We have seen plenty of flashy plays from four-time Gold Glove Award winner Brandon Phillips over the years, but this one might take the cake.
Just to set the scene here, the Reds were clinging to a one-run lead tonight when Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler stepped to the plate with two on and two out in the seventh inning. Soler hit a ground ball up the middle, but Phillips went into a slide to make the stop before making a behind-the-back toss to shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who made a barehanded catch to get the force out at second base and end the inning. Just watch it already:
So pretty. This is one of those things which would be hard to recreate if you tried.
By the way, the Reds held on to win 5-4, so this play proved to be critical.
Cincinnati is still feeling some positive vibes from a highly successful week of All-Star festivities, but big business is underway in the executive offices at Great American Ball Park. This comes from John Fay’s latest in the Cincinnati Enquirer …
The fire sale is in full swing. The Reds have put all the players they [are] willing to part with on the shelf. Owner Bob Castellini has given go-ahead to trade as needed.
Reds general manager Walt Jocketty has stated that Home Run Derby hero Todd Frazier will not be traded, and we can probably rule out Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Homer Bailey because of their contracts (and other factors). But it seems plausible that Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, Jay Bruce, Marlon Byrd, Skip Schumaker, and Brayan Pena could all be on the move ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. Cueto and Leake definitely because of their status as big-ticket impending free agents.
Fay notes that Jocketty’s approval rating has “eroded” in Cincy, so this is going to be an important couple of weeks for him personally. It’s also an important couple of weeks for the organization, which has been in bad need of a rebuild. The club’s record as of Sunday morning was 40-48. And the farm system isn’t great.
At what point does speed outweigh a lousy OBP?
Joe Morgan was fond of saying that speed was the No. 1 factor in searching for a leadoff hitter. Statheads used to believe that OBP was everything, that it made far more sense to put a slow guy with a big OBP in the leadoff spot than a fast guy who didn’t get on base.
Billy Hamilton pretty much sucks at getting on base. But he’s so ridiculously good when he does get on that he’s a viable leadoff hitter anyway.
Hamilton has hit leadoff for the Reds 36 times this year and scored 27 runs in those games. Brandon Phillips, though, has been leading off while healthy these last seven weeks. He’s scored 19 runs in 37 games leading off.
Of course, that’s not really a valid test of speed versus OBP. Oddly enough, both have .280 OBPs in their time batting leadoff. Both have also hit three homers as leadoff man, so that doesn’t really factor in. And while Phillips isn’t quite a burner these days, he’s actually gone 6-for-7 stealing bases from the leadoff spot.
The run totals, even if they’re a bit fluky, suggest that Hamilton should be leading off for the Reds. His .280 OBP is probably worth about the same there as a .330 mark from a merely decent runner. He wouldn’t continue scoring three runs every four games if returned to the spot, but then, who does? Mike Trout and Brian Dozier currently lead the majors in runs scored (largely because they have 27 and 20 homers, respectively) and they’re barely better than that (.775 runs scored per game).
And the Reds’ alternatives simply aren’t any good. Phillips has never been an on-base guy, and the other four guys to have opened a game in the leadoff spot for the Reds this year (Zack Cozart, Skip Schumaker, Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Kris Negron) have posted even worse OBPs. Plus, Joey Votto has thrived on those occasions in which he’s hit second behind Hamilton. Unless the Reds somehow come up with a viable option in one of their upcoming trades involving Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake or Jay Bruce, Hamilton is going to be their best option at the top the rest of the way.