Our weeks have seven days; rainbows seven colors. Seven continents and the Seven Seas span our planet. Ancient elders identified seven wonders of the world and seven liberal arts. Rome is known as the City of Seven Hills, as is Cincinnati.

Snow White had seven dwarfs. You can watch the Seven Samurai or the Magnificent Seven. Shakespeare wrote of the seven ages of man. There were seven books in the Harry Potter series. And, of course, Ian Fleming’s secret agent had code number 007.

According to Genesis, God rested on the seventh day. Christian tradition lists seven deadly sins. The Menorah has seven candles. There are seven levels of heaven in Islam. And Buddha walked seven steps at birth.

You can buy 7-UP while listening to Seven Nation Army at the 7-11 next to 7 Flags. There’s a seven-year itch and seven minutes in heaven. Before HBO, there were seven words you could never say on television. There are seven distinct notes on the musical scale. Seven is neutral on the pH scale, neither acidic or alkaline. Breaking a mirror is said to bring seven years of bad luck.

John Elway, Pete Maravich and Phil Espisito wore #7. Geoff Bodine won four times driving #7.

Baseball’s most famous #7 is Mickey Mantle. Ask George Costanza.

The World Series is decided on the best of seven. We stand up to stretch in the seventh inning. MLB plays seven months of games that count, if you include the postseason. Ernie Lombardi and Paul Janish wore #7. Walt Jocketty has been the Reds GM for seven years. It’s been seven seasons since Brandon Phillips went 30/30 (in 2007).

And the seventh spot in Bryan Price’s batting order could prove to be interesting.

[This is when the selective lineup scolds say the lineup doesn’t matter much. That may be the case, but wouldn’t it be nice if the Reds squeezed out every last inch of competitiveness they can. The difference between batting second and seventh is about 90 plate appearances over the course of a season. I’d prefer 90 good ones to 90 bad ones. I say selective because you can usually catch the scolds making points about the lineup at other times. It’s too hard to resist.]

Back to finding that inch or two.

Three spots in the batting order are pretty well set. It goes without saying that Billy Hamilton bats first. After all, he creates havoc. And because of the lackluster offseason, the club doesn’t really have a credible alternative except, of course, the perfect one in Joey Votto. But this post — and who bats seventh for the Reds — is about Bryan Price.

Hamilton will lead off. Zack Cozart will bat eighth and the pitcher ninth.

If everyone stays healthy, that leaves six candidates to bat seventh: Jay Bruce, Marlon Byrd, Todd Frazier, Devin Mesoraco, Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto. This table shows three projections (Steamer, ZiPS, Baseball Headquarters) of the OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) for each of those players and the average. Billy Hamilton is included, too.

Table

Yes, that’s just one stat. You wouldn’t make a decision based on it alone. Although as individual metrics go, OPS is decent, combining batting average, walks and power. The Reds have their own metrics and projections for their players. But it seems pretty clear that, according to people in the business of crunching the numbers, of the six nominees, Brandon Phillips is the weakest hitter of that bunch (aside from Hamilton, the guy who will lead off).

If Hamilton leads off, Phillips should bat seventh. Case closed.

Bryan Price was asked about the batting order yesterday, particularly who would bat seventh (John Fay). Price began to lay the groundwork for his impending decision:

“We should have a dynamic offensive player hitting seventh,” Price said. “At this point in time if we have concerns over who’s hitting seventh or if they’re going to be having some hurt feelings, then we really don’t have the pieces here that we want. We need guys to accept their roles and buy into it to give us the best chance to win.”

He’s right about that.

“Great teams are able to create runs in that bottom third of the order. We can’t have throwaway innings because we’re sitting seven, eight, nine.”

More solid ground.

Then Price started down the rabbit hole, drawing awkward attention to his decision. He said he has an idea what he wants to do with the #7 spot already. But then cautioned that spring training lineups can be quirky for various reasons. On and on about how spring training lineups are made. Splitting up the players for home and road games. Price said fans will see guys hitting in different spots in the order, especially early. He’s waiting to make sure the team is healthy before he talks about the regular season lineup (translation: maybe I won’t have to make this decision).

While there’s no reason for Price to make out his Opening Day lineup card today, the longer he avoids this particular conflict and puts off making his decision known, the more he treats the issue like a hot potato, the more controversy he’ll draw to it. And bring greater attention to the player who ultimately receives the demotion.

Bryan Price should quit prevaricating and get out in front of the issue. Otherwise, it becomes non-stop Topic A.

24/7.

56 Responses

  1. big5ed

    This process will be wholly about Price having to manage Phillips’s ego.

    • wkuchad

      Please explain. Brandon takes a bad wrap on this site. It’s not his fault Reds management bat him too high in the order. It’s not his fault he’s overpaid (he’d be dumb to turn the money down). It’s not his fault the Reds played him while he was hurt. He has an ego, no doubt. But when has he publically complained where he hit in the lineup.

      • vanwilder8

        Well the whole BP-CTrent feud was (is?) over a change in the lineup.

      • Chris Garber (@cgarber8)

        Brandon doesn’t talk to the local media, so you don’t hear one way or the other.

        However, his rare national media interviews make it clear that (at least as of last spring), he didn’t believe he was declining. Since he’s always hit in the 2-5 spots, it’s fair to worry that he may believe he’s still a “middle of the order hitter,” and have trouble adjusting to batting 7th.

        http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/03/07/brandon-phillips-how-the-expletive-am-i-declining/

      • lwblogger2

        I think any player is going to look at the players around him and then decide if he feels like he’s in the wrong spot or not. If Phillips ends up in the 7 hole, I think it will all come down to how he feels he stacks up to Frazier, Mes, Bruce, and Byrd. If he thinks he’s better than one or all of those guys, then he’s going to be unhappy. Now rather that means he’ll be vocal about it or rather it affects his performance or not would just have to be determined when/if the time comes.

    • Vanessa Galagnara

      And you know this how? Why the negative criticism on Phillips and not on Cozart? or the decline in Joey Votto and Jay Bruce? Doesn’t Phillips still play a great defensive second base? How old is Cozart and how old is Phillips? I am thinking that Phillips is one of the older everyday players on the Reds and if anyone has a right to an ego it would be Phillips, but if he is asked to bat 7th or 8th I doubt that he would throw a tantrum. I cannot find a single instance of Phillips commenting that he would not but in the bottom part of the order.

      • jdx19

        Cozart received a vast amount of criticism on this site when he was batting anywhere other than 8th. Cozart provides GG-level defense at the most valuable position on the field, so as long as he bats 8th, most folks don’t have a problem with him.

        Phillips, even with the GG-level (maybe still?) defense at 2nd base, provides less value on defense than does Cozart. Because of this, his bat needs to balance it out, especially if he’s hitting anywhere other than 7th.

        I think that’s why it seems like folks don’t criticize Cozart as much.

        And I don’t think characterizing Votto and Bruce as declining is correct. Bruce had a bad season last year. Before that, he’s had better and better seasons every year he’s been a pro. One bad year does not a trend make. As far as Votto goes, that’s a bigger argument, which I won’t get in to!

      • vanwilder8

        The difference is BP will make $12 million in 2015 while Cozart makes $2.35.

        Cozart is an easy problem to solve, as he’s probably not back in 2016 if he doesn’t find his bat. BP on the other hand, is not getting better over the next 3 years, and he’s getting paid $39 million.

    • greenmtred

      Check out Joey Votto’s thoughts on BP. Every time BP is discussed here, somebody–often more than one–will predictably bring up his ego. Based on what, exactly? Does anyone here have first hand knowledge? Does anyone here honestly think that any player will make it to mlb without a healthy ego?

  2. redmountain

    Just a question, has anyone asked Phillips if he would bat 7 or 8? If Phillips wants to show leadership, would he not take the spot in which he is placed?

    • vanwilder8

      Since BP still isn’t talking to the local media, it’s going to be hard to ask him.

  3. Vanessa Galagnara

    Steve I don’t normally comment on here but I am excited about the upcoming season.

    Brandon is fun to watch play and that is what invariably fans are paying for right? I read quite often on this website and there is a substantial amount of negativity generated around Brandon Phillips. Zach Cozart who was the worst hitting everyday position player in all of baseball according to Doug Grey gets a free pass from you because of his defense. Why is it then that there is such a negative stigma around Brandon Phillips. I have searched online and I can’t find a single reference to Brandon refusing to bat in any order of the lineup.

    Fun to watch play or not I think that Brandon should and would agree to bat eighth in the order. Zach Cozart is still a young guy and probably has more room to improve than does Brandon who I believe is turning 34. Maybe the fewer at bats will give him more “umph” for the time in the box. I also think that Brandon would perform a better service batting in front of the pitcher as I would assume he would have a better skill set at taking a walk in order to get the pitcher’s position cleared instead of having the pitcher lead off the following inning. In other words I suppose one could say that there is more value to the 8 hole than the seventh hole simply for that scenario that is bound to occur more often than not.

    Anyhow my opinions in summary are as follows:
    1. Brandon Phillips deserves and has earned the right to not be the scape goat when other players performed just as bad. Brandon doesn’t deserve the negative criticism that he gets on this website plain and simple.
    2. Brandon Phillips is still a very good defensive second basemen.
    3. Brandon Phillips would make a better 8 hole hitter than Zach Cozart because Brandon has more experience at finding ways to get on base as to force the pitcher position to come to the plate.
    4. The Reds carry Hamilton in Center, Cozart at SS, and Phillips at 2B all of which have a better defense game right now than offensive game. Just FYI, not sure why Brandon’s declining offense is brought to our attention so often more so than the declining offense of Joey Votto , Zach Cozart, and Jay Bruce. Phillips is 34 and the decline is expected but I doubt it is for the other 3 names mentioned so again why the negativity towards Brandon Phillips?

    • wkuchad

      Agree on #1 and #2. For #3, Hamilton would make the best 8-hole hitter IMO.

      And I don’t think Steve is dogging on Phillips here. Most of that comes from the posters.

    • Frogger

      Some of your points are logical. However, they also represent what Phillips fans don’t understand. Phillips is not getting dogged here, and no one is saying he doesn’t play good defense. I would also point out that one big example comes to mind about BP complaining about lineup. Remember when C. Trent asked Dusty why Phillips was still batting at the top of the order….I imagine that incident is just the one that slipped through cracks and let us all in. BP is a good player and an assett to this team, but he hurts the team when he bats in the wrong spot. How many times have we watched teams bring in a lefty to face Votto, and not even care to switch from the lefty while facing Phillips in the 4 hole before getting to Bruce. That says it all folks. The truth is even in BP’s best days he should have been a 2 or 5 hitter. The batting order and BP’s place in it ultimately falls at the feet of Reds management. They have never put together a lineup anywhere close to complete. You have an absolutely special hitter when he was healthy in Votto, paid him 200+ million, and never found a hitter to put behind him or in front of him.

      • lwblogger2

        262/.304/.386 is where my math came out. From an above-average defensive 2B I’ll take that. Of course I think that line would put him in the 7-hole if it were my lineup and if players are healthy etc.

      • Vanessa Galagnara

        That is on Price as the team leader and manager to resolve. If Brandon gets upset about such things then it is Price’s job to appease.

      • wkuchad

        This is where we disagree. It’s not Price’s job to appease.

        I just don’t think we should assume Brandon is going to make hitting 7th an issue or a distraction.

  4. cfd3000

    Maybe, just maybe Price is laying the groundwork for Phillips in the seven slot AND to deal with any ego issues when he says “Great teams are able to create runs in that bottom third of the order.” That suggests he wants a strong hitter batting 7th and lets him put BP there without (BP) losing face. If so, great. Or maybe he is simply laying the groundwork for batting Byrd 7th and disappointing us all. Maybe the best seven hole hitter is really… Mike Leake. Oh well, hopefully lineup order really won’t matter much.

    • HerpyDerp

      I’m okay with Leake batting anywhere but 2-3-4 in the line up.

      • Lars Benders

        Even when he isn’t pitching?

      • Jeremy Forbes

        Ask again after Skip Schumaker returns from his shoulder surgery, is the 4th OF, and hits even worse than his .235/.287/.308 line from 2014 for about 300-400 PA or so.

      • HerpyDerp

        As a PH or DH, yes, but I would not want to see him playing the field.

  5. Jeff Gangloff

    Price is treading carefully with this. I think its obvious BP is going to be 7th, how he reacts is going to be the question

  6. rfay00

    If Brandon Phillips ends the year with more at bats then Votto, Frazier, Mesoraco, Bruce, and Byrd I will be very disappointed. If I were a betting man, I’d say that Phillips has .050 OPS to end the season than all of the players I mentioned.

    Phillips is an awesome defensive 2nd baseman, he is great with the fans, and there is no argument that he has been a solid Red during his time in Cincy. It’s time though to step up and embrace the role he is given.

  7. Matt WI

    I hope some of the posters are correct and that BP will take to hitting lower in the order without a problem. Done and done.

    He’s always been happy to hit 1-4, but I think it’s pretty fair to wonder how someone as sensitive as BP is to observations of his OBP, age, etc (and let’s not forget the upset over Votto getting a contract before him), might take to what is generally viewed as a less prominent position in the order.

    If he’s the one to move down, time will tell just exactly how much of a team guy he is. It’d be a great thing to have overblown.

  8. Tom Reed

    Phillips is a real competitor and a free swinger and more runners in scoring position could be driven in if he bats in the seventh position.

    • lwblogger2

      I think if it comes down to brass tacks, that’s exactly what Price should say to him.

  9. Jeremy Conley

    I think the problem was the 2013 season, when the Cincy media couldn’t stop talking about how amazing BP was because of all his RBIs, meanwhile he was having the worst year of his career at the plate (until 2014). That made Phillips think that he was a middle of the order hitter no matter what.

    Even if he’s batting .250, never walking, and hitting less than 10 HRs a year, he’s going to be convinced that he’s a clutch hitter that knows how to drive in runs. That’s the problem with the media blowing all that smoke about a stat that has very little to do with how well a batter is actually hitting.

    [Sidenote, it truly was remarkable, after an entire season of talking about how BP was the MVP of the team, literally the day after Bruce took the RBI lead from Phillips in 2013, Doc had a piece about how Jay Bruce had taken over the team and should be considered the MVP. I don’t even think he realized what he was doing. For some old-school guys, you might as well call RBIs MVPs. That year Bruce racked up 109 MVPs that year, so of course he was the Reds’ MVP.]

    • VaRedsFan

      Phillips was told by his manager to bat 4th and drive in runs. That’s exactly what he did. He was having a super year until he was HBP in the wrist that derailed what was a fantastic season. His final numbers suffered after the HBP.

      • lwblogger2

        That’s true. We don’t know exactly how much that HBP messed that season up for him. He was indeed getting it done prior to that.

  10. ArtWayne5

    Brandon is an enigma inside a riddle, he offers a pat on the rump to opposing players when they hit a double and attempts to cover three positions. He’s our prime-time, ambassador, prima-donna who views baseball as a fans’ game. Die-hard, statistical and methodical fans like myself feel he would be better to stay within his God-given talent like he did last year by laying off the outside, sucker pitch.

  11. Moses

    Since a menorah actually has nine candles (when full), can we get BP to bat ninth? As an aside, I love the idea of Votto batting first and Billy batting eighth, right before the pitcher. But then there’s no place for Cozart until he learns how to get on base…

    • Steve Mancuso

      I’m not Jewish, so I haven’t studied this much. But what I read was that in general a menorah has seven candles but during Hanukkah, a special nine-candle version is used.’

      We agree on the ideal lineup, at least one I’d give a serious try.

  12. Carl Sayre

    BP is a lightening rod about his spot in the batting order for a couple of reasons we the fans were use to him hitting well enough to hit higher in the order and the biggest thing is his salary. I think BP being a productive 7 hole hitter is reasonable. Cozart is not likely to hit anywhere but the 8 hole and with his defense I am fine with that, the same thing can be said about Phillips hitting seventh. I just wish he was hitting seventh for about 5 million a year. I believe that B-Ham will improve at the top of the order in BA, OBP and Walks. When this happens t is going to be great but you can pencil in 60 or 70 of his singles/walks end up being doubles so I can be patient waiting for his overall game to catch up. Think about it this year should really be his rookie year.

  13. Kevin Michell

    I can’t blame Price for over-explaining his lineup philosophy for early Spring Training, I think he’s just trying to get out ahead of any overreactions. I think most of us site readers know that ST lineups are experimental, but I could see some WLW callers freaking out about a couple games of Frazier hitting low in the order or Jason Bourgeois starting over Bruce in 2 out of 3 straight games. It wasn’t an exceptionally eloquent moment from Price, but I think he felt the need to prepare the masses for some possible change (perhaps exactly what we’re talking about here).

  14. VaRedsFan

    I think BP gets a little bit of a bad rap here too. With that being said, I think he is perfect for the 7-hole. He routinely gets key hits with with runners on. So batting 7th should afford him plenty of opportunities.

    In 2013, BP carried the team for the 1st 2-3 months of the season, getting key hit after key hit, before being hit in the wrist. So after coming back he struggled for the rest of the year, and his overall numbers suffered because of it.

    In 2014, BP was productive until he injured his thumb, diving for a ball, sometime in June. Again, his end of the year numbers suffered once he came back.

    Some will say, “well he’s getting old, so we should expect such injuries”. Well, those injuries aren’t of the chronic variety like a knee, elbow, or back. (old guy injuries).
    In other words BP didn’t get hurt because he was old.

    Votto and Bruce continue to get the “injury pass”, while BP doesn’t.

    In my opinion, BP will be a positive offensive player in 2015, just as as a healthy BP has always been. I also believe the he should receive more off days (1 out of every 6). He had some success after off days last year.

    • Jeremy Conley

      Last year Phillips had one good month, May. He was injured in July, and clearly suffered in August. Still, his April and June were both pretty bad.

      Phillips 2014 OPS by month (injury sustained in July).

      APR: .590
      MAY: .822
      JUN: .698
      JUL: .693
      AUG: .461
      SEP: .722

      I hope Phillips is healthy and has a great year, but fundamentally he’s a player who refuses to take walks who is having a very natural decline in power. That’s a singles hitter who doesn’t get on base.

    • Jeremy Forbes

      Probably because BP is at an age where 2B start to heavily decline, and has a career slash line of .271/.319/.424 and 96 OPS+ (he is a career sub-average hitter now).

      It’s not just one year, One year is a fluke and you can get an “injury pass” (see 2013 where Bruce has 807 OPS/120 OPS+ and Votto had .926 OPS/156 OPS+). Phillips has been declining since 2011.

      You mention injuries in 2013 and 2014, but he was also a sub-average hitter in 2012 (99 OPS+). Three straight years of being worse than average isn’t normally a fluke.

  15. Steve Mancuso

    Reds lineup for tomorrow’s first spring training game against Cleveland.

    Billy Hamilton CF
    Brandon Phillips 2B
    Todd Frazier 3B
    Devin Mesoraco C
    Marlon Byrd LF
    Jay Bruce RF
    Zack Cozart SS
    Donald Lutz DH
    Josh Satin 1B

    Pitchers: Marquis, Sampson, Hoover, Adcock, Villarreal, Corcino, Magill.

    • Kevin Michell

      And in case anyone’s wondering, Marquis is starting for the Reds and the Indians will start with Zach McAllister.

      • Kevin Michell

        Oops, just posted that after Steve edited.

        Interested to see Sampson and Corcino in particular.

      • lwblogger2

        Sampson brings it… Now, if he can bring it where he wants it in the strikezone, we may be onto something good. Guy has always had good stuff.

    • reaganspad

      I wonder how many people saw Jay Bruce in the 7 hole? of all the options, I did not see him there

      • reaganspad

        thanks Jeremy, I can count, seriously.

        Vulcan mind trick with that stinking DH in the lineup. I counted from the bottom and did not have the DH in my thinking as a player and looked right past it in my view of the lineup…

    • Daytonian

      Keep your eye on Satin. He may pose the most interesting question in this game!

    • Kevin Michell

      Maybe also just to get him an extra at-bat tomorrow he might not get if hitting lower in the order.

  16. unc reds fan

    I don’t feel that Brandon gets anymore criticism than he deserves and for those out there who think that we give a pass to Cozart go back and read the numerous replies to the Reds acquiring Suarez (I was one who would love to see Suarez win the SS job). Brandon is years older than Zach and outside of the one year that lead to the monstrosity of the extension we gave him has not done much lately. Is he the reason the reds have floundered the last couple of seasons? No, but he clearly is not the cleanup hitter he has been pretending to be for the last couple of years.
    Second I am absolutely on board with Votto batting 1st, especially if his power is where it probably is, his ability to get on base would be perfect for that lead off spot. Unfortunately we need a manager with much bigger huevos than we currently have (though he has been more creative than the previous guy would have ever been).
    My ideal lineup would actually have Hamilton hitting ninth, Cozart hitting eighth, and the pitcher hitting 7th (it cant be any worse production than Cozart, unless Suarez takes over then flip the pitcher and SS), So it would look like the following: Votto, Meseraco, Frazier, Bruce, Phillips, Byrd, Pitcher, Cozart, Hamilton
    Of course that’s the only way you’ll ever see that lineup, in some guys comments to some other guy’s blog

    • carl sayre

      Hitting Votto leadoff either blocks B-Ham on the base path or you are moving Cozart up to 7 to put Hamilton in the 8 hole. I am not a fan of either lets show some patience with Hamilton this really should just be his rookie year.

  17. Charles Wolf

    If BP is unhappy and causes any team problems then trade him and use Suarez at second.

    • unc reds fan

      If we could trade BP we would’ve last year, the problem is nobody wants that contract

    • jessecuster44

      Who wants BP? …… crickets.

      • Steve Mancuso

        For the record, I’m not so sure that teams didn’t/don’t want Phillips. It might be more accurate to say that they didn’t want to give up much (or anything) for him. I don’t think the Reds were prepared to trade away a popular player and have it look like the salary dump it would have been. Fans had way-too-high expectations for who the Reds would get back in a Phillips trade and that just wasn’t happening. His contract was just about upside down, which is still kind of where it is. But he has no-trade rights now.

  18. BigRedSaguaro

    Just happy baseball is back. Hope the rain and “cold” that hit here yesterday goes away