Perhaps the most polarizing figure of the millennium for the Cincinnati Reds, Brandon Phillips is no stranger to the public eye. As the team’s most outwardly expressive player, you’d be hard pressed to find a Reds fan, or really a baseball fan, who doesn’t know who Brandon Phillips is and what he brings to the plate. 18 homers every year, and probably a Gold Glove award to go with it. There are many sides to Phillips, most of which we won’t go anywhere near in this article. We won’t be talking about his refusal to speak to local Cincinnati media. We won’t be talking about all of the trade talk this offseason. This article will be devoted to what fans of the Cincinnati Reds can reasonably expect from their second baseman in 2014.
2013 was a tale of two seasons for Phillips, with the midpoint being, as we all well know by now, getting hit on the wrist by a Pirates pitcher on June 1st. Before the injury, Phillips was batting .296/.347/.481. And, as we’ve all be told way too many times this offseason, the slash line dipped to .261/.310/.396 by the end of the season. That’s an abysmal .241/.288/.349 line after June 1st. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the injury played a major part in this decline, but if we’re being honest, that first half was a bit too good to be true.
As a 31-year-old second baseman, the odds of Brandon Phillips being good at the plate, especially THAT good, are very low. A very good article by Dave Cameron over at Fangraphs highlights this phenomenon perfectly. So naturally, that All-Star caliber production through June was bound to decline. I don’t think the change would have been as drastic as the injury caused it to be, but I think a post-June slash line of .275/.325/.430 wouldn’t be out of the question. These numbers are much closer to his 2012 production than the comparatively astronomical numbers he put up before getting hurt.
If we plug these stats into the equation instead of the injury riddled real-life statistics, we get a season total close to .283/.333/.447. This is well above average for Brandon, but not quite as good as his stellar 2011 season. Needless to say, if these had been the final numbers, there would have been much less hot stove trade talk. Heck, Phillips might have even be sipping on drinks with John Fay in Arizona at this point in the year had he put up that slash line.
Now, to project 2014 we’ll need to assume Phillips is completely healed of the wrist injury that plagued him last year. From all reports, this looks to be true. We’ll take the Doc Brown alternate timeline 2013 non-wrist injury stats from above and add some 32-year-old second baseman regression to see what we’ll get for 2014. We also need to account for the fact that Phillips will more than likely be hitting between Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto for the majority of his at-bats. For the record, I’ll add in some other projections alongside my own for everyone to compare.
Jordan’s 2014 Projection: .269/.320/.409 18HR, 83RBI, 10SB
Steamer Projection: .264/.315/.404 16HR, 68RBI, 6SB
Oliver Projection: .261/.314/.399 16HR, 70RBI, 5SB
ZiPS Projection: .269/.317/.405 16HR, 87RBI, 9SB
As you can see, I’m a bit more optimistic about Phillips’ 2014 as some of the projection models might be, mostly due to my belief that Hamilton could be at third base while the Reds second baseman is staring at a late count meat pitch an awful lot this season. Combined with another projected Gold Glove, propensity to ALWAYS hit 18 dingers and Bryan Price‘s liberal base running plans, I think Phillips could be in for a good year. Will we see some progression? Sure. But at the end of the day, he’s still a solid three win player who will ultimately win back some of those scorned Reds fan hearts.