No doubt most of the baseball world remembers Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips for his now infamous (or famous depending how you look at it) word from last August when he called out the Cards. Those words will never go away, and neither will BP’s stance…or his talent.
Coming into 2011, the was little question of all the tools he possesses. He can hit, hit with pop, steal a base here and there, and field with the best of all of MLB’s second baseman. Two Gold Gloves inhabit his trophy case as proof.
Now, I think all Reds fans will tell you there is no better all-around second sacker in the bigs than Phillips. He really can do everything at a pretty high level. When grading Phillips thus far in 2011, it honestly doesn’t take too long to see where a couple of very small flaws lie.
Before I direct out attention to those two minor things, I would like to also state that since we are approaching the halfway point that, like Votto, BP can improve on these two areas. Same can be said for all positions for that matter.
The two areas that do concern me are BP’s drop in stolen bases (along with his success rate) and HR. While neither should give us a reason to fret, as I have stated, they are minor.
Here are BP’s stolen base numbers since becoming a Reds regular:
And here are his caught stealing for those same seasons:
The last two seasons are a bit of an eye opener. Could one (among possibly other) reasons be due to the inability to find Phillips a regular place in the lineup? Could be. Even though Phillips is flexible enough to plug into almost any place in that lineup, it can play with the mentality of the hitter. Different spots in the lineup can carry different responsibilities. BP has proven that to be the case during his days as a Red.
But make no mistake about it. He is a top half of the lineup guy. That will lead in a bit to the other minor aspect, power.
Last season, the Reds second basemen collaborated for 19 HR, 5th in the National League. This season to date, only 7 with BP having 6 of those. While the power stroke does appear to be somewhat off, the other numbers (aside from the steals) appear to be higher when compared to the other second base combos around the NL.
The perceived lack of pop is the result in the lower SLG, but the other comps are higher than the final product of 2010 and here in 2011 as already mentioned (both in ranking and statwise).
But the are of play where Phillips garners perhaps his second most attention (other than Twitter), is his defense. We seemingly witness one awesome defensive gem a week from him. And, yes, we all are better for watching those. In the two seasons where he was awarded a Gold Glove, BP has posted RF/9 and RF/G above the league average. The same is true thus far in 2011 (RF/9 = 4.83, lgRF9 = 4.68; RF/G = 4.83, lgRFG = 4.67).
It appears that he is on track for yet another piece of hardware…
But look back at the table. Aside from the HR and SLG, BP is on the uptick as of late. While I do not add this recent stint into my grade, it is worthy of a mention here. If you go back the last seven games (the beginning of the Yankees series), here are the splits for Brandon: .500/.529/.719 with HR and 7 RBI in 34 PA. Yes, a hot streak it is.
And you know BP is a valuable piece of the Reds puzzle since he’s started 75 of the 80 games played. The other 5 have seen the super-sub himself, Miguel Cairo, at the helm. Might not get the glove work, but you know you have the savvy.
So, by taking into account the slight drop of power, increased OBP and the same stellar defense that we’re used to seeing, and the 2B gets a B+ from me.
A tick more of pop and being better on the basepaths (remember Philly?) are the only reasons an A- is not on the card.