Second baseman Brandon Phillips has averaged 150 games per year over the course of his first eight years with the Cincinnati Reds. This year, Phillips suffered his first prolonged absence from the Reds’ lineup due to a torn thumb ligament that required surgery.
Phillips hasn’t played since July 9, and in his absence, it’s become clear why the Reds miss him so much — he’s their most important player.
The fielding wizardry that Phillips displays every game is second-to-none in the majors and certainly an obvious big loss when it comes to whoever his defensive replacement happens to be for the Reds.
So far, the Reds have used Skip Schumaker, Ramon Santiago and Kristopher Negron at second to replace Phillips. While all have shown aptitude in the field and sometimes made outstanding plays, none can come close to the sheer brilliance of Phillips.
At the plate, Phillips is often overlooked for his true value. A 162-game slash of 20/85/.272 with 87 runs scored may not catapult Phillips into the sabremetrics elite among all second basemen, but his versatility in the batting order and his ability to adjust with two strikes have made him the Reds’ most consistent clutch hitter.
Phillips has only struck out more than 100 times once in a season for the Reds. His ability to make contact and put the ball in play to advance runners by going to the opposite field or lifting the ball into the air is apparently a rarer and more valuable ability than many Reds’ fans may have thought.
But after witnessing just how hapless the Reds have been offensively without Phillips and how often they have seemed lost without his energetic presence on the field and in the dugout, it’s pretty clear that Phillips is much more important to the Reds than many may have believed — even more important to his team than Joey Votto.