By Andrew Nagel
On Tuesday night Major League Baseball revealed during a live ESPN show its Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners. To really no one’s surprise, Brandon Phillips collected his fourth Gold Glove of his career as the National League’s top second baseman in the field. Darwin Barney of the Chicago Cubs and Mark Ellis of the Los Angeles Dodgers were the other finalists along with Phillips this year. Phillips’ previous three Gold Gloves in 2008, 2010 and 2011 will have to slide down his trophy mantle to make room for this new one. At the rate Phillips collects post season honors and awards, he may have to put an addition on his trophy room.
In appearing in 151 games this season, Phillips played in 1,347 innings. He had 715 fielding chances and committed just 9 errors for a .987 fielding percentage. He collected 278 putouts, 428 assists and was part of 84 double plays. Not included in Phillips’ official stats are the countless number of hits that he took away from his opponents. Phillips would range all over the right side of the field, not just the infield, but the outfield as well, making plays and recording outs. He made plays ranging deep in the hole to his left, pretty much in shallow right field. He also made plays ranging to his right up the middle of field. And let’s not forget the way Phillips would make catches, a la Willie Mays, as he would catch pop flyies over his shoulder with his back to the infield in shallow centerfield or shallow right field.
For the sabermetric fans out there, Phillips’ range factor was 4.68 plays a game in 2013. What is range factor? Range factor is a stat that is kept by Major League Baseball. It was developed by sabermetric guru Bill James. According to James, range factor is calculated by dividing putouts and assists by the number of innings or games played at a given defense position. This statistic is premised on the notion that the total number of outs in which a player participates is more relevant in evaluating that player’s defensive play than the percentage of cleanly handled chances as calculated by the conventional statistic fielding percentage.
Whether you are looking at traditional statistics, the newer sabermetric statistics or just doing an eye test, Brandon Phillips is very good at what he does! Why is he so good? Practice, practice, practice. His pregame routine includes fielding balls with a “small glove,” which is smaller than the glove he uses in the game. It helps him develop soft hands and a better feel for the ball as he fields it. The unbelievable plays that Phillips makes that look so routine? They look routine because to him they are. He works on those different plays, the different angles over and over and his vision is off the charts. He can see what kind of play he is going to make before he makes it. This is what separates good players from great players – good players from Gold Glove players.
In a statement released by the Cincinnati Reds that appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Wednesday, Phillips states on winning this year’s Gold Glove, “Wow, hard work pays off. It’s an honor to have the NL managers and coaches select me to join this elite group of the league’s best defenders. If it weren’t for my Reds coaches, staff and teammates, especially Zach Cozart, for sticking with me even though I wasn’t 100 percent toward the end of the season, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“I take pride in my defense and try to go out there to make the pitching staff feel comfortable while they’re on the mound. I like being the pitcher’s best friend. People overlook defense these days. Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships. My family and I are happy to win this award again, and this one belongs to my city, Cincinnati.”
In a recent tweet, @DatDudeBP also credits his two gloves named Casper and ShoNuff for his Gold Glove win.
Six second basemen have won more Gold Gloves than Phillips’ four: Roberto Alomar (10), Ryne Sandberg (9), Bill Mazeroski (8), Frank White (8), Joe Morgan (5) and Bobby Richardson (5). Four other second basemen have won four Gold Gloves like Phillips. They are Craig Biggio, Bret Boone, Bobby Grich and Orlando Hudson. Cincinnati Reds’ second basemen have won a total of fourteen Gold Gloves which include Morgan (5), Phillips (4), Tommy Helms (2), Pokey Reece (2) and Boone (1).
Brandon Phillips is steadily becoming one of baseball’s greats of the game. He is making history at second base in a time where there are many good defensive players in baseball. Looking at the history of the game, only eleven second basemen, including Phillips have won four Gold Gloves or more. Of the eleven, Phillips is the only active second basemen. Of the eleven, four are in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown with a possibility of another three joining those four soon. Phillips is in rarified air when it comes to his place among the greats to play second base. His future definitely looks Golden!