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March 12, 2014

Pebble Hunting

The Complicated Decline of Brandon Phillips

by Sam Miller


Brandon Phillips is declining. Around 13 years ago, his lung capacity began decreasing, and in another couple decades it will be half what it was when he was 20. He's losing neurons in his brain—up to 10,000 per day. Around the age of 30, his major organs began to lose function, and his muscles began to lose mass. His maximum attainable heart rate is dropping by a beat per year, and his capacity to pump blood is shrinking, too. The first symptoms of mild-moderate cognitive impairment often start around this time, slowing his brain's processing speed and affecting memory and attention.

Also, his slugging and on-base percentages last year were each career-lows (for a full season). He dipped from 3.8 wins in 2012 to 1.6 last year. And so, here’s Brandon Phillips, declining, and now declining to speak to the media who have pointed out his decline. “How the [expletive] am I declining?” he asked. At first blush, this is a pretty good example of what Joe Sheehan identified about baseball players in 2008:

The skills required to be one of the very best baseball players in the world have very little to do with the skills required to evaluate the performance and the value of baseball players.... Baseball players are not selected for their ability to understand the game at a macro level, but their ability to play it on a micro level.

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Related Content:  Decline,  Brandon Phillips

13 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Scott D. Simon

Bravo

Mar 12, 2014 03:51 AM
rating: 5
 
msloftus

Well done Sam!

Mar 12, 2014 08:31 AM
rating: 1
 
McCannon

Great article. The ending paragraphs are especially well written.

Mar 12, 2014 10:51 AM
rating: 3
 
ofMontreal

This is a beautiful piece Sam. That Ira Glass quote must have really hit you, I admit it surprised me. As a creative type, I'd never given him credit as such, even tho he did (re)invent a genre. Those RadioLab guys should be paying him royalties. ;-)

Mar 12, 2014 12:31 PM
rating: 1
 
RedsManRick

Every single baseball fan should have to read this piece. Well done.

Mar 12, 2014 15:33 PM
rating: 1
 
garciamckinley

This is surely the best thing I've read this week.

Mar 12, 2014 15:45 PM
rating: 0
 
Ogremace

Very nice.

But seriously Phillips is pretty funny.

Mar 12, 2014 17:44 PM
rating: 0
 
nyyfaninlaaland

Just fantastic!

Mar 12, 2014 17:58 PM
rating: 0
 
Grasul

Agreed, flag this one to be reprinted in upcoming years during the slow winter months; great article.

Mar 12, 2014 19:34 PM
rating: 0
 
SEIBERT

Let's not get carried away here. Phillips and Pujols aren't in their teens anymore but they're also not getting ready to file for Social Security either.

Phillips, in particular, wasn't exactly *that* far off a typical season in terms of WAR, OPS+, or however else you choose to measure him. At some point he definitely will be in decline but I see nothing to definitively say that's now as opposed to just a slightly worse then usual season.

Mar 12, 2014 21:01 PM
rating: 0
 
jnossal

Just wondering what the GDP graph would look like if you ran it out to 2013.

Mar 13, 2014 07:33 AM
rating: 0
 
doncoffin
(422)

Old Russian proverb: "We begin to die on the day we are born." So it's all downhill from the beginning...

Mar 13, 2014 10:18 AM
rating: 1
 
doncoffin
(422)

I can't post it here, but you can see a 1929-2013 graph here:
http://signsofchaos.blogspot.com/2014/03/annual-real-gdp-1929-2013.html

Mar 13, 2014 10:27 AM
rating: 0
 
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The Art and Science of... (03/12)
<< Previous Column
Pebble Hunting: Billy ... (03/07)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: Soundi... (03/14)
Next Article >>
The Lineup Card: 11 of... (03/12)

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