A lot has been made on RedsZone over the past few years over where Brandon Phillips "best" fits in the lineup. Jerry Crasnick just posted a brief article on ESPN exploring it as well and quoting Phillips about the different approach batting 2nd requires.
So I decided to take a look. The sample sizes aren't huge, but we do have about a season worth of data of him batting 1st, 2nd and 3rd and about 3 seasons of him batting cleanup.
1. First and foremost, we should take the time to recognize the obvious. At the end of the day, it basically doesn't matter. Phillips is who he is and any changes we see are more or less at the margins. I think we sometimes forget to do this. A finding of "no difference" is still really interesting. It suggests that the difference in approach he takes doesn't actually seem to move the performance needle much. It may feel different to him and his thought processes may change a bit, but at the end of the day, his physical abilities are what they are.Code:Split G PA AB BB/PA SO/PA SO:BB BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip tOPS+ PA:GIDP Batting 1st 150 691 631 6.4% 14.0% 2.2 .265 .325 .426 .751 .285 99 77 Batting 2nd 182 813 749 4.8% 11.9% 2.5 .279 .322 .427 .749 .296 99 43 Batting 3rd 123 528 484 5.3% 12.3% 2.3 .277 .323 .428 .750 .295 99 35 Batting 4th 470 2023 1854 6.2% 13.8% 2.2 .282 .331 .454 .785 .298 108 29
2. The biggest difference is that Phillips has hit for more power batting cleanup then compared to batting higher in the lineup. However, I would posit that while this may be indicative of a change in his approach due to the spot in the lineup, he's also hit cleanup more recently, in his peak, when we would expect his power output to be higher.
3. While batting 2nd, he's been the most free swinging. Again, this could be indicative of his approach due to the spot in the lineup. But it could also be a function of a change in approach over time.
4. GIDPs matter, sort of. While they don't show up in the adjusted OPS, his increased rate of hitting in to double plays batting cleanup likely offsets the power boost. That said, Phillips (and any hitter batting behind a high OBP guy like Votto) is more prone to hitting in to double plays when there are guys on base ahead of him and sadly, the Reds haven't been good at getting guys on base at the top of the order.
5. To reiterate. It doesn't really matter where he hits. He is who he is. The biggest function of the lineup is the distribution of the plate appearances rather than maximizing some unique characteristic of a skill-set.