Is Brandon Phillips a Top Tier Second Baseman?

With the uncertainty surrounding Chase Utley, some analysts have Brandon Phillips as the top second baseman in the National League and along with Ian Kinsler one of the top at the position in all of baseball. Phillips at his peak offers power, average and speed and it is no wonder why many people are bullish on him as we head to the start of Spring Training.

But the one thing to keep in mind is that Phillips has been a starter for three seasons and his 2007 season, where he posted a .288-30-94-107-32 line, is the outlier. If he can duplicate that season, then yes he is one of the top second basemen in fantasy. But what if he hits like he did in either 2006 or 2008? Here is his average line from those two seasons:


Now, that is a real nice line for a second baseman. It is just beneath what you should expect from, say Dustin Pedroia or Brian Roberts, with the latter trailing Phillips’ ADP of 29 according to the latest information from Mock Draft Central.

Phillips was hurt last year by a .281 BABIP, which was about 25 points below what he posted his previous two seasons. He has seen his LD% drop from 19.2 percent in 2006 to 16.4 percent last year. Both his FB% and HR/FB rates fell by a tick, too.

In 2006, he was successful on 25 of 27 steal attempts. His percentage fell off somewhat in 2007, but he compensated by attempting 40 steals. Last year, Phillips had 23 steals but was thrown out 10 times. That is not a good trend.

The four projection systems show him basically repeating his 2008 season this year. That is a fine line for a second baseman and nothing to dismiss. Just remember that before you make him one of the top players picked at the position. If he reproduces his 2008 numbers, Phillips is a third-tier second baseman. That makes his peers Alexei Ramirez and Dan Uggla, not Kinsler and Utley.

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4 Responses to “Is Brandon Phillips a Top Tier Second Baseman?”

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  1. Kris says:

    A week or so ago, I was sitting around thinking of Phillips and Dunn and whether they were over-valued or under-valued.

    I was really having some issues wrapping my head around whether or not batting average itself, was over/under valued. My conclusion was if the other four categories are there — it’s overvalued.

    On a tangent, this lead me to spend far too much time dedicated to writing an article on the idea of punting batting average — which i linked as my name if you’re interested in reading. or here (if that works)

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    • philosofool says:

      I think batting average, WHIP and ERA are the worst stats to punt. The reason is that 3/4 the way into the season, some people in your league will stop paying attention. Their players will go on the DL and they won’t even take them out of their roster spots. Consequently, their counting stats like K, RBI, HR stop accumulating and they fall in the rankings. But their rate stats don’t take a hit from this, they stay the same. Hence, if you punt batting average, you’re going to stay behind the drop outs. Bad plan.

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      • Kris says:

        I dont care to hi-jack a wonderfully written Brandon Phillips article, but whenever I write something I assume everyone in the league is a hard-core fantasy player.

        In our keeper league, the worse you finish the more you pay. I agree that people “give up” but as with any punting category, your goal is to make it to the playoffs. I tend to think that i’d throw things out the window in this order: SV, SB, AVG. I was simply posing a strategy that assumed you were playing people that a) had a financial incentive to not lose b) pride issues.

        Back on point, i think that when a player of Phillip’s caliber is ranked people really go overboard. If you assume the average fantasy worth 2nd baseman bats .285, than Phillips is only 15pts below that. That’s no different than Player X being 2 standard deviations away from the mean/median in SB or HR, or whatever.

        Whenever I evaluate players, I evaluate them in pairs. It’s screwy, but it gives you perspective. What kind of player would I need to draft with Brandon Phillips to have the equivalent of 2 players that put up 85/15/85/15/.290 ?

        If i can “make” 2 players with the line posted above, with a 3rd and 5th round pick.. while in reality to draft two players with that line, I’d have to spend 2 x late third rounders.. I’m happy.

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  2. razor says:

    Phillips seems to be one of the easier players to figure. He kills LHP’s and he’s pretty bad vs RHP’s. It really is that simple with him. In his last two seasons he’s had an OPS vs LHP’s of .984 and .944. He also has faced them over 30% of the time during those two seasons (2007 = 32%, 2008 = 30%) largely because he’s hit in between two LHH’s both years, either the combo of Griffey/Dunn, or some combination of Votto/Dunn or Votto/Bruce, or even Bruce/Votto. Anyway, the reasons for why he’s faced so many LHP’s doesn’t matter as much as the fact that he simply has. The league average is around 25%.

    The Pirates (with all of their LHP’s) are also a reason he’s faced a higher percentage of LHP’s than normal…His defense is first rate and it’s a good thing because without it he’d be a utility player/platoon player. Even with his defense, he’s a little overrated in my book. He plays pretty well in fantasy terms because of his power/speed combo but his owners better hope he keeps facing a higher percentage than normal of LHP’s. Phillips is a far better bet to approach his 2008 numbers than 2007.

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