While the Reds’ bats last night were about as quiet as a middle-aged father at a Miley Cyrus concert, one hitter kept his recent form going with a 2-for-3 night—Brandon Phillips. Dat Dude notched his seventh multi-hit game in the last two weeks, boosting his season slash line to .319/.358/.353.

That last number—the slugging percentage—is the one underwhelming part of that troika of numbers. We’ve all known that Brandon is getting older and thus going to lose some power, but the drop-off so far this year has been pronounced. Phillips has only managed two extra-base hits all season (a double and a home run), which makes sense when looking at his average distance on fly balls. This year, he’s averaging just 282.14 feet per fly ball which, for context, is just a hair better than Billy Hamilton’s 280.93 feet.

Phillips is only two years removed from hitting 18 homers (which, strangely, is a total he repeated for four straight years from 2010 to 2013), but time comes to claim all men’s fitness and vigor as this chart shows:

Phillips FB dist

It’s not just that he’s unable to hit any fly balls as far as he used to, but the draining of his power has crept into the heart of the strike zone over the past two seasons. That’s not to suggest Phillips can’t still whack a meatball down the middle out of the park, but he’s getting closer to only being able to turn on those pitches with authority and not just any decent fastball in the middle of the zone. You can get the gist from this chart of his fly balls in play this season:


He’s gotten unlucky on a few of those fly outs as you can see, but the vast majority aren’t even getting out to the warning track anymore.

Instead of lamenting that Brandon is not the power hitter he once was, it’s time to embrace the new era of Brandon Phillips as a sort of ersatz Ichiro—an adroit slap hitter who can smack singles to all fields. Those last two weeks in which Phillips managed seven multi-hit games have been a clinic on putting the ball in play. Since April 26, he’s been held hitless in only two games while going 20-53 (good for a .377 average), striking out just four times, and collecting those two extra-base hits in that stretch.

Nick Carrington touched a bit on Phillips’ batted ball data last week when he covered the Reds lineup’s tendencies, but BP’s performance of late has made his numbers stand out a little more:






4/6 – 4/25






4/26 – 5/11






Certainly, the first reaction is that Brandon’s .396 BABIP over the last two-plus weeks is beyond unsustainable. And while he absolutely won’t continue that rate of success, the huge uptick in his ground ball rate gives us reason to think Phillips won’t necessarily collapse in order to return to his career average. Whether consciously or not, he’s cut down on his fly balls in play (which, since he’s not hitting those as far, aren’t going to drop for hits much anymore) and that in tandem with the ground ball rate has him knocking singles to all fields lately.

Phillips spray before and after 4-26

Now here’s the theory, building off something Grant Freking first floated last week—though mentioning this brings back memories of some of Dusty Baker’s worse batting orders, it’s time to (at least temporarily) install Brandon Phillips in the leadoff spot. Billy Hamilton has looked lost at the plate lately and, with the frequency that the leadoff hitter steps up to the plate in crucial situations, it’s time to go with the contact hitter over the speed demon. Earlier in the season, the Reds were blessed with a lot of early leads thanks to Billy getting on, getting himself over, and then letting Joey or Todd finish the job of driving him in. With the offense struggling of late, concentrating the talent and hot hands at the top could be the elixir to bring back those first-inning leads. Brandon likely won’t stretch many singles into doubles or swipe second any time he reaches first, but perhaps this lineup could string a few hits together and get a run or more in before the opposing starter is fully loose:


What are your thoughts, Redleg Nation?

91 Responses

  1. jdx19

    First of all; fantastic use of graphics, Kevin! I love a good graphic.

    Second; I think due to Hamilton’s inability to get on base in an ever-growing sample size, he needs to be dropped. And unless Votto is going to leadoff, Phillips is probably the best candidate.

    I like it.

    What are your thoughts on going Hamilton #9 to have 1 more “bat” in a row during later innings?

    • Kevin Michell

      Ah, going the ol’ Joe Maddon route, eh?

      I don’t really have any thoughts on that, honestly, just because I haven’t done any research on actual benefits of bumping the pitcher up to eighth in the order. Just off the top of my head, I’m not a big fan. It’s asking for a lot of circumstances to work out to be beneficial in my mind.

      • Big56dog

        To me, if a guy is to bat 9th it would be Hamilton. If he gets on it does not make sense to bat the pitcher within 3 batters of him and it would make the most sense to have your best hitters coming up immediately after him. In my eyes Pena would be the worst choice to follow just because he would be more likely to hit into DP’s

      • Kevin Michell

        That’s a really good point there and probably the most compelling argument to bat him 9th. However, instead of the fact that Pena will GIDP, won’t the pitcher just walk him as soon as Billy steals second? Then our pitcher’s up and that’s either a sac or K unless it’s Leake in the box.

  2. WVRedlegs

    Putting BP first and Votto back in the 2-hole might be the spark this weak, anemic offense needs.
    Walt Jocketty has been an absolute, miserable failure as GM.

    • old-school

      agree…..rearranging deck chairs on the titanic. worst outfield. worst bullpen. worst bench. That’s on Jocketty. Kudos to BP and Cozart for competing and playing above expected projections. I was anti-Cozart….but he has been really good when we needed it. This is a low 70’s win team

    • whereruklu

      Agreed, I’ve been preaching but no one is listening (Price??). If you are going to continue to hit Billy in leadoff, Votto is the BEST choice to follow behind him. It seemed to work when Price did it earlier. Joey is one of the most disciplined hitters in the game, not afraid to work the count. Very patient. That gives BH more throws to the plate for opportunities to go, with a .300 hitter to move him along further. .

  3. msanmoore

    You know, we’ve got to try something to “get these guys going” at some point …

  4. charlottencredsfan

    “Billy Hamilton has looked lost at the plate lately”

    Huh? Maybe it’s how “lately” is defined. Lately as in, since ASB 2014, I’m with you. Let’s quit soft shoeing. Same with Jay. At this point in time, there is no way I’d bat him before Pena or anyone else not named Hamilton or pitcher.☺ Bruce is a complete and utter disaster at the plate – see don’t we feel better getting it out on the table? Count me as one that he “should” get it going before too long. But until then…..

    People, please do not let our fondness of certain players cloud our objective analysis of their efforts. If anyone is stinking it up, just let it out, you will feel better and gain additional respect by your peers.☺

    • charlottencredsfan

      Kevin, otherwise, great piece!

    • Kevin Michell

      Haha yes, Billy’s looked lost lately in the same way that The Simpsons has gone downhill lately.

      I agree, we’ve seen a lot more of this from Hamilton than productivity at the plate. But, he did start the season relatively well in terms of getting on base so I think that colored my view to use “lately”. Either way, I hear ya and I feel that frustration too. Let it all out, my friend, this is a safe space 🙂

    • Steve Mancuso

      Bruce is a “disaster” at the plate based on AVG (and stats that derive from AVG). And AVG depends on the vagaries of BABIP.

      Did you know that Bruce’s average batted ball distance is 10 feet longer than any other year in his career. And that his walk rate is the highest ever? Also, instead of just looking at AVG, how about ISO? or Swinging Strikes, or outside the zone swings, or contact rate?

      I guess it’s Marty Brennaman disease that makes Cincinnati fans evaluate hitters just on AVG. But that malady is leading to hysterical panic (not by you, Pete, but others) when none is called for.

      • greenmtred

        Really glad you’ve pointed this out, Steve.

      • charlottencredsfan

        Come on, his wRC+ is 72. Out of the RFers with 100 ABs, he is second from last. Forget BA, his OBP and SLG both stink to high heave as well. He is horrible right now, just horrible. All the great stuff you point out doesn’t mean a hill of beans until it translates into results.

        If the whole team was as bad with the bat, we’d have about 2 or 3 wins, and that is just not very good. I believe he will come around but right now he is a disaster. Just my and Marty’s opinion.☺

      • Steve Mancuso

        All those stats – wRC+, OBP and SLG – have AVG as a major component. For power, look at ISO to divorce it from singles. For plate discipline, look at BB% or BB/K or O-Swing. For general approach, look at contact rate. All those stats measure *results* what do you think they measure, fairy tales? You think his batted ball distance is imaginary?

        The stats are what they are. The question is if it’s time to panic about Jay Bruce. Feel free to do that if you want to take a shallow look based on one stat (that depends a lot on luck).

        It’s especially strange that today seems to be Jay Bruce Hysteria Day, considering he had one of the few hits last night and hit the longest ball for the Reds all night, missing a 2-run homer by two feet.

        The panicked analysis on Jay Bruce is SHALLOW.

      • Steve Mancuso

        And Bruce has the highest “hard hit ball” rate in his career. It’s the 27th highest in MLB. Todd Frazier is #26. That’s out of 179 qualified major league hitters.

      • charlottencredsfan

        This will help me: how many line drives, in %, exceed 100 mph, 105 and 110. Means more to me than distance traveled. I’m not panicking but he is a disaster at the moment. Long balls only matter when they find seats.☺

        It has been nearly a 1-1/2 years of bad performance and I’m concerned. Not greatly but I am. If that is hysterical, I’m there.

        You know me Steve, if “any” player is not performing, I give them grief. No exceptions, Votto, Cueto and Chapman are not exceptions. You know how important I think Billy is to the teams’ future happiness, I blast hm more than anyone else – because he is deserving.

        Jay Bruce is one of my picks to click, after all.☺

      • Steve Mancuso

        Doug Gray just posted on twitter a chart showing that Bruce has the highest MPH exit velocity of anyone on the team. https://twitter.com/dougdirt24/status/598186438363107328

        Again, “bad performance” based on batting average. Not power, not walks, not plate discipline. Only “bad performance” is AVG and that depends on BABIP which is 100 points below his career average.

        You keep saying “disaster” and “bad performance” which is just repeating stuff based on one stat.

      • Whoa Bundy!

        Sure he hits the balls long and hard when he makes contact. Which is getting as rare as a good Walt Jocketty free agent signing.

      • charlottencredsfan

        What’s does “hard” hit mean? No one can define for me. Until they do, it is meaningless to me.

        I’m going back to my hole. Honestly I’m not a crabby guy and I hate being that way. Argue amongst yourselves.☺

      • Steve Mancuso

        Bruce leads the team in mph in balls coming off bats, too.

        Because no one can “define it for you” it’s meaningless to you? That’s a bit strange.

      • charlottencredsfan

        “Bruce leads the team in mph in balls coming off bats, too.”

        Prove it, show me numbers.

      • charlottencredsfan

        20 data points??? That many, talk about SSS. Can Doug give us the actual raw data and the methodology? This honestly means very little to me. We could use 20 data points and Billy could be the hardest hitter. How are the data points selected? Randomly???

      • Steve Mancuso

        Means *at least* 20 data points. It uses all their AB. Come on now.

      • sultanofswaff

        Honestly, I don’t know how Steve and the gang find the time to humor these posters. Trying to narrow the terms of the debate by using only facts of your liking is not what this site is about.

      • Steve Mancuso

        I usually wouldn’t bother responding to Steve S. because it’s pointless. But it seems like it’s FIRE JAY BRUCE day all over the internet, so I thought I’d use the exchange here instead of writing a post (in part because I’m also hard at work on my day job).

      • jdx19

        Hey, Char!

        Regarding the definiton of hard-hit versus soft- or medium-hit, while we don’t have the EXACT definition of those things, we have something that is just as good. Consistent methodology. What I mean by that is that people at Baseball Info Solutions, paid professions, sit and classify batted balls as either hard, medium, or soft. At least for the FG data, that’s how it gets classified. Now, we may not be able to say “hard is 97.5, and medium is 97.4 and below” but as long as there are the same people, trained the same way, making unbiased decisions, the comparisons are completely valid, even if they aren’t 100% quantified yet.

      • charlottencredsfan

        JDX & Steve – I appreciate all the hard work they do, I just “love” to ask questions and qualify stuff – it’s what I do, so no offense.☺ I’m like Mikey from the old cereal ads.☺ There appears, to these old tired eyes, to be a significant difference between 97.5 and say 105 mph. That is why I like my data raw.☺ Great discussion but I’m too much of a nitpicker, I know. Really like to know how many many balls of Jay’s reached 105+. Is that too much to ask? Just kidding. Back to the hole now. I’m giving Jay until ASB to get it together or he’s fired.☺

      • jdx19

        I’m with you, man. I love to ask questions and quantify things, too. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to quantify all this MPH stuff for a few years, I suspect. I think it is still worth talking about, though! I enjoy it greatly.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        You have got to be kidding, Steve, “average batted ball distance” You are really going to use that to justify that Bruce is a good hitter? I would say you are stretching that one, but that’s not even stretchable.

        His walk rate is about the only thing going better that’s not his current worse or second worse number in his entire career. Bottom line, Bruce simply isn’t be productive. He is having his worst or second worst seasons of his professional career. Could he come out of it? Sure. Will he? I don’t think his ego will let him come out of it. He will keep trying to do the same thing over and over.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Figuring out whether it’s time to panic about a hitter takes more than just looking at his batting average. That’s beyond shallow. It’s pre-school level analysis.

        Outcome stats (like AVG, SLG, ISO) depend to an extent on whether the hitter has been lucky. In trying to judge how a hitter is doing, I look beyond that. Looking at the fundamentals how a hitter is performing is a better way to predict the future than looking at luck-based numbers, especially in the case of Bruce where his BABIP is 100 points below his career average. That’s not a flashing red light, that’s an atomic explosion of warning that adverse luck is involved. So how much?

        The way to judge that is to see how the batter is really hitting. Luckily for us, there are now great stats out there to show it. Bruce is hitting fly balls farther than he ever has in his career. He’s also hitting them harder. In comparison to all hitters in baseball, Bruce is #27 at how hard he’s hitting the ball. He’s walking more. He’s swinging at far fewer pitches out the strike zone (something he’s often criticized for). His contact rate is up. He leads the Reds in velocity of the ball leaving his bat.

        You can ignore these things if you want, if you like living in ignorance. It’s like ignoring the fundamentals of a company when considering investment choices. Bruce is hitting the ball well, the best he has in a long time. He just hasn’t been rewarded yet with the hits falling in. They will.

      • Jeremy Conley

        Here’s the thing, getting a hit or scoring a run in baseball is the culmination of various factors or processes that can be looked at individually. For example, how hard a player is hitting the ball. The hit is the “results outcome,” while hitting the ball hard is the “process outcome.”

        Some people are only satisfied with results outcomes, and that is their right as a fan. In the case of Bruce, his results outcomes have not been good this year, and their ain’t no denying it.

        Other people look at process outcomes and see that actually, Jay Bruce is actually doing things very differently this year compared to last year. He’s walking more and hitting the ball with more power, but his BABIP is lower. These people will say that in the long run, the process outcomes will lead to results outcomes. That is their right, as that has been shown to be the case over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.

        But there’s really no point in one type of person trying to convince the other. It’s just two fundamentally different ways of viewing results. Sure, successful front offices have shown that looking at process outcomes is a better predictor of future success than looking at results outcomes, but we are none of us GMs. If a fan wants to be upset that Bruce is hitting .170 and call him a bum, that’s been the way of baseball for more than 100 years.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Have no problem analyzing it, Steve. I’ve been analyzing it for over a year now. Trying to justify that someone is a good hitter by using MPH off the bat and the average distance per batted ball, that’s like stretching 90 feet into a 400+ HR, shot, it just isn’t done, in any analytics. It makes what you call “pre-school analytics” look like dissertations. It’s pretty much the definition of insanity. This item doesn’t justify my guy is a good hitter, so I will create (aka, make up) this stat. That doesn’t do it anymore? Then, I will create this stat. That doesn’t do it? Then, I will create this stat. You want to call it advanced analytics, aka what PhD’s would analyze? Just remember what PhD stands for, piled higher and deeper.

        We get it, Steve, you like Bruce. But, any way you try to slice it up, Bruce just isn’t that good a hitter. Is he more disciplined this year? Yes. But, that’s about it. His K% is also up, the highest of his entire professional career, major and minor leagues. His ISO (your stat, not mine) is still the 2nd worst of his entire professional career, major and minor. His BABIP is the worst of his entire professional career, major and minor.

        Bruce needs to check his ego at the door and make some major changes. If he doesn’t, he is going to be possibly one of the greatest underachievers in the history of the game.

        Baseball-reference.com had Bruce at age 22 compared to Barry Bonds. Now, they have him compared to Tom Brunansky. But, keep trying to justify Bruce as being a good hitter, Steve. Because, personally, right now, I would rather have Tom Brunansky probably.

      • Steve Mancuso

        So a player who won the Silver Slugger award in 2012 and 2013 “just isn’t that good a hitter”?

        You sound like the last person defending the world is flat. You think I made up those stats, or that any of them haven’t been *proven* to be good predictors of future performance? Just because you haven’t heard of them or don’t understand their relevance? Keep sticking your head in the sand if you want and ignoring all the points being made. Keep making assertions about his ego etc. that you have ZERO evidence for. ZERO. ZERO.point.ZERO.

        You don’t even understand what you’re saying when you say his “BABIP is the worst…” Yes, it’s 100 points worse than his career average and that’s the evidence for his unluckiness so far. He’s hitting the ball harder, farther and better than ever before. And you prescribe major changes. Ha.

        We get it Steve, you don’t like Bruce.

      • jdx19

        I like the comparison to investment choices. If all you do is look at current year’s net revenue, you’re in for a world of hurt.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Agreed, Jeremy. It really doesn’t make a difference if Bruce hits the ball hard. Like I said before, Bruce being unlucky would be if he actually worked on hitting to the opposite field, actually hit one to the opposite field, when the other team still had the shift to the right on, and it still went directly to the 3rd baseman. But, instead, Bruce keeps trying to pull it with the shift. That’s playing right into the defense’s hands. If Bruce is going to try to pull the ball, with the shift, those spaces that people like Steve is trying to justify Bruce hitting the ball hard, those spaces are getting smaller and smaller. Where, it doesn’t make a difference how hard he hits it, if he hits it directly at people, he’s going to get out. The more people there are where he hits it, the more likely he’s going to get out.

      • jdx19

        Steve S… calling batted ball anaysis “pre-school analytics” is downright ignorant. Batted ball analysis is the future of baseball analytics.

        And batted ball distance, that you seem to hate, is directly correltaed to both launch angle (LD vs FB or GB) and MPH off the bat (hard hit vs soft hit).

        I think you can agree that a ball hit with a good angle (ie- not a pop up) and also with a good MPH off the bat (ie- not soft hit) is the desired outcome for a swing, right? Before you know if it’s a hit or not, you want those basic parameters? Are you with me? That’s why batted ball distance, contact rate, avg MPH, and all this other “pre-school” stuff is important.

        I don’t know why you can’t see that.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Oh, there’s no need to panic. For, it doesn’t affect our lives. But, something definitely needs to change about Bruce. He hasn’t earned any right like Votto and needing to play through slumps. Bruce was never that good to earn that right.

      • jdx19

        Tom Brunasky is #1. Just below him? Sammy Sosa. Just below him? Reggie Jackson.

        None of those are relevant.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        JDX, you need to speak to Steve M on that one. He called batted ball analysis pre-school analytics.

      • Steve Mancuso

        I said evaluating hitters based on batting average was pre-school analysis. You know how you could know that’s what I was referring to? It was the sentence right before: “just looking at his batting average. That’s beyond shallow. It’s pre-school level analysis.”

        You’ve now misunderstood my points and Jeremy’s. Perhaps you should read more carefully before you reply.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Actually, JDX, before Brunansky, it was Conigliaro. Then Jackson, then Horton, then Bonds. Bruce hasn’t seen Jackson since before last season. This isn’t a slump he’s seeing. It’s a trend now, a downward trend. He needs to make more than an adjustment. He needs to change his approach to hitting.

      • Jeremy Conley

        Steve S, you say you agree with me, but nothing you said has anything to do with what I said. I 100% absolutely think it makes a difference if Bruce is hitting the ball hard. That’s why I said he’s doing things very differently this year, and that those process outcomes will lead to results outcomes.

        Your views, that only the results as of now matter, are very old school and I believe they have been proven to be bad predictors of future performance many times over. I was defending any fans right to be bummed out by a .170 batting average, but in no way do I agree with anything you’ve posted about Bruce.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Oh, I see what you were looking at, JDX. I am referring to the age column, the third column. You are looking at the 2nd column. The third column would show more of how he “compares” through the years rather than an absolute figure like the middle column.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        So, JDX, hitting the ball the opposite way when the shift is on is old school? Laying down a bunt the opposite way to just get on base, like something Molina has no problem doing for just a sacrifice, is old school? If that’s old school, I will take it everytime.

        What you are referring to is more like the difference between trivia and minutia. It’s more like common sports logic and strategy 101. As in, hit the ball where the players aren’t. As in, do what’s best for the team. And, it sounds like you want Bruce to keep doing the same thing since the beginning of last season. That’s more old school than anything I’ve said. You might consider it sometime.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Sorry, mistook Jeremy for JDX on that last one.

      • jdx19

        I see I misread your statement, Steve S, you were quoting Steve M but in a very different way.

        Steve M called batting average “pre-school analysis.” I agree with that. I read your statement as batted ball analysis (IE- fly ball distance, velocity, etc) was “pre-school analytics.” Which I do not agree with.

        Sorry for misunderstanding, but the statement stands.

      • sultanofswaff

        Let’s take the opposite approach, then. By your logic, Dee Gordon’s success is sustainable. Just sayin’……..

      • jdx19

        Yeah, about the BR comparison players: I was mostly just pointing out that even if that random guy is a 1% better comp right now than Sammy Sosa and a few % better than Reggie Jackson, those guys are still right there on that list. So, cherry picking the top guy (which I know you didn’t do, because you used the last list on the page) is a poor way to make an argument when you have 2 other guys who could hit a little bit right there in the same level of comparison.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        “Why would you want Jay Bruce to try to hit ground balls the other way when his strength is hitting line drives from gap to gap?”

        Because Bruce hasn’t even done that for the last season plus. You call that his strength? His strength right now is not getting on base. And, we all on here said what this team needs, more OBP. Has Bruce’s improved any? No significant improvement at all.

        It’s sort of logic, Steve. What would you rather see, Bruce get on base 10 times straight by dropping a 20-30 footer down the 3rd base line? Or, drop that line drive you mention once in that 10 times at bat? You want the single line drive? Fine. I will take the 10 times on base with the dribbler. Get the defense to play differently. Then, possibly some of those line drives he’s hitting will actually get into holes, which get narrower and narrower the more Bruce tries to pull the ball and the more and more the other team shifts on him.

        That’s what Bruce needs to do. This isn’t a slump. This is a trend. It’s possibly beyond making an adjustment. Bruce possibly/probably needs to change his entire approach to batting.

      • Steve Mancuso

        And what would you rather have, a unicorn on a rainbow or the earth explode into a billion pieces?

        Your grade school analogies are kind of hard to follow. There’s ZERO basis for believing that a batter can bunt ten straight times for a hit. I hate to keep asking this, but could you provide at least the slightest bit of evidence for ANYTHING that you are saying?

        The … but, but, but, the shift is eating him up … line of reasoning is unproven. To the contrary, the shift is just about ground balls and he’s hitting fewer of those. The shift doesn’t affect power, his main attribute. Having a hitter like Jay Bruce bunt is like giving in to the terrorists.

        Repeat: Jay Bruce is hitting the ball farther, harder and more often than he has his entire career. His plate discipline is way up (walks, swinging at pitches out of the zone). He’s about one home run (say that ball that fell two feet short last night) from his career power numbers. Yes, he’s in a slump in terms of average, but he’s also been the victim of bad luck with balls he’s putting in play not finding the ground.

        The FIRE JAY BRUCE mob is looking at his batting average, or stats that depend mathematically on batting average, which is simplistic. Bruce has hit the ball better than his AVG shows, and there is a truckload of evidence for that.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Let’s see, Steve M. Would I want a college QB known to be slow of foot and weak of arm to start for my NFL team, the hardest position in all of sports? Of course not. But, if you don’t, you just pass up Joe Montana as well as Brady to a degree.

        Let’s see, one of the strongest arms to ever come out of college, what was his name, Ryan Leaf? And, what’s he doing now?

        But, the ball comes off his arm with such high velocity, surely he would make a great QB, won’t he?

        Enough said. You’re using minutia to justify someone who isn’t a good hitter; it’s like trying to justify Mickey Rooney was a good actor because of the color of his shoes. Did Gwynn hit the ball with great velocity? Nope. Did Carew? Nope. But, I will take either one of them before Bruce everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. And, why? Because speed of the ball off the bat doesn’t make a good batter. Good batters can apply it, as in hit the ball where the defense isn’t, to get “real” results.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Tony Gwynn and Rod Carew were not power hitters. Jay Bruce is a power hitter. If your point is that Jay Bruce won’t ever hit over .300 I give up. But you realize how utterly ridiculous and irrelevant that point is, right? Your argument has collapsed to: Jay Bruce’s batting average *batting average* won’t ever be as good as two of the best for-average hitters ever. Powerful. You know, you could throw in Ty Cobb and Pete Rose, too.

        Only one National League player hit 30 home runs in 2011, 2012 and 2013. One guess?

      • User1022

        The only thing I want to say about this whole Jay Bruce debate is this:

        Even if he lives up to his ZiPS projection (That’s with a .297 BABIP, .212 ISO, .245 AVG, .321 OBP, .456 SLG, 108 WRC, all numbers which seem about right to me), he still only projects to about 1.7 WAR.

        A 1.7 WAR is basically that of a role player. Not a solid starter, not a good player. A role player.

        If that is all you want out of your starting RF, then I guess you have no reason to complain.

      • Steve Mancuso

        There are a couple pretty good reasons that 1.7 WAR estimate is way low. First of all, it’s based on the assumption that Bruce only gets 494 at bats. In the three years prior to his injury, he averaged 660 with a low of 633. I can see why at the start of the season one might not be willing to assume Bruce was completely healthy, but there’s no indication now that he’s hurt. That’s a 25 percent increase in his offensive WAR even with the same slash line projections.

        Second, the 1.7 WAR estimate assumes a pretty big negative defensive component. That’s possible, he’s been up and down on defensive metrics. But Bruce has positive defensive numbers so far in 2015. If you take his WAR from 2010-2013 from both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference, his average was 3.6 which puts him squarely in the good player category, two notches above role player.

        It also looks like Bruce is on track to surpass the base-running component of the 1.7 WAR estimate pretty easily, to get back to where he was before the knee surgery.

        In 2013, his average WAR was 4.45, which is the all-star category. Bruce is 28.

      • jdx19

        USER1022… where did anyone say that a 1.7 WAR player is all they want out of their RFer? That’s ridiculous.

      • User1022

        JDX19….. Where did I say anyone said that?

      • User1022

        Steve, I did just now notice the low ABs in the projection. And I also buy what you are saying, I find it really incredible that Bruce has such a low BABIP when he’s hitting the ball so hard (which I always felt was an underlying factor in BABIP besides just “luck”).

        That said, Bruce is going to have to carry a rabbit’s foot for about a month to “catch up” to where his stats should be.

        If you were to guess, what do you think his WAR will end up being? This is his age 28 year, which theoretically should be his best or near his best season. I’m bearish on Bruce, expecting no more than 3.0 WAR, which is right at “good player”.

      • Steve Mancuso

        3.0 sounds about right, if I had to guess now and if he stays healthy. At least that’s four wins more than they got from RF last year. I hope his better luck starts tonight, I plan to be there and watch.

      • redred11

        The soft/medium/hard stats skew all fly balls heavily away from soft. They are not very telling of how well contact was made. Either case, you act like singles are worthless. Which seems completely silly to me. Compare two players on competing sides of the argument: Here’s what BP and JB are on pace to do this year:

        BP: 358 OBP/.711 OPS/182 hits/5 HRs/74 RBIs/69 runs/59 Ks/34 BBs
        JB: 282 OBP/.641 OPS/88 hits/25 HRs/79 RBIs/54 runs/172 Ks/83 BBs

        You may look at RBIs and runs (BP +10) and say, “See, they are producing similarly. There’s nothing to worry about.” However, I would take BP’s line every year. The problem with the stats you hang your hat on is that they are based on the individua’ls production. This doesn’t necessarily lead to more wins for the team. The way BP is doing it causes less outs, gets more batters to the plate, adds more to the pitch count, gives the team momentum (I know scary unquantifiable factors!!!), etc., etc. In short, home runs are great, but if you can’t hit singles at a moderate level it doesn’t necessarily help the team win. There’s a reason most playoff teams every year are towards the top of the team BA rankings.

        More on Bruce: not sure if this has been discussed here before but here’s a good article from the offseason discussing JB’s decline.

      • Steve Mancuso

        You posted the same link yesterday. The article is by a fantasy baseball writer. Bruce has already reversed several of the warning signs your article identifies – declining walk rate and rising GB/FB. Here’s a more recent article about Bruce’s injury and the effect it had on his hitting last year. It’s by one of FanGraphs’ full-time baseball analysts.


      • redred11

        The article points to power numbers which 95% of my post argued doesn’t necessarily make you a better hitter or help the team win. Also, it highlights Bruce’s swing in June as why he struggled due to the injury, but June was his best month statistically so I reject its argument.

      • Jeremy Conley

        RedRed11, I think you just did a bunch of math for no reason. No one, and I mean no one, on this thread has said that Jay Bruce’s production this year has been better than Phillips’. What some of us are begging and pleading for people to understand is that there is a difference between process and results in baseball, especially over the short term.

        If you assume that Bruce and Phillips are going to produce at the same levels all season, then sure, at the end of the season Phillips will have produced more, because he has produced more so far. That’s not the argument at all. The debate is about how they have gotten to that production, and how likely it is for them to continue it all season.

        It is hard to have a BABIP of .194. It is especially hard to do that with an ISO of .189. Bruce’s raw power has him as the 54th best power hitter in the game, which isn’t good for him, but is hardly something that should be getting him ripped apart. If you think that his BABIP is going to stay at .194, then I don’t think you understand how BABIP works. But that’s what would have to be true for your comparison to have any validity.

      • redred11

        Don’t worry. I just stole copied from ESPN. I completely agree their paces won’t be sustained. That wasn’t really my point. I just used them because they are currently perfect examples of both sides of the argument. Its being said that Bruce’s power numbers are still there so he must still be a good hitter. My point is A doesn’t necessarily equal B. He could just be swinging harder which would equal out the power numbers but doesnt help the team win overall if it’s also causing more mishits and less overall hits.

      • Jeremy Conley

        Here’s the problem I have with that. At first you say that you don’t think the paces that Phillips and Bruce are putting up will be sustained. Then at the end you say that maybe Bruce has done something different (swinging harder, making worse contact) which suggests that his pace will be sustained.

        So which is it? People on this thread have been using the best information they have (BABIP, ISO, velocity of batted balls, etc.) to project whether Bruce’s current pace of production will change. That is based on research. If you have information to add to the discussion, please add it. If you believe you have something that would suggest one way or another that Bruce will or won’t improve, let everyone know.

        But saying that winning teams generally have high batting averages is not doing that. It has consistently been shown that batting average is one of the worst predictors of total team runs scored. Also, it has been shown many times that current batting average is not a good predictor of future batting average.

      • Citizen54

        I have to hand it to Steve M. You are definitely very patient. If someone in 2015 wants to argue that BA is still a relevant metric with which to evaluate a player then I say more power to them. It’s difficult for the some of the old school stat guys to accept that fact someone who is hitting below the Mendoza line is actually not doing that badly and it’s probably not worth your time to try to convince them otherwise.

        You have already presented sufficient evidence to support your assertion that Bruce has not been that bad this year and it’s clear at this point that no amount of evidence can sway Steve S’s opinion.

      • redred11

        Again, Jeremy, I just used JB and BP because their current stats show the two competing arguments perfectly. My point of what makes a good hitter is more of a general one not to be applied to however their stats end up. Its a general argument against saying a batter is still a good hitter because his power numbers are the same.

      • old-school

        I don’t know and I am or maybe was a Bruce fan….I gave him a pass for last year with the knee and his historical performance and good guy/teammate persona. But, the Reds NEED him this year to lead, maybe as much as they have ever needed him. Lead in a way that’s more than just analytical data….but step up and go 3-5 with 2 doubles against the Braves to get that win….. or hit that 3 run bomb when Bailey isn’t there against the White Sox and Lorenzen is and its a 1-1 game in the 6th…..but he has been invisible and anemic…. Its almost Memorial Day. That’s statistically significant.

  5. eric3287

    Billy should be batting 9th. He is awful from a hitting stand point and so you want to minimize his ABs as much as possible. Batting him 9th makes him a little like the “2nd lead off” hitter after the 1st inning, with the added benefit of limiting the number of times he gets to hit. A line up of Frazier, Votto, Byrd,BP, Cozart, Bruce, Pena, Pitcher, Hamilton would have the added advantage of letting Frazier and Votto drive in Hamilton when he does manage to get on base. As much as I hate seeing BP bat 4th, 4-7 of the order is pretty much a crap shoot anyway with this roster.

  6. Jeremy Conley

    Very good piece Kevin. I’m still dubious that Phillips is going to carry a .360 OBP while walking only 5.7% of the time. But if he really has changed something in his approach that allows him to do that, I would be fine with him leading off.

    • Big56dog

      I tried to make an argument last week in the dropping Billy down thread and most people all came up with what you state to refute. Phillips looks like he has a different approach and if he is leading I would think would be more inclined to draw more walks if he felt it helps the team now that he is not the RBI man. Right now he is the most likely to get on base who is least likely to drive in a run, I like Votto batting 2nd- now if he could starting hitting again- outside of the weak grounder to 2nd when he is not striking out with runners on third

      • i71_Exile

        Plus, if BP leads off, it means one guaranteed AB per game where he’s not going to ground into a double play. That’s a positive.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        I was just thinking that reading the title of this article. It may be time to consider batting BP leadoff, with Hamilton 2nd. After all, he could beat out a sacrifice. And he would be hard to double up.

      • Jeremy Conley

        I’m not sure what argument you tried to make, or if you’re saying you agree with me or not. Kevin showed some pretty convincing data in this piece, and if that works with what you’re seeing with your eyes, then that’s great.

        All I can do is look at Phillips career numbers. His career walk rate is 5.7%, exactly what it is this year. His career K rate is 14%, and this year it’s about 10%, so he’s putting the ball in play more, which is good. His career BABIP is .293 which combined with his walk and K rates, ends up with a .320 OBP. This year his BABIP is .350.

        So the question is, do you think that he has changed his approach so much that he is going to have a BABIP like Joey Votto? Or do you think that he’s just hit some balls where people ain’t as they say. If it’s the former, then Phillips is a fine option to lead off. If it’s the latter, then his OBP is probably going to go south when his BABIP does, probably to right around his career norm of .320, which makes him a crappy option to lead off when you have Votto.

      • jdx19

        I agree with your argument here, Jeremy.

        Interesting to note, however, is that BP’s xBABIP (at least based on the methodology I found) calculated out to be .348 at the moment, given his current batted ball profile.

        I certainly don’t think this BABIP, nor his xBABIP will stay this high, namely because his infield hit% and LD% are the highest of his career, but the longer it does, the more I’ll be convinced that he might have made an adjustment to up his career .293 BABIP so something slightly higher.

      • Jeremy Conley

        Yeah, that’s why I said I’m basically not making an argument. I thought the info on his batted ball profile that Kevin provided was very good, and it showed that he has been doing things differently this year. If he keeps doing that, I think he’s a fine option to lead off. You xBABIP calculation is right in line with that.

        In the end it’s just a sample size thing. On one hand you have Phillips’ whole career, on the other you have April 2015. I’m hopeful that he’s made a real change, but only time will tell.

    • Kevin Michell

      Agreed. The major flaw in this is that BP is in no way shape or form a patient hitter. This theoretical lineup leans heavily on Brandon’s BABIP and Joey’s readiness (as Phillips may see 3 pitches, maybe 4 most of the time? His pitches/PA is a little over 3.05 right now).

      • Steve Mancuso

        Think what it says about the Reds roster that someone could develop a long post like this and come to the conclusion that Brandon Phillips should hit leadoff for the Reds – and it not be crazy. The Reds really needed a left fielder who could lead off, not Marlon Byrd. (I have to admit, and I feel dirty doing it, that your argument about BP … makes … some … sense…aaaaaugh). 🙂

      • Kevin Michell

        Good, now I don’t feel so bad for the “I <3 Dat Dude" t-shirt I just ordered you.

        I'm with you, Steve- this ain't a good thing that I can write this and not sound like a Banana Phone caller. We both know this should have been Nori Aoki in this spot.

        Here's an alternate take if you can't quite embrace the Brandon Phillips-ness of this article [ 🙂 ] – replace his name with Zack Cozart.

  7. Grant Freking

    Great opening sentence. I weep for those unlucky fathers.

  8. James

    I like it. And I think it’s possible that Phillips has made an adaptation. Rather than selling out early to turn on fastballs, resulting in less contact, it looks like he’s altered his approach to make more contact and go to all fields. He may not be a power threat any longer, but if he keeps this up, I hope that he’ll be valuable for the remainder of his contract.

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      That’s one thing I’ve have respected about BP through the years, and I have been one who has been hard on him. Not saying that he’s always been successful at it. But, for example, when he’s been in the 1-2 hole, he’s worked on getting on base only. When he’s been in the 3-5 holes, he’s worked on hitting with more power and/or driving runs in.

      It’s seemed like BP has learned he doesn’t have the power anymore. But, as long as he gets a hit, he can still contribute anywhere. In short, BP makes his adjustments, something like another player I know of needs to do (actually not just adjustment but approach for this other player).

  9. Vanessa Galagnara

    Bruce and Votto are untouchable how dare anyone say a negative comment about them.

    Redlegnation have determined that 1. Walks are as good as singles and 2. Batting average is an obsolete stat.
    Nice to know walks can drive in runners on second and third. I guess batting average doesnt matter on redlegnation because getting a hit is over rated?

    A low batting average really does mean a batter doesnt hit very well.

    • Jeremy Conley

      No one is saying that Bruce is untouchable. No one has said walks are as good as singles. No one has said that getting a hit is over-rated.

      Batting average is obsolete because it doesn’t tell you very much about how someone is going to do in the future. Right now Bruce has a very low average, but there are lots of signs that tell you that he is actually making good contact, but has hit the ball right at people so far. That’s it. Some people think that he is going to be fine over the long term.

      If you post on this board and you say “Jay Bruce is done” you should expect people to disagree with you, not because no one is allowed to say anything bad about Bruce, but because the evidence doesn’t support that.

    • jdx19

      What’s your problem? I don’t expect either of these comments to last long, but if you don’t like this site, you are welcome to go to any other site you choose.

      Logging in to continually post attacks on the site and their views is not helping anyone.

      Furthermore, the gripes you state aren’t even accuate. NO ONE thinks a walk is as good as a single. Go do some research on wOBA. That describes the value of each occurrence while at bat. Unintentional walk = 0.690, single = .888. So, by that measure a single is 27.5% more valuable than a walk. As a corrollary, then, 3 walks are better than 2 singles! THAT is the point.

    • Citizen54

      You should be looking at OPS rather than BA because OPS has a higher a correlation to runs scored than BA does.

  10. mtkal

    The biggest problem the Reds’ offense has at the moment, assuming we’re at least temporarily stuck with the roster Jockety has provided, is this. Price doesn’t seem to know how to use the batted ball stats to properly set the line up to make the best use of what each batter he has is capable of, or at least is producing at any given time.