes the best of his batting placement, lead off just never seemed to be the best spot. Brandon can hit the ball so he doesn’t need to rely on bunts or speed to get him on base. Phillips is by no means slow, but his running game seems to be on the back burner when he’s playing.
Another spot Phillips seemed to be thrusted in to was the clean up role. Being a guy with considerable power and the ability to hit the ball rather well, clean up sounds okay, right? Well, it’s more complicated than that.
You can’t just place anybody at the #4 hole and expect success. The clean up hitter’s role is very simple, very specific: you hit the ball. It goes very far, a lot of times to the deep outfield and in the stands. While Phillips can certainly play long ball, that’s still not his motif. Point blank, he’s not a clean up hitter.
Dusty Baker‘s decision to put “dat dude” in the #4 spot was less about Phillips, and more about Jay Bruce. Baker always felt putting two left handed batters in a row was a bad move. But with that philosophy, he placed a guy in Phillips, who isn’t a “power hitter” into a power hitter’s role.
So where does that take us? He’s too good of a hitter to be hitting 6th or lower. And the #5 spot is still reserved for a power hitting, RBI machine. And he can’t bat 3rd because Joey Votto bats there and that would…wait a second. I think I remember writing an article explaining why moving Votto from the 3rd spot would be best for the team.
Brandon Phillips needs to be batting 3rd.
Of course batting second wouldn’t be terrible either, but as I explained in my Votto article, Joey needs to be moved to second in the line-up. Which leaves the #3 spot open for Brandon.
I understand that Votto is a better hitter than Phillips. But with Votto changing his batting style, the #2 hole would suit him perfectly. Phillips may be inferior to Votto at the plate but he can still hold his own, and the #3 role would maximize his offensive strengths. He makes contact and has the ability to drive in runs.