I was stunned to learn that Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds did not win the Gold Glove for National League secondbasemen. Instead, the award was given to Darwin Barney of the last place Chicago Cubs. (I know, I know, the team’s standings shouldn’t factor in, but just look at the MVP award and you’ll see that MVPs often play for winners.) Mind you, I’ve been slow to come around on Phillips. I’m not some Reds nut who’s rah-rah for his guys. Phillips’ on-field flakiness has often caused me to cringe and I’ve questioned his on-field demeanor and awareness many times—especially on the bases. However, watching him on TV and in person for the past three years has proven to me that he is, without a doubt, the best secondbaseman in baseball. He simply makes plays nobody else can make and his range is mind-boggling. Apparently, though, only stats matter to the managers and coaches who voted for the Gold Glove this year.
Looking purely at the stats (below), Barney does seem like the better choice. With nearly 100 more chances, he made 3 fewer errors. Barney’s fielding percentage was .997 while Phillips’ was .992. However, statistics don’t always tell the whole story.
Going Beyond Statistics
Brandon Phillips has a knack for making unbelievable plays in great spots. He has saved the Reds from big innings countless times, often stretching the limits of physics to make the out that ends the inning. While you can never say for certain that runs would’ve been scored, it’s no stretch to surmise that Phillips easily saved the Reds 15 to 20 runs in 2012, which probably led to at least seven extra victories. Seven games can be the difference between a division title and especially a wild card slot.
Even when he wasn’t coming up with plays in big spots, he was still making ridiculous plays. Bare-handing double play feeds, ranging to his right beyond second, diving back-turned-to-the-infield to make over-the-shoulder catches and even throwing between his legs to make outs, Phillips has done everything a secondbaseman can do. To get a better idea of what I’m lamely trying to describe, just watch the video below.
Your Eyes Do Not Deceive
After watching this video, it should be obvious why Phillips is the best secondbaseman in baseball. And while Darwin Barney is still relatively young (and will certainly continue to evolve defensively), he is not even in the same class as Phillips. Of course, there’s nothing to be done now that the award has officially been mis-given, but at least you now know who the best secondbaseman is in baseball. Please feel free to pass this along so the rest of America can be duly educated.