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Anatomy of a Hot Streak: Brandon Phillips

Recently Phillips has been the Reds best hitter. What's up with that?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps no player on Cincinnati's roster has been as polarizing this season as Brandon Phillips. A number of fans would list BP as one of their favorite Reds over the past decade. However, Phillips' declining production plus the fact that he is blocking Jose Peraza from regular playing time has led to a great deal of frustration. It doesn't help that he's potentially having his worst offensive season as a member of the Reds. As of Thursday afternoon Phillips had an 87 wRC+ which is tied for his lowest mark while in Cincinnati.

This will likely be the fourth straight season that Phillips is below average offensively, and his defensive metrics have been trending down since 2013 (to be fair he still plays an "average" second base). However, since the second half of the season Phillips is having a resurgence at the plate. If you compare his first and second half splits you would think you were looking at two different players.

Brandon Phillips before the break: .269/.306/.389

Brandon Phillips after the break: .346/.384/.506

What has led to this offensive resurgence?

The easiest answer, and the most likely answer, is that hot streaks happen in baseball. No one expects Phillips to keep this up very long, and nothing about his recent track record suggests that this is sustainable. At any moment he could revert back to the hitter we've watched over the past few seasons. That's the kind of crack analysis you can only find at Red Reporter.

With that caveat in mind, and the fact that the second half of the season is still a relatively small sample size, lets take a look at the three biggest reasons for his recent run of success.

Brandon Phillips has been "lucky"

Hitting a baseball is incredibly hard. Hitting a baseball at the major league level is probably one of the hardest things you can ask a person to do. Saying Phillips has been "lucky" shouldn't diminish the fact that when compared to the general population he's an incredibly skilled individual. However, over the course of his career, Phillips has sustained a .294 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). League average for 2016 is .299, and Phillips is right in line with that. During the first half of this season his .292 BABIP is about what you would expect from him.

Things look a little different when you peek at Brandon's second half numbers. Since the All-Star break Phillips has a .371 BABIP. For some reason a number of batted balls that were outs in the first half of the season are falling in for hits now. Again, this probably isn't sustainable, and it's one obvious reason for Phillips' unusual production. That's not the sexiest answer in the world, but it's a fairly obvious one.

Still, there are two noteworthy things about post-break Phillips.

Brandon Phillips is swinging less, but making more contact


Last 14 Days

O-Swing %

(Outside the zone)



Z-Swing %

(Inside the zone)



Swing %



O-Contact %



Z-Contact %



Contact %



Since the All-Star break, if Brandon Phillips swings at a pitch he's making contact 91.6% of the time. For his career he's made contact on 80.1% of his swings. The highest mark he's ever finished a season with is 83.4% in 2011. Again, this is something quite out of step with Phillips' normal production, and is driving his hot streak.

If there's one reason to be encouraged about the chart above it's that's his swing percentages after the break are much more in line with his career percentages. Early in 2016 Phillips was swinging the bat more than he ever had in his career. There's a chance he's reverted back to his career averages, and that could drive sustained improvement for the rest of the season.

Brandon Phillips is crushing breaking balls

Above you'll see two charts. The top chart is before the break, and the bottom chart is after the break. They detail what Phillips has done against particular types of pitches. For some unknown (at least to me) reason Phillips is having his way with breaking balls right now. The highlighted sections show how much success he's having against sliders and curves as opposed to earlier in the season. Last night I spent more time than I want to admit analyzing his swings from April and August. There was no discernible difference to me in his approach at the plate. That shouldn't be too surprising because I'm not formally trained to make such assessments.

My best guess? Maybe he found this YouTube video...

Whatever the reasons are for his recent success, it's been fun to see a successful Brandon Phillips at the plate once again.