Cincinnati Reds 2015 Grades: Brandon Phillips

With expectations low coming into the 2015 season, Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips had a resurgent year, especially at the plate. Like most players, he suffered his fair share of nicks and bruises, but for the most part, Phillips was finally able to stay healthy after two injury-plagued years and as a result, Phillips was the Reds’ most consistent hitter outside of Joey Votto.

Phillips had just one month in which he had a batting average of lower than .275 — hitting .260 in July — and put up an on-base plus slugging of at least .700 in all but April and July. He saved his best for the end of the season, batting .317/.348/.426 with eight doubles, one triple, five home runs, and 31 runs batted in over the last two months.

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Phillips’ best game of the year came on July 30 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, back when the Reds were only eight games under .500. In the Reds’ 15-5 win, Phillips went 4-for-5 with a pair of three-run home runs and finished with seven runs batted in.

Overall, the 34-year-old batted .294/.328/.395 with a wRC+ just under league average (96) and 2.6 fWAR, his best offensive numbers since 2012. The most notable improvement from Phillips was in the speed department, stealing 23 bases and being caught just three times after swiping seven bags the previous two seasons combined.

Phillips didn’t have the power numbers that fans have become accustomed to seeing, hitting just 12 home runs and 19 doubles. But where he lacked in that area, he made up for in his contact rate, both inside and outside of the strike zone.

On all pitches that Phillips swung at outside of the zone, he made contact with 68.1 percent of them, up from 66.8 percent in 2014. He saw an even bigger contact increase on pitches inside the zone, making contact on 91.5 percent of his swings after posting an 87.3 percent rate the year before. Phillips swung and missed on just 9.5 percent of his swings, the second-lowest rate of his career.

As a result of sacrificing power for contact, Phillips saw his strikeout rate drop to a career-low 10.9 percent, though he also had the lowest walk rate (4.3 percent) of his career.

Advanced defensive metrics rated Phillips as having one of his worst seasons with the glove (still above league average, however), but it was hard to see much of a drop-off at all. Per usual, Phillips was dazzling with the leather, making an unbelievable diving stop or behind-the-back throw seemingly every night.

With two years and $27 million left on his contract, the Reds have to be relieved that Phillips is still capable of playing at a high level. He’ll turn 35 midway through the 2016, so it may be reasonable to expect to dip in numbers from this season, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s to never count out Brandon Phillips.

Grade: A

Next: Reds 2015 grades: Todd Frazier