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Updating the Top 100: Brandon Phillips

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In which the long time second baseman does things a little differently but ends up in the same place

Steady
Steady
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

BRANDON PHILLIPS - #24

Played as Red

Primary Position

Career Rank

Peak Rank

Prime Rank

2006-2016

2B

16

48

31

Percent Breakdown of Value

Best Season

Best player on Reds

Hit

Field

Pitch

2011

Never

69%

31%

0%

Awards/Honors as a Red

Leading the League

On the Reds Leaderboard

Gold Glove -€” 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013

All Star -€” 2010, 2011, 2013

Silver Slugger -€” 2011

N/A

- 8th in career doubles
- 9th in career hits
- 9th in career runs                                              - 10th in career RBI                                            - 12th in career HR

Brandon Phillips, sitting on the receiving end of countless perennial forecasts of imminent demise, posted a year that was, at first glance, awfully similar to most Brandon Phillips seasons.  What jumps off his player page at baseball-reference to my eyes is five straight seasons with an OPS+ in the 90s.

As always, there are concerning signs buried in the finer print.  For the first time in forever, according to the WAR metric, Phillips was a net negative in the field.  Not coincidentally, Phillips recorded double digit error counts for the first time in a decade.  BP's glove has always been his primary calling card; there are now indications of betrayal.

In many ways, Phillips's 2016 season mirrored that of Jay Bruce.  Phillips's walk rate, never a source of pride, fell precipitously to 3.1%.  This was good for 67th best out of 67 NL batters who qualified for the league batting title, and was 1.2% less than his previous career low.  Unburdened with the hassle of taking any walks, Phillips nearly led the league in swing rate, finding nearly 58% of all pitches worthy of an offer (the league average is 47%).

This is an approach that works until it doesn't.  Armed with a better than average BABIP, and a much better than average line drive rate, Phillips almost rose to the level of league average hitter.

Any projection model worth its salt would call (again) for a severe decline for BP's numbers in 2017.  Ironically, perhaps, it doesn't much matter for the Reds anymore.  We know the team won't be competing for glory, so it's a year of transition one way or another.  Phillips, very literally, is not the second baseman of the future as there is no chance he will be with the team in 2018.  One of the top 3 items for which to grade Bryan Price in 2017 will be how he handles the playing time of Phillips and Peraza.  Paramount to nearly everyone will be that the latter is appropriately developing.

2017, then, becomes a very important year to the legacy of Brandon Phillips.  From a career accomplishment perspective, he's a virtual lock to hit his 200th career home run and steal his 200th career base.  Among players you associate with the Reds, he'll be the 7th player to reach these dual marks in his career.  More important for Reds fans will be how Phillips handles himself as a lame duck player, possibly being asked to reduce his playing time, possibly being offered the opportunity to finish the season with a winning ballclub, possibly facing for the first time the uncomfortable specter of diminished results from the seemingly unassailable and otherwise unrecommendable approach of swing at damn near everything.

I suppose it would kind of passé to predict a drop-off now.

With this franchise in the spot it's in, it's certainly conceivable that this serves as the BP post-mortem, vis-à-vis his time with the Reds.  If so, how will (or should) Phillips be remembered as a Red?  Forget the flaws, he's always given a full effort, often resulting in jaw dropping spectacular outcomes; he's also a guy who went from being a nearly washed-out former prospect to a guy who sits in the franchise top 10 in several key counting stats.  Whether we're at the end or not, it's been a good run.

In 6,899 plate appearances with the Reds, Phillips has hit .279/.325/.429 (99 OPS+), with 311 doubles, 191 home runs and 194 stolen bases.  He climbs two notches on the all-time list to #24, but that's good enough to also climb one spot to sit as the team's 3rd greatest second baseman.

Top 15 2nd Basemen in Reds history

1

Joe Morgan

2

Bid McPhee

3

Brandon Phillips

4

Lonny Frey

5

Miller Huggins

6

Johnny Temple

7

Ron Oester

8

Hughie Critz

9

Bret Boone

10

Dick Egan

11

Sam Bohne

12

Tommy Helms

13

Pokey Reese

14

Morrie Rath

15

Tony Cuccinello