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OnBaseMachine
06-23-2009, 04:00 PM
Brandon Phillips Now Belieiving in this OBP Stuff?
by David Golebiewski - June 23, 2009 · Filed under Second Base

“I don’t believe that on-base percentage stuff. That’s overrated to me. If you get hits, you’ll be on base. That’s what it’s about.”

- Brandon Phillips, 3/1/2009 to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer

In some respects, the above quote perfectly crystallized Brandon Phillips‘ early major league career. It may be hard to remember now, given that Cliff Lee has a Cy Young award on his mantle and Grady Sizemore has established himself as one of the most valuable center fielders in the game, but Phillips was the principal prospect acquired by the Indians in the June 2002 Bartolo Colon swap. The North Carolina prep product received his first extended look with Cleveland in 2002, at the age of 22. Walking just 3.6 percent of the time and whiffing 20.8%, Phillips struggled to keep his head above water while batting .208/.242/.311 in 393 plate appearances.

The Indians decided to take a step back with the club’s prized youngster, letting him spend the better part of the next two seasons at AAA Buffalo. Phillips wasn’t bad by any means, but he didn’t make much progress in terms of controlling the strike zone:

2004: .303/.358/.430, 8.4 BB%, 10.7 K%
2005: .256/.326/.409, 8.4 BB%, 19.4 K%

Since being shipped to Cincinnati in April of 2006 (Phillips was out of options, and the Indians were out of patience), Phillips has posted wOBA’s of .331 in ‘06, .354 in 2007 and .324 in 2008. His walk rates over those three seasons were 6.1, 4.8 and 6.5, respectively. Phillips’ strikeout rates hovered right around 16 percent.

In 2009, Phillips is turning in his best season yet, with a .360 wOBA and a powerful .279/.350/.502 line in 264 PA. While Cincy’s second baseman might have shown disdain for On-Base Percentage this spring, you sure wouldn’t know it from examining his plate approach this season.

Phillips has upped his walk rate considerably this year, drawing a free pass 10.2% of the time. The soon-to-be 28 year-old chased about 34 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone over the 2007-2008 seasons, well above the MLB average that hovers around 25 percent. This season, Phillips has ventured out of the zone only 27.5 percent of the time. After taking a hack at nearly 55 percent of pitches seen over the ‘07 and ‘08 seasons (the MLB average is about 45 percent), Phillips has cut that number down to 49.2% in 2009.

This newfound discipline is a great sign for Phillips, as opposing pitchers have increasingly given him fewer pitches within the zone:

Phillips’ percentage of pitches seen within the strike zone:

2006: 55.2%
2007: 53.2%
2008: 49.9%
2009: 48.3%

(the MLB avg. in 2009 is 49.1 percent)

As Phillips garnered a reputation as a free-swinger, pitchers became increasingly hesitant to toss him a pitch in the zone. And why not take that approach? If the guy is likely to lunge at a fastball off the plate or a curve in the dirt, then why take the risk of giving him a meatball?

Phillips’ enlightened plate approach has also helped him in the contact department. His strikeout rate is down to a career-low 10.9%, which ranks as the 20th-lowest mark among qualified hitters. The 6-0, 195 pounder boasts a career-best .223 ISO, fourth among qualified second basemen.

Couple Phillips’ power and slick leather with less cuts taken at pitcher’s pitches, and you have one of the most valuable up-the-middle players in the majors: with 2.3 Wins Above Replacement, Phillips trails only part-time 2B Ben Zobrist, Chase Utley and Ian Kinsler among those who man the keystone position. Phillips might not believe in all this…OBP stuff. But, he has really honed his strike zone control in 2009, making him a truly dangerous hitter.

http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/index.php/brandon-phillips-now-belieiving-in-this-obp-stuff

SMcGavin
06-23-2009, 04:06 PM
Good article. BP is on track to smash his career high in walks. And he has rediscovered his power output from 07. Brandon can say as many dumb things as wants as long as he keeps producing like he has so far this year.

bucksfan2
06-24-2009, 09:12 AM
Phillips has upped his walk rate considerably this year, drawing a free pass 10.2% of the time. The soon-to-be 28 year-old chased about 34 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone over the 2007-2008 seasons, well above the MLB average that hovers around 25 percent. This season, Phillips has ventured out of the zone only 27.5 percent of the time. After taking a hack at nearly 55 percent of pitches seen over the ‘07 and ‘08 seasons (the MLB average is about 45 percent), Phillips has cut that number down to 49.2% in 2009.

Nice article OBM.

Say what you want about Phillips and OBP, OPS, etc. I don't think his mindset has really changed that much about them. If you asked Phillips about OBP again I don't think you will get much of a different answer. What I do see happening is that Phillips has matured as a hitter. I think he has realized that the best way to get a hit is to not swing at a bad pitch out of the zone. He still wants to get a hit, but the best way to do so is by hitting a pitch in the zone. If he doesn't get one then he will have to "walk" down to 1b.

RedsManRick
06-24-2009, 09:26 AM
Nice article OBM.

Say what you want about Phillips and OBP, OPS, etc. I don't think his mindset has really changed that much about them. If you asked Phillips about OBP again I don't think you will get much of a different answer. What I do see happening is that Phillips has matured as a hitter. I think he has realized that the best way to get a hit is to not swing at a bad pitch out of the zone. He still wants to get a hit, but the best way to do so is by hitting a pitch in the zone. If he doesn't get one then he will have to "walk" down to 1b.

Exactly. What's funny is that ultimately, that's what this "OBP stuff" is about. Your best chance to get a hit occurs when you hit pitches in the zone, so stop swinging at crap you can't hit. It's not about walking; it's about giving yourself the best opportunity to do damage.

jojo
06-24-2009, 10:05 AM
I'm not convinced we're seeing anything other than randomness.

Lets talk this time next year. Sometimes the writers at fangraphs are too quick to ascribe something as a "skill" IMHO.

Benihana
06-24-2009, 10:37 AM
I know it's not the popular sentiment on this board, but I really like Brandon Phillips as a player. If there is one veteran to keep for the next 3-4 years, he's my guy.

Mario-Rijo
06-24-2009, 06:08 PM
I'm not convinced we're seeing anything other than randomness.

Lets talk this time next year. Sometimes the writers at fangraphs are too quick to ascribe something as a "skill" IMHO.

I think if you have watched him play there should be no question he has improved. To what extent is the only question in my mind, I don't think he'll end the season quite as good as his current BB% and K% indicate but he should absolutely be improved over his past #'s. I think his BB rate will be somewhere around 8-9% and his K rate somewhere around 12-13% when it's all said and done. Still not quite where you'd like 'em but headed in a direction that he never even thought of at one point so perhaps it will do a smidge more creeping over the next few years to a respectable level. This is one area where we have to Dusty thank IMO.

BCubb2003
06-24-2009, 06:59 PM
I'm working on a theory that most of the principles of sabermetrics have counterparts in the classic baseball axioms, like "you can't steal first" and "wait for your pitch." It's only defensiveness that turns this into a feud.

RANDY IN INDY
06-25-2009, 08:42 AM
I'm working on a theory that most of the principles of sabermetrics have counterparts in the classic baseball axioms, like "you can't steal first" and "wait for your pitch." It's only defensiveness that turns this into a feud.

Surely not?;)

redsfandan
06-25-2009, 09:13 AM
I know it's not the popular sentiment on this board, but I really like Brandon Phillips as a player. If there is one veteran to keep for the next 3-4 years, he's my guy.
I've always liked him as well although I cooled a little bit on him cuz of his obp and his tendency to talk when he shouldn't. In a couple years he'll become expensive but if he can keep up the improved bb/k ratio then I'd have to consider keeping him (depending on the other options at that point). That's a big if.

bucksfan2
06-25-2009, 09:20 AM
I'm working on a theory that most of the principles of sabermetrics have counterparts in the classic baseball axioms, like "you can't steal first" and "wait for your pitch." It's only defensiveness that turns this into a feud.

You bring up a very interesting point. Sometimes we can argue basically about semantics and other times there is a gap between beliefs. I think you could make the argument with sabermetrics that Phillips is getting better because of his increased OBP but I think it gets lost in translation.

I don't know if saber can tell you what I saw last night. Granted it was a 6-2 and the Reds were hapless but Phillips had a very impressive at bat. He was behind in the count and looked at two very good pitches, but outside pitches and worked the count to 3-2. The at bat ended in an out in a 7-2 blowout but it was an impressive at bat for Phillips because he didn't chase any bad pitches. The question with Phillips is why the change? How has he become more selective at the plate? Is he looking for something, studying more film, or is he just maturing as a player.

There are many players who have a definite weakness in their swings. They will chase balls in a particular zone. If they improve as a hitter they learn how to lay off those balls. Is there a way to put a number on that? Is there a way to analyze that? Its something that may not directly show up in the stat lines, but indirectly makes the player quite a bit better.