When the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds lock up for interleague play, it is supposed to be the “Battle of Ohio.” And while it’s always an entertaining subplot, the focus of many fans tends to turn to Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips – the former second-round selection whom the Indians traded for, only to ship him to the Reds prior to the 2006 season.
Per usual, Phillips did not disappoint this past weekend, going 5-for-12 with two runs scored and an RBI. Increasing his average by 11 points over the last week of play, Phillips seems to have any Indians-Reds match-ups circled on his calendar for retribution purposes. In fact, Indians fans should actually feel good that Phillips only scored two runs with an RBI in this series as the Gold Glover tends to wreak havoc on the Wahoos.
Through his career, the 29-year-old Phillips* has amassed an OPS of .930 against his former team. If we take the Reds out of the equation, only the New York Mets have felt more pain at the hands of Phillips through his nine years in the Major Leagues.
In 29 games against Cleveland, Phillips has gone 40-113 (.354) with five home runs, six doubles, 24 runs scored and 20 RBI – a runs scored-to-games played ratio that is nearly 1:1. We can call this the “I was traded for Jeff Stevens” factor.
Whether it was just poor timing or a lack of opportunity, Phillips’ improvement after leaving Cleveland has been well-documented. After producing an OPS total of .553 in his only real season with the Indians (112 games in 2003), Phillips would be given little chance to prove his worth, suiting up in exactly 12 total games in 2004 and 2005. Following the trade to Cincinnati, the then-25-year old produced OPS totals of .751 and .816 in 2006 and 2007, respectively. 2007 was arguably Phillips best season as a professional where he would provide the Reds with 30 home runs and 32 stolen bases.
Phillips (with nine home runs on the season) is looking for his fourth straight season of at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Despite the slower start from a home run standpoint, he is currently hitting an OPS clip of .847 – it would be his career-high if it is sustatined – thanks to an on-base percentage of .370 and a vastly improved walk rate (2010 K:BB of .650 compared to a career mark of .390).
Beyond hitting, Phillips has provided the Reds with excellent glove work. Winning a Gold Glove award in 2008, the former-Indian has committed no more than nine errors at second base since 2007. This season, his fielding percentage is .994 with a UZR/150 of 5.1. For a comparison of this UZR figure (which, mind you, is a bit lower than the last few seasons) to his Cleveland peers, I suggest going here…
Phillips has played in 149, 158, 141, and 153 games, respectively, since being acquired by the Reds – a decent model of consistency at the second base position.
Since trading Phillips in 2006, the following players have played second base for the Indians:
Nineteen different players have played second base in five seasons; not exactly the same model of consistency at the second base position. The last member of the Indians to have a UZR figure above 3.0? Asdrubal Cabrera in 2008 – now he’s Cleveland’s shortstop. Ronnie Belliard achieved a 5.6 back in 2005, so there’s always that.
But does the future hold anything brighter? One can only hope…
Clippers second baseman Josh Rodriguez has been hitting the ball very well through 2010, providing Columbus with a slash line of .341/.429/.602 (1.031 OPS). Unfortunately, the Indians front office opted to demote Rodriguez to Double-A Akron to make room for the recently optioned Luis Valbuena. Arguably not the best way to reward a player for his hard work and successful results.
2008′s third-round draft selection Cord Phelps has hit .333/.396/.521 (.917 OPS) in 13 games with Columbus as a second baseman. Last year’s second-round selection Jason Kipnis has played all of 2010 at second base and has hit .306/.393/.492 (OPS of .885) with nine home runs and 38 RBI between Class-A Kinston and Double-A Akron.
*Phillips turns 29-years old today