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Brandon Phillips: “How the [expletive] am I declining?”

Mar 7, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT

Brandon Phillips AP

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips isn’t talking to the Cincinnati media, but he’s willing to talk to the national media and willing to talk to the national media about why he’s not talking to the Cincinnati media.

Case in point, this Phillips quote to Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com:

I don’t have nothing to say to those cats. They know what the deal is. They just talk about how I was falling off and declining. How the [expletive] am I declining? I had 100 … ribbies last year. And I did that with one … hand. And I won a Gold Glove? So how the [expletive] am I declining? Come on, man.

Phillips noting that he played through an injury for much of last season is certainly valid, but it’s really not all that difficult to see why those pesky local media members think he’s been declining:

YEAR     AVG     OBP     SLG     OPS
2011    .300    .353    .457    .810
2012    .281    .321    .429    .750
2013    .261    .310    .396    .706

Unless, of course, you judge a hitter strictly on his RBI totals, which Phillips apparently does. In that case he’s [expletive] better than ever!

  1. deep64blue - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    Imagine how much better these guys would be if they understood the game they played!!

    • jm91rs - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:10 PM

      I’m not entirely sure it matters whether or not guys understand the stats side of the game. Really a guy is going to go up there and do to the best of his ability and the stats make themselves. Outside of that you can take a few more walks to increase on base percentage, but even if Brandon Phillips thought in terms of those metrics, he’s not going to suddenly become a much different hitter. He pretty much is what he is.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Mar 7, 2014 at 4:05 PM

        I remember having this very conversation on these threads before. Basically we came to the conclusion that some stats are totals and are not as important to a player’s understanding of them. And some stats are indicators (Such as percent of first pitch fastball swings) and are important for a player to comprehend.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 7, 2014 at 4:16 PM

        Outside of that you can take a few more walks to increase on base percentage, but even if Brandon Phillips thought in terms of those metrics, he’s not going to suddenly become a much different hitter

        Overall I’d say knowing the reason behind why certain stats are better than others is the most important thing. For instance, knowing why OBP > BA is, at its’ core, the idea that the only limiting factor of the game is outs. It’ll take a bit to find the series of tweets, but Sky Kalkman noted last year that a team of Joey Votto’s would get something like 1500 more non-out PA’s than the average team.

        Players dont need to understand how to calculate wOBA or wRC+ or the components of WAR. But if they know that it’s good to be above average in all phases of hitting, and not just a low average, low OBP, high HR hitter; or to be an above average hitter/runner/defender than elite hitter and bad runner/defender, that’s something to aim for.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:39 PM
      • jeffbbf - Mar 7, 2014 at 9:34 PM

        Nobody in the media is insisting Phillips change his approach. What they are doing is pointing out that his offensive numbers are in decline, which is pretty obvious to everyone except Phillips. So, he’s ignorant. All he’s done is encourage the media in Cincy to focus on his failings, and it’s gonna drive him nuts.

  2. crispybasil - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    Sabernerds with your “advanced” stats like batting average!

  3. bluesoxbaseball - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    What was his OPS in 2013 before the injury? Your graph misses Phillips’s point.

    • El Bravo - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:36 PM

      Bah! I hate the s’s…drop the second “s” I say! I agree though, if he was injured than the decline could strictly be a result of that and not age. I think Phillips is sensitive but also has a point.

      • El Bravo - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:39 PM

        *then

      • Jason Lukehart - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:44 PM

        So what explains the 60-point drop in his OPS from 2011 to 2012?

      • El Bravo - Mar 7, 2014 at 4:22 PM

        He has declined. Although, the severity likely is not as bad as local media makes it, especially since he was hurt last season. I can understand why Phillips is annoyed by that is what I’m saying. Do I agree with his plan to not speak to them? Not really. I’m also just not ready to call his decline a result of age and not statistial aberration and injury-related. Maybe it is, I’ve been wrong once and only once before.

      • rcdck - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:06 PM

        In all fairness, the Chicago Manual of Style does support his or her usage of the additional “s.”

  4. stoutfiles - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    Hard to blame him for being cocky, he’s played next to Zack Cozart for years. Zack makes everyone look good.

    • thomas844 - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:03 PM

      He’s only played two full seasons. Plus, you must obviously have never seen Zack Cozart field his position at SS, he’s one of the best in the NL this side of Simmons.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:05 PM

        A .286 OBP over the last two years is really, really bad.

      • thomas844 - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        So we’re going to judge him as a hitter after only two seasons? Plenty of players struggle at the start of their career before finding their way at the plate.

      • cggarb - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:10 PM

        Cozart’s a nice fielder, and has a little pop, but he can’t hit. We can be fans without defending everyone on the team irrationally.

      • jm91rs - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:11 PM

        I’m a Reds fan, but if you’re hanging your hopes on Zack Cozart suddenly becoming an offensive threat at short stop you’re going to be disappointed.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:17 PM

        So we’re going to judge him as a hitter after only two seasons? Plenty of players struggle at the start of their career before finding their way at the plate.

        He’ll also be 28 this August, it’s not like he’s only 22 years old.

    • bfunk1978 - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:57 PM

      Tough guy gotta play through the injury, hurting his team.

    • stlouis1baseball - Mar 10, 2014 at 11:28 AM

      Zack Cozart is a wonderful defensive SS. He just needs to work on that stick.

  5. thomas844 - Mar 7, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    His slash line was .296/.347/.481 after more than half of the 2013 season. This was right before he got drilled in the hand. His.828 OPS during that span was higher than during his 2011-2012 season.

    Not to mention, he hit .307/.361/.441 with runners on base all season. Maybe you all should do more research before going off and repeating the same trash talk about Phillips that everyone else does.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:03 PM

      Not to mention, he hit .307/.361/.441 with runners on base all season. Maybe you all should do more research before going off and repeating the same trash talk about Phillips that everyone else does.

      The following rate stats go from 2011-2012-2013:

      BB%: 6.5, 4.5, 5.9
      K%: 12.6, 12.7, 14.7
      ISO: .157, .148, .135
      BABIP: .322, .298, .281
      AVG: .300, .281, .261
      OBP: .353, .321, .310
      SLG: .457, .429, .396
      wOBA: .353, .325, .307
      wRC+: 122, 101, 91

      I think it’s safe to say he’s declining. And btw, most people hit better with RISP.

      • thomas844 - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:05 PM

        You missed my point completely. Yes, his overall 2013 numbers are worse, but he was on his way to a solid overall season before his injury occurred. If he stays healthy in 2014 I think he will surprise a lot of people with his hitting.

      • jm91rs - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        The point was that he was on his way to a better year or at least similar to previous years before getting on the wrong side of the Pirates-Reds bean ball wars. His year was not on pace to decline until then, I think that’s the original posters point here. Predicting this year isn’t a science, but I’d say better than last year and not as good as his best year is a safe bet.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:26 PM

        His year was not on pace to decline until then, I think that’s the original posters point here.

        He got hit twice in two days, on 5/31 and 6/1 against the Pirates. That’s two whole months worth of games to judge him by, rather than the two years of data we have before that. Given that caveat, here’s some of his rate stats thru 5/30:

        BB%: 6.4%
        K%: 14.5%
        ISO: .278
        AVG: .287
        OBP: .335
        SLG: .564

        What’s more likely, that he was SLG 80 pts higher than his career best and had an ISO also almost 80 pts higher than his career best and this was him turning the corner, or we’re looking at a 2 month sample that tells us nothing?

    • cohnjusack - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:07 PM

      I’m guessing the research had to do with posting the lowest OPS of his career and a sizeable drop in his OPS the last 3. They were declining if you will. Here are some helpful graphs: http://www.fangraphs.com/graphs.aspx?playerid=791&position=2B&page=0&type=mini

      If the season were 81 games long, your post would have a point. Unfortunately, all games in the season count towards his final statistics.

      • jm91rs - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        The point was clearly that the bad season followed injury. It is a point worth making. Using that to predict what happens this year is silly, but it is a point worth making that his numbers declined after being hit in the hand. It’s this fact that has Reds fans hopeful. I’d guess that every fan of every team has a “well last year this happened and this year that won’t be the case so I expect big things” thought. That’s the fun of the start of a season.

      • cohnjusack - Mar 7, 2014 at 5:11 PM

        No, the point is is that there is a clear mark in decline and you are excusing it because he also had an injury…as did many, many players who didn’t decline.

        Not to mention this has been a *3 year decline*, he’s turning 33 and increased injury and decreased production tend to be what happens to players that age.

    • cggarb - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:08 PM

      DatDude REALLY should be careful about tying his value to “ribbies.” He’s going to look like a real idiot (what’s new) when he has 63 this year.

      And that slash line that thomas844 cited was from June 1 (56 games in). That’s in no way “after more than half of the season.”

      He’s a 33 year-old second basemen. There’s no shame in the fact that he’s declining. That’s not “trash talk.” Trash talk is screaming at a reporter for being a “fatass” simply b/c he published your sub-.300 OBP. Phillips is a jerk, and his performance isn’t going to make that tolerable for much longer.

    • jrob23 - Mar 7, 2014 at 4:15 PM

      that would require effort and critical thinking. things lacking from the yinzers here. So basically, if you take the injury into account, he slightly declined from 2011-2012 and was at or slightly above 2012 levels. I know that would refute the article and destroy the narrative but, it’s not that hard to research.

  6. oruacat2 - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    The Cincinnati media has long been in-decline and can kiss my ass.
    I’m glad to have Phillips in a Reds uniform.

    • ptfu - Mar 7, 2014 at 6:01 PM

      The statements “Brandon Phillips is declining” and “I’m glad to have Phillips in a Reds uniform” need not be contradictory.

  7. drewy44 - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    It should become more obvious this year, depending on his batting order slot. With Choo gone, you’re losing an OBP leader. One less person to knock in consistently. (Of course that assumes Billy Hamilton doesn’t get on base at the same clip which I’m predicting is unlikely)

    Anyone can (should) have monster RBI #s when Choo and Votto got on base as much as they did.

    • jrob23 - Mar 7, 2014 at 4:21 PM

      Hamilton will supply a whole different element in that he may not get on base at as high a clip, but he will be in scoring position as much if not more than Choo due to the SB he will have. It might be a wash

      • js20011041 - Mar 7, 2014 at 6:03 PM

        I don’t care how many bases he steals. Choo is probably going to be getting on base 10% more often than Hamilton. Stolen bases just can’t make up that difference. I love stolen bases. I love aggressive baseball. But they just aren’t nearly valuable enough to make up a difference in on base ability of that magnitude.

      • ptfu - Mar 7, 2014 at 6:34 PM

        Don’t forget Choo’s edge in power! Choo2013 hit 34 doubles, 2 triples, and 21 homers. Hamilton’s projected (on FanGraphs) to hit ~18 doubles, ~7 triples, and ~6 homers. That’s 14 more doubles and 15 more homers vs 5 more triples. Another advantage to Choo.

  8. nbjays - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:18 PM

    Between this and the “Super Manny” post by Craig, I think we have set a new [expletive] record in the number of [expletive] expletives in two [expletive] paragraphs. Truly [expletive] brilliant!

  9. eshine76 - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    I’m not his biggest fan, but to be fair, he was batting clean-up as opposed to being higher in the order. He changed his approach (swinging more / walking less). That doesn’t excuse his SLG, but I question whether a guy that hits 18 HR every year should be batting 4th anyway.

  10. uyf1950 - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    Obviously the Reds think he’s declining otherwise they wouldn’t have been trying to move him and his $50MM +/- salary he’s due over the next 4 years.

    • jm91rs - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:26 PM

      And he talked a lot of crap about the owner. It’s not the best idea to call your boss a liar in a magazine. I think it was a matter of the guy wearing out his welcome and not producing like he had.

    • paperlions - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:54 PM

      More than that…other teams must think so as well since the Reds weren’t able to get enough in return to justify trading him.

  11. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    Philips also thinks baseball is racist because people don’t like him. The list of reasons I don’t like him is quite long without including skin color or racial/cultural heritage (though his playing the race card on this does make the list somewhere near the bottom).

  12. bisonaudit - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    If all Phillips thinks should matter is RBIs he and the Cincinnati media should be getting along great. Just ask Votto.

  13. tbird05 - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    It sure is funny how a player changes over the course of his career. I’m not talking about physical abilities that are supposed to decline, I am talking about attitude.

    Ever notice the quotes from rookies? (e.g. I’m very glad to be here, and just trying to get better every day…I just want to help my team win, etc.) It’s like they sit through a PR class that tells them how to not screw up their career with their mouths.

    However, then they have a little success and start saying things like “How the [expletive] am I declining?” Even King Albert takes offense to someone comparing him to a young, up and coming star. Give me a freaking break. How about you do the things that made you successful in the first place. (e.g. Be glad to be there, and just try to get better every day…just be part of the team trying to help them win, etc.).

    I understand self-confidence. Hell, being good at baseball (or anything for that matter) requires you to be a little cocky. However, there is a big difference between being cocky and being defensive. If your being defensive, then you probably know you are losing a step.

    • raysfan1 - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:34 PM

      The second half of your last sentence might also be why the player is defensive although he would of course never admit it.

  14. spudchukar - Mar 7, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    There is no doubt that Phillips sucked at the plate in the last part of 2013. I do think his plunking affected his hitting, but I also believe he underperformed with or without the injury. I also believe his high RBI numbers can be primarily attributed to having OBP magicians Choo and Votto hitting in front of him, and the much more dangerous Bruce hitting behind him.

  15. paperlions - Mar 7, 2014 at 4:00 PM

    Phillips does have a point though…not that he isn’t declining, but that he was never as good offensively as people seem to think he was and the apparent decline at the plate isn’t necessarily real, but a reflection of his career year combined with the general reduction in offense league wide. He is still a fantastic defensive player, but at the plate his career wRC+ is only 96. He’s had one year in which he was appreciably better than average at the plate; and that was his fantastic year in 2011. His next best offensive season was at 104.

  16. justme8907 - Mar 7, 2014 at 4:02 PM

    I like Brandon Phillips as a player (cardinals fan which makes it a love hate relationship) he’s always been a passionate all out player with a great bat and glove who I always dreaded the cards facing a few years ago…The last 2 years however I haven’t had the same kinda fear when he’s up. He’s looked off balanced on off speed pitches and at times overwhelmed by the hard stuff. He’s 33 he is probably declining like most players around their 32-33 year old seasons. It can’t be completely blamed on injuries bc 2 years ago he struggled and was healthy. Ya he had a good start this past year before the injury but there is absolutely 0 guarantee that he will ever be the same player he was father time is currently undefeated!

  17. tfbuckfutter - Mar 7, 2014 at 5:33 PM

    I have never heard someone say “So-and-so showed up to camp this week looking amazing. He put on 25 pounds of lean muscle this offseason and looks like he is ready to REALLY drive in a TON of runs this season.”

    • illuminancer - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:07 PM

      A lot of Giants fans–well, me, anyway–have said that about Buster Posey. He supposedly put on 10 pounds of muscle this offseason, and it seems to be working for him. It mostly appears to have gone to his…lower half, shall we say, and it’s definitely working for me.

      • tfbuckfutter - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:11 PM

        So lower half body weight = more RBIs?

        Amaro is trying to get Delmon Young on the phone.

  18. raysfan1 - Mar 7, 2014 at 7:48 PM

    I get called need a lot, and maybe I am one, but in really don’t think it shod be some sort of cosmic concept that it is better to get on base than to be out. If every player on a team focused on plate discipline and got on base as often as they could, more runs would be scored, and more games would be won. It does not matter one bit who gets the RBI as long as the team scores and wins. People who tout a player’s RBI totals are missing this extremely basic and obvious, yet important, point.

  19. kraa0901 - Mar 7, 2014 at 8:39 PM

    Stay classy, Phillips. Man this guy just loves digging his own grave!! Thankfully my Twins are too smart to bring in his many “talents”.

  20. dcarroll73 - Mar 7, 2014 at 11:47 PM

    I am open to newer stats, but the basic fact in winning a baseball game is scoring runs which means that getting that run home does matter. It is all fine and good to say that RBIs is just an “opportunity” stat, but anyone who has ever played at any level from Little League to MLB knows that it is a big thing coming up with “ducks in the pond” and getting them home. Personally I found it a more high pressure time to bat in that situation than when it was two outs and nobody on base. In the former situation, you felt pumped when you delivered and dejected when you failed. In the later, no biggy. So I think that the “new stats” are missing something of basic importance if they do not capture that reality. Stats are only useful to the extent that they quantify things that really count.

    • savvybynature - Mar 8, 2014 at 12:35 AM

      No one is saying that RBIs don’t matter, or that Phillips is worthless at the plate. But it’s one stat, and only one stat, and when you look at the stats as a whole they say he is declining.
      If he isn’t, then great, it should be a fun season for him and fans. But lashing out at the local media for pointing out mathematical trends is just an unprofessional asshat thing to do, from a Reds fan. You don’t have to agree with the media, but respecting them and their job is a part of his job and he isn’t doing it well right now.

  21. savvybynature - Mar 8, 2014 at 12:38 AM

    Plus, now he has his name next to a headline that says, “How Am I Declining?”
    Which, of course, will leave people to believe he must be declining. Not exactly a media tactician.

  22. campcouch - Mar 8, 2014 at 3:07 AM

    He’s still richer in one week than I’ll be in a lifetime. Curse you little league coaches!

  23. Kevin S. - Mar 8, 2014 at 9:41 AM

    I’m no Brandon Phillips fan, and as many recall I argued loudly (and probably profanely) against the idea that the Yankees trade Brett Gardner for him without a Wonka-sized sweetener coming back their way, but I’m a little disappointed to see some of the lazy “decline” analysis coming from a couple people who should know better. “He’s declined three years in a row!” is completely misleading. First, there are two year-on-year declines. He has not been in decline for three years. Second, of course he was going to decline from his career year – he regressed to his mean in 2012, a season which offensively looked a whole heck of a lot like his 2010, 2009 and 2007. 2013 was his first real decline season, and while the injury does not excuse all, it’s a reasonable caveat to consider. I do get that his indicators are trending in the wrong direction, and I’d certainly be worried about a cliff dive somewhere in the near future, but citing his triple-slash lines from career year/baseline year/injured year does not show that.

  24. stlouis1baseball - Mar 10, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    The mouth is an idiot. He has alwasy been an idiot…he will continue to be an idiot.
    The dude talks to hear his head rattle.
    That said…I would be hard pressed to find another 2nd baseman in the NL I would rather have playing the position. Plus…the dude can literally hit anywhere in the lineup.
    He just needs duct tape for that mouth.

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