Brandon Phillips Should Move Down the Cincinnati Reds’ Lineup


Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is getting older. He will be 34 in June and it’s no secret that as a player approaches his mid-30s, his production starts to decline. The combination of Phillips getting older and the emergence of younger players such as Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco should result in Phillips moving to the sixth or seventh spot in the batting order in 2015.

His batting average has steadily decreased over the past three years. In 2011, he hit .300, but hit .281 in 2012 and .261 in 2013. It was slightly better in 2014, as he hit .266 over 121 games. His slugging percentage and on-base percentage both have also declined in recent years. His OBP was .310 in 2013 and .306 in 2014.

Despite his low on-base percentage, Phillips surprisingly doesn’t strike out at an abnormally high rate. He hasn’t reached 100 strikeouts in a season since 2007, with the one exception being 98 in 2013 (also the year he drove in a career high number of runs). Instead of striking out, he’s more of a ground ball hitter and will hit into a fair amount of double plays. Last season, he hit into 13 double plays out of 86 opportunities. That means 15 percent of his at-bats resulted in a double play. For comparison, the MLB average is 11 percent.

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If Joey Votto hits second, which he has done so far in spring training, the Reds need someone hitting behind Votto whose ground ball to fly ball ratio is consistently between 0.50 and 0.80. For a hitter, the lower this number, the better. This ensures that Votto won’t be a victim of numerous double plays if he walks or singles. Phillips’ ground ball to fly ball ratio is routinely above 0.80. It was 0.82 in 2014, 0.86 in 2013 and 0.93 in 2012. The MLB average is 0.80, which is equal with Phillips’ mark last season. Compare it to Frazier or Mesoraco though and it’s noticeably higher. Mesoraco’s ground ball to fly ball ratio in 2014 was 0.56 and Frazier’s was 0.73.

In my opinion, either Mesoraco or Frazier could hit third. I would probably give Frazier the slight edge because he seems to strike out less and get on base slightly more than Mesoraco. Mesoraco hits for power better than Frazier and the cleanup spot seems to be a better fit for him. If Votto is already on base and Frazier gets on base behind him, Mesoraco then comes to the plate with two on and has the opportunity to drive in one or both of them.

For the Reds to be successful this season, they need someone behind Votto who will let him see more pitches in the strike zone and who will hit more balls in the air. Phillips may not like hitting lower in the order, but he’s going to have to realize to help the team succeed, he needs to step back and let Frazier and Mesoraco get their time in the middle of the lineup.

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