Second baseman Brandon Phillips has been the face of the Cincinnati Reds for years, and rightfully so. The All-Star has made his preference known in the past as to where he prefers to hit in the lineup (cleanup), but his struggles this year are starting to outweigh the good he might be producing. As much as it might be tough to admit, Phillips has no business batting at the top of the Reds’ lineup.
Much has been made of the struggles of Zack Cozart, and they have been mighty, but not too far behind him on the struggle bus is Phillips. With an average of .255, the majority of Phillips’ struggles have come from his inability to reach base with a .272 on-base percentage. With Billy Hamilton leading off with an OBP of .280, the Reds cannot afford to have two sub-.300 OBP hitters occupying two of the top three spots in the lineup.
The difference between Hamilton and Phillips also lies within their individual abilities when they do reach base. Hamilton’s speed allows him to create havoc and manufacture runs on his own by putting his teammates in situations to succeed. Unfortunately, age seems to be creeping up on Phillips as his base-running abilities seem to have drastically deteriorated since his 30-30 year in 2007.
With all of that being said, there is still plenty of life left in the bat of Brandon Phillips — and in some other lineup, he may be perfectly suited for hitting in the three-hole. However, that is not the case with this Reds’ team. Of the team’s eight starters in the field, Phillips’ OBP ranks sixth. He is no longer providing protection to Joey Votto or Jay Bruce in the lineup.
That is why Phillips should bat seventh for the Reds. Here is a projected lineup (with averages and on base percentages) with Phillips inserted into the seven-hole:
1. Hamilton | .245 | .280
2. Votto | .280 | .438
3. Todd Frazier | .247 | .333
4. Bruce | .220 | .351
5. Ryan Ludwick | .260 | .310
6. Brayan Pena | .304 | .360
7. Phillips | .255 | .272
8. Cozart | .180 | .215
What this lineup does is statistically provide more opportunities throughout the lineup for at-bats with runners in scoring position. Batting seventh, Phillips will be proceeded in the lineup by five players who reach base roughly once every three at-bats. This would (theoretically) provide Phillips will ample opportunities to drive in runs — a statistic that the Gold Glover is a huge fan of.
The problem with this whole situation is Phillips himself. His relations with the Reds’ organization have been quickly declining over the past year, and there is a good chance he would view this move as a “demotion” — leaving him less enthusiastic to perform. Or maybe Phillips would see it as a challenge and rise to the occasion.
Regardless, Brandon Phillips batting third in the Reds’ lineup is not working — and has not been working for some time now. Bryan Price has shown the willingness to shake up the lineup, and it looks like now is exactly the right time to do that once again.