Monday, April 6, 2015

12 comments Brandon Phillips May Slightly Misunderstand How RBI's Work

I'm not sure if you have heard, but there is a big, massive war going on (not really, but the media gets bored and loves to write articles that paint the two sides against each other) over baseball players and media members who like advanced statistics and those baseball players and media members who hate advanced statistics. Bob Nightengale points out that two players on opposite sides of this spectrum not only play on the same team, but bat 2nd and 3rd respectively in the same batting order. How do the modern day Biggie and Tupac stand each other while in the same lineup? Will this war tear the Reds team apart? Does Brandon Phillips have a fucking clue how RBI work and that MLB Network didn't invent a statistic? Bob Nightengale has all the answers for his readers.

The debate still rages and plays out every day for the Cincinnati Reds, inviting intrigue, discussion and even divisions within their own organization.

I imagine both Phillips and Votto have their own colors they wear and have lockers on the opposite side of the clubhouse from each other. Don't show up on Votto's side of the locker room wearing blue. That's a good way to get a baseball bat upside the head. Just try to step on Phillips' side of the clubhouse showing out wearing green. The police won't know where the blood stops and starts on the red uniform Cincinnati wears. They ain't called "the Reds" for nothing.

From the corner of power and patience: First baseman Joey Votto's hitting philosophy.

From the corner of opportunity and aggression: Second baseman Brandon Phillips' hitting approach.

And remember, THERE CAN BE NO IN BETWEEN! A batter has to either be patient like Votto or aggressive like Phillips. No baseball player can change his strategy at the plate based on the count, the pitcher or any other game situation. Be aggressive or be patient. Two options. That's it.

Where else could you have a team paying $225 million to a four-time All-Star first baseman who's their greatest power hitter, but since he thrives on his on-base percentage and passes up RBI opportunities for walks, he'll bat second?

He passes up RBI opportunities, yet has been Top 10 in the NL in RBI twice over his 8 year career. Once in 2010 when he was 3rd and once in 2011 when he was 6th. Don't let this little fact ruin the narrative that Votto passes up RBI though.

And where else could you spend $72.5 million on a three-time All-Star second baseman who despises walks and loathes on-base percentage but will do everything possible to drive in runs, so he'll bat third?

Phillips does everything possible to drive in runs, yet he has been in the Top 10 in the NL in RBI once in his 13 year career. He was 4th in the NL in RBI during the 2013 season. Isn't weird how the guy who hates RBI averages more RBI during a 162 game season during his career (94) than the guy who loves RBI so much (84 RBI in a 162 game season during his career) that he would marry them if it wasn't so gross to be married to a statistic?

Votto averages an RBI every 7.3 plate appearance during his career and Phillips averages an RBI every 8.2 plate appearance during his career. So which one likes RBI so much and which one passes up RBI opportunities again?

Sorry, I'm ruining the poorly researched narrative.

Nothing against Votto, Phillips says, but he's up there swinging the bat, believing driving in runs is the best way to help your team win.

And yet, Votto has shown himself to actually be better at driving in runs. Weird how that works isn't it?

Nothing against Phillips, Votto says, but he believes the best way to score is simply getting on base, no matter the situation.

And regardless what statistics might say, they'll never change their ways, believing their method is best.

Whatever works for either player. It really doesn't matter as long as the team is happy and the player is happy. There is no wrong or right answer. There are wrong and right assumptions on which conclusions can be drawn though. Therein lies the issue with the "Votto hates RBI, while Phillips loves RBI" assumption.

"I don't do that MLB Network on-base percentage (stuff),'' Phillips told USA TODAY Sports.

Well, they did invent on-base percentage, so it's fair to blame MLB Network.

"I think that's messing up baseball. I think people now are just worried about getting paid and worrying about on-base percentage instead of just winning the game.

If it weren't for those meddling kids at MLB Network then more runs would be driven in and baseball players would perform better.

"That's the new thing now. I feel like all of these stats and all of these geeks upstairs, they're messing up baseball, they're just changing the game.

I think everyone should listen to Phillips and read what he is saying, because this sounds like some really, really informed criticism.

It's all about on-base percentage. If you don't get on base, then you suck.

This has been true for quite some time now. If a team doesn't have players who get on base then it is really hard to score runs without hitting several solo home runs every night and hoping your pitching staff keeps the other team under 2-3 runs. Getting on base is a great way to score runs and win games, so yes, if a player doesn't get on the base a lot then there is a chance he could suck.

That's basically what they're saying. People don't care about RBI or scoring runs, it's all about getting on base.

And how in the heck can a person get an RBI if there is no one on base, outside of hitting a solo home run of course? Brandon Phillips shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how RBI work. The only way to get an RBI with no runners on base is to hit a home run. Otherwise, it should be all about getting on base, because without batters getting on base then there is no way to get an RBI or score a run. It's sad that Brandon Phillips plays the game of baseball and isn't capable of understanding in his screed about why no one cares about scoring runs or RBI that someone has to be on base for the batter to get an RBI or the runner to score a run. This shouldn't be hard to understand, yet in his screed towards on-base percentage Phillips seems to miss this basic point.

"Why we changing the game after all of this time?

No one is changing the game. Why are you being so stupid?

If we all just took our walks, nobody would be scoring runs.

That's partially incorrect because if everyone took walks then at some point the pitcher would walk home a run.

Nobody would be driving anybody in or getting anybody over. How you going to play the game like that? People don't look at doing the things the right way and doing things to help your team win.

Oh, nobody is doing "things the right way." Like, drawing a walk to get on base so that you can drive them in with one of your non-patented RBI that you have fewer of than Votto despite the fact you talk like you are the RBI king?

And Joey Votto has done more to help the Reds win during his career than Brandon Phillips has done. He's a better ball player and has more RBI than Phillips despite the fact Phillips seems to think Votto doesn't care about RBI in such an extreme way that it hurts the team.

"I remember back in the day you hit .230, you suck. Nowadays, you hit .230 with a .400 on-base percentage, you're one of the best players in the game. That's amazing. I've never seen (stuff) like that. Times have changed. It's totally different now.

Not that Phillips is talking in generalities or anything like that. There aren't that many player who hit .230 with a .400 OBP other than Adam Dunn and he wasn't considered one of the best players in the game. I'm sure Phillips' generic screed against people that may or may not exist is very convincing for the anti-stats crowd though. They love fictional strawman arguments that exaggerate the position of the advanced statistics crowd.

Votto takes the other extreme and gets vilified for his approach – even by Reds Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman – but couldn't care less what people think of him.

He's gone from a power hitter and National League MVP (37 homers with 113 RBI in 2010), to the king of on-base percentage. He is baseball's active on-base leader at .417 and has led the league in walks three consecutive years, with injuries ending his streak last year.

Right, but how does Votto expect Brandon Phillips to drive him in if he's taking walks and getting on base? If Votto would be more aggressive at the plate then he would get on base more and Phillips would have more chances to drive him in. Sure, Votto gets on base more than any other active player, getting on base leads to runs scored and runs scored lead to RBI, but shut up because Brandon Phillips doesn't want to talk about this anymore.

"I still don't understand the conversation,'' Votto says. "I'm like (fifth) in active players in slugging percentage (.533), second in batting average (.310), and the on-base percentage just happens to be the one thing everyone highlights because I've had some success with that.

Yeah Joey, but you don't drive as many people in as Brandon Phillips does, unless you want to count the RBI total you have compared to Phillips. And really, that doesn't count so let's not talk about it right now. It's not reasonable for you to get on base by drawing walks. You should be swinging the bat and trying to drive runs in rather than getting on base so that Brandon Phillips can drive you in. An RBI is only an RBI if the runner gets on base due to a base hit. Runs batted in due to the runner getting on base with a walk doesn't count in a player's RBI total.

Yet by taking all of his walks, Votto sacrifices some power. If the pitch isn't in the strike zone, he's not swinging. If a runner is on third base with less than two outs, he's just as content to take his walk rather than drive him in, taking nearly as many pitches in the zone than outside with runners in scoring position.

And yet, despite Bob Nightengale insisting this is true, Votto still has been in the Top 10 of the NL in RBI twice. Brandon Phillips bitches and moans about how RBI should be how a player is measured and yet he bats behind a guy who gets on base more than any other active player. If Phillips thinks RBI is how a player should be measured then he should be pretty fucking happy Votto walks a lot because that puts Votto on base so that Phillips can drive him in.

"No, I don't care about the people around me,'' Votto says. "It wouldn't matter to me. It just doesn't make a difference. It's never made a difference in my career. I've never been in a situation where I was getting pitched differently except when Billy (Hamilton) is on first.

"Our lineup should be perpetual. It shouldn't stop. It should just continue to roll through.''

Votto's career batting average is .310 and so he's nothing like the hypothetical, generic player that Brandon Phillips claims gets undue credit for being one of the best players in the game. So Phillips' screed against on-base percentage really has nothing to do with the results Votto shows at the plate. Phillips has created a boogeyman out of thin air.

If he had the desire, Votto believes he could lead the NL in homers. But the days of a .400 on-base percentage and .300 batting average would be gone, too. His batting average would likely plummet to .250, Votto says, if he focused on his power game.

Yeah, but then he would run the risk of being one of those players who hits .230 with a .400 on-base percentage that don't actually exist. To further hurt Phillips' point, let's check out what hitters have the highest on-base percentage throughout the history of baseball. I bet it's full of scrubs and assholes who didn't care enough to swing the bat and drive their teammates in.  

Ted Williams
Babe Ruth
Lou Gehrig
Billy Hamilton
Rogers Hornsby
Ty Cobb

Who are those guys? Just scrubs who are considered the best in the game, but really aren't because they dared to get on base often. There was one player in the majors last year who had a high OBP and an average near to .230 and that was Carlos Santana. He hit .231 with a .365 OBP. Guess what else he had though? 85 RBI. In fact, players like Brandon Moss and Brian Dozier, guys who had higher OBP and a low average also had RBI totals that were in the Top 65 of the majors. It's almost like they were able to get on base and get RBI at the same time.

And that way has a tendency to drive folks batty, with Brennaman echoing the sentiments of many frustrated Reds fans, and some club officials, by saying the Reds won't be a contender if Votto is content leading the league in on-base percentage.

The Reds certainly won't be a contender if there isn't anyone hitting behind Votto that can drive him in. I'm sure the fact Phillips may not be able to drive Votto in isn't Phillips' fault, but instead is the fault of geeks who love on-base percentage. Brandon Phillips can't drive a guy in who gets on base with a walk. He needs that guy ahead of him in the lineup to get a base hit in order to be properly motivated to drive that runner in.

"I don't want people to think I'm hating on Joey, because I'm not,'' Phillips says. "There's nothing wrong with how he plays the game. He does what's best for him. He's going to do what makes him successful. So you can't get mad at somebody's approach.

You can tell by this quote and how he says "what's best for him" that Brandon Phillips thinks Votto is being selfish by drawing walks. Of course drawing those walks gets runners on base for Brandon Phillips, but he's too thick to understand this.

Phillips, 33, laughs. He never has cared about on-base percentage. He has a career .319 OBP, but with 168 homers is the greatest power-hitting second baseman in Reds history. In 1,600 more plate appearances, he has 202 more career RBI and 11 more homers than Votto.

Yes, the guy who is all about hitting home runs and driving runs in doesn't do either of things as well as Joey Votto does. If Votto were to want to be more like Phillips than maybe he should draw fewer walks and ending up regressing into no longer being one of the best players in the game.

I'm swinging the damn bat. I'm a guy that drives in runs. If you give me an RBI opportunity, a guy on third base and less than two outs, I'm getting that guy in. I'm not walking. I'm getting that guy in.

Well, sort of. Phillips does have a fair amount of RBI, but he's not exactly an RBI machine who is constantly in the Top 10 of the NL in this statistic.

"That's just how I am. I play the game to win. I don't play the game for stats.

Apparently Brandon Phillips doesn't think RBI is a stat. Because Brandon Phillips wants more people to care about RBI and runs, both of which are statistics, and he cares about his RBI statistic. So he doesn't play the game for stats, but gets mad because others don't play the game for the same stats that he plays the game for.

"I'm not talking about nobody else. I don't penalize nobody. I don't talk negative about nobody. I'm just talking about me.

Yes, Phillips doesn't talk negative about nobody, doesn't penalize nobody nor is he talking about nobody else. Quotes from this article by Phillips:

"That's the new thing now. I feel like all of these stats and all of these geeks upstairs, they're messing up baseball, they're just changing the game.

I think people now are just worried about getting paid and worrying about on-base percentage instead of just winning the game.

People don't look at doing the things the right way and doing things to help your team win.

It certainly seems like those are examples of Phillips talking negative about somebody, penalizing someone, and talking about someone else. But hey, it's clear based on Phillips not understanding that runners on base leads to RBI that he isn't dealing with a full deck of cards and critical thinking isn't his thing. It's probably best he just show up and hits the ball. I'm not sure the Reds need him thinking too much at the plate.

Maybe he's right.

You just won't get a certain teammate to agree.

YES! Create a narrative where these two teammates are against each other and will battle to the death over their different approaches to the plate. Sure, it may not be true and there is room in baseball for both approaches, but that's no fun to write about is it? 


Chris said...

It is amazing and sad to me that Philips plays professional baseball and yet does not have a clue about how RBI's work. Also what was going on that made him seem to get progressively more angry and passive agressive in this interview to the point where he started an answer with "I just swing the damn bat".

Steve said...

He has got to be trolling. It's hard for me to believe that Phillips doesn't understand that Votto getting on base is what gives him so many RBI opportunities.

Bengoodfella said...

Chris, I know Phillips is a little bit salty at times with the media. I can't blame really. I'm guessing he was tired of being asked questions about RBI's and how his approach at the plate differs from Votto's.

Steve, I would hope he is trolling. One never knows though. I think some baseball players have never thought about the fact runners need to get on base for them to get RBI's or how a walk may achieve that.

Snarf said...

Phillips, 33, laughs. He never has cared about on-base percentage. He has a career .319 OBP, but with 168 homers is the greatest power-hitting second baseman in Reds history. In 1,600 more plate appearances, he has 202 more career RBI and 11 more homers than Votto.

I have to take issue with the idea that Phillips is the greatest power-hitting second baseman in Reds history. Joe Morgan has 152 HR in about 800 less plate appearances (1,200 less AB) than Phillips with his 168 HR. That asshole also had a .415 OBP with the Reds, so I guess he doesn't count. One of the great ironies about Morgan, which I believe FJM has mentioned, is that despite his disdain for "moneyball," computers, and stats, they absolutely love him (100 rWAR).

Bengoodfella said...

Snarf, I was so enamored with discussing the article I missed that part. I put Joe Morgan ahead of Brandon Phillips in pretty much every way.

I do love the irony of Morgan hating Moneyball and Sabermetrics can be used to make his career look fantastic.

HH said...

"I also make a lot of outs." - Brandon Phillips

HH said...

"800 less plate appearances (1,200 less AB)"

1. Baseball Nazi: it has to be the other way around; you can't have more ABs than PAs.

2. Grammar Nazi: fewer.

I'm so sorry.

Bengoodfella said...

HH, I'm stupid and deserve to be corrected. But you know what, perhaps that's just how Brandon Phillips rolls at the plate. He makes so many outs that he managed to have at-bats without plate appearances.

Snarf said...


You're reading that incorrectly.
Morgan and Phillips have a larger delta with regard to AB than PA due to Morgan walking a lot more.

Murray said...

I think Kevin Millar drawing a walk in the 04 ALCS helped his team win

Eric C said...

Did you see the schmucks on the career walks leaderboards? Bunch of slap happy sissies who didn't drive in any runs.

Barry Bonds
Rickey Henderson
Babe Ruth
Ted Williams
Joe Morgan
Carl Yastrzemski
Jim Thome
Mickey Mantle
Mel Ott
Frank Thomas


Bengoodfella said...

Murray, in that moment Brandon Phillips wouldn't be looking to walk. He'd want to swing the bat and drives runs in. Runs that possibly could be on base due to another player in the lineup walking.

Eric, I've never heard of those guys. They any good?