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2011 Fantasy Projections, No. 85: Why Cincinnati Reds’ Brandon Phillips is Overrated

Wed, Mar 16, 2011

Big Board, Player Projections

Our 2011 fantasy baseball projections will be released one-by-one until the top 100 players have been revealed. These rankings consider past achievements, current performance and expected future results based on standard 5×5 H2H settings.

Last July, I featured an article on Brandon Phillips. At the time of publication (July 3), Phillips was batting .309 with 10 HRs, 10 steals, and was tied for the league lead in runs with 62.

Yet despite his hot-hitting ways, I nominated Phillips as a prime sell-high option.

In the remaining 74 games, Phillips hit just .238 with five HRs and four steals.

How was I able to predict this sudden in-season decline?

Phillips’ .335 BABIP certainly stood out, but his career month-by-month trends have uncovered him as a first-half player.

  • April: .258 batting average
  • May: .294
  • June: .280
  • July: .250
  • August: .288
  • September: .229

Not only did the numbers point to an in-season slump, but recent history suggests a big picture decline as well.

HR/FB rate:

  • 2007: 15.9% (30 HRs)
  • 2008: 13.2% (21 HRs)
  • 2009: 11.6% (20 HRs)
  • 2010: 10.0% (18 HRs)

Stolen base efficiency:

  • 2007: 32-of-40 (80%)
  • 2008: 23-of-33 (69%)
  • 2009: 25-of-34 (73%)
  • 2010: 16-of-28 (57%)

Since his 2007 30/30 campaign, Phillips’ power and stolen base efficiency has declined precipitously.

Also working against Phillips this season is his projected spot in the Reds’ lineup. Currently, he’s penciled in as the leadoff batter opposed to the cleanup spot, where he’s hit in recent seasons. Yet his career splits indicate leadoff is the absolute worst place for Phillips to hit:

  • No. 1: 360 at-bats, 32.7 AB/HR, 6-for-11 steals (55 percent)
  • No. 2: 513 at-bats, 32.1 AB/HR, 19-for-27 steals (70 percent)
  • No. 4: 1,351 at-bats: 25.0 AB/HR, 58-for-79 steals (73 percent)

While Phillips is clearly most comfortable hitting in the middle of the lineup, Joey Votto, Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce are projected to occupy the three, four and five holes.

Now this profile would be incomplete without all the facts, and it just so happens there are a few positive signs:

Contact Rate:

  • 2008: 77.9%
  • 2009: 80.6%
  • 2010: 81.9%

Swinging Strike Rate:

  • 2008: 11.6%
  • 2009: 9.8%
  • 2010: 9.3%

Even though his power/speed combo is on the decline, Phillips has shortened his swing in recent years, leading to lower strikeout totals and better contact rates. This explains why he’s been able to maintain a .275 batting average in each of the last two seasons (career .267).

Even still, Phillips’ sub-20/20 line and .270′s average doesn’t warrant his current 33 ADP on Mock Draft Central, or 37 Yahoo! Composite ranking. In fact, Phillips 2010 line (100/18/59/16/.275) doesn’t match up against that of Kelly Johnson (93/26/71/13/.284), whose current ADP is 111, 78 spots lower than Phillips.

While most are projecting a bounce back season from the soon-to-be 31-year-old, his trends over the last four seasons suggest otherwise. He’s the 10th ranked second baseman on my 2011 big board, No. 85 overall.

  PA R HR RBI SB AVG
2010 stats 687 100 18 59 16 .275
3-year average 647 85 20 78 21 .271
2011 FBI Forecast 670 95 18 60 15 .272

 

Image courtesy of: Jamie Wisner

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