Shane Victorino’s Platoon Splits

In his five years as an everyday player for the Phillies, Shane Victorino has been an enigma. Despite some questionable plate discipline, he’s been a productive hitter. Despite some circuitous routes to fly balls, he’s played above-average defense in the outfield. Despite a career 45-point platoon split (in wOBA), he’s a switch-hitter. Despite being universally hated by fans of baseball’s other 29 teams, he is well-liked by Phillies fans.

Try and figure out Victorino and you’ll be left scratching your head.

There is, however, one group of people that have figured him out. As mentioned, Victorino has a drastic platoon split. Against right-handed pitching over the course of his career, he hit for a .323 wOBA, which is about average. Against left-handers, his career wOBA jumps to .367. By comparison, Ryan Howard finished the 2010 season with a .367 wOBA while Placido Polanco sat at .323. Against LH, Victorino hits like Howard; against RH, he is as impotent as Polanco.

A graphical look at Victorino’s performance by year:

Using the Baseball Analytics database, I found out why there is such a large gap in performance. The heat maps tell the story.

Against left-handers, Victorino has no problem hitting hard and soft stuff alike.

vs. LHP, hard stuff

vs. LHP, soft stuff

When Victorino faces right-handers, however, his performance drops significantly when facing softer stuff.

vs. RHP, hard stuff

vs. RHP, soft stuff

Victorino’s wOBA against soft stuff drops from the 90th percentile against left-handers to the sixth percentile against right-handers. While a lot of it is likely due to his left-handed hitting simply being weaker, right-handed pitchers also did a better job of keeping the ball low and away — a weak spot for almost all hitters.

vs. LHP, soft pitch frequency

vs. RHP, soft pitch frequency

This trend will not cease in 2011. The amount of fastballs Victorino saw dropped each season since 2007, from 67 percent to 64, 62, and finally 57 percent this past season. It would behoove Charlie Manuel to consider batting Victorino lower in the batting order against right-handed starting pitching, and perhaps bat him lead-off against left-handed starters. Victorino’s 45-point wOBA platoon split is significant, and over the course of nearly 3,000 plate appearances, it is certainly reliable information. This is information opposing teams have used and will continue to use. Barring Victorino magically learning how to hit a right-handed breaking ball, Manuel should adjust accordingly.

Leave a Reply

*

14 comments

  1. nik

    October 29, 2010 11:36 AM

    Vic did hit right-handed against a few righties 3/10 1HR.

    I think it could be a good strategy going forward against pitchers who live on the soft stuff. He can still kill a fastball from either side.

  2. Dave

    October 29, 2010 11:39 AM

    Yeah, Vic batted right-handed against Dickey I believe.

  3. Moose

    October 29, 2010 11:49 AM

    You said his wOBA is 367 against lefthanders and then in the next sentence you said he is as impotent as polanco against lefties

  4. Al

    October 29, 2010 11:53 AM

    Yeah, Bill flipped RH/LH in that sentence.

  5. Moose

    October 29, 2010 11:56 AM

    No problem. Thought I forgot how to read for a few seconds

  6. Richard

    October 29, 2010 12:06 PM

    while we know that a manager like Manuel is highly unlikely to use data like this, I do wonder if the coaching staff, or Victorino himself, is nonetheless aware of this hole he has

  7. Scott G

    October 29, 2010 12:18 PM

    I’ve been aware of this split for some time now, and have been questioning it. Does anyone have any insight into the breaking point where he stops switch hitting and just focuses on batting RH. He is clearly better (against LHP anyway) from the right side. He is originally a RHB that decided to switch hit. I think it could be beneficial.

    Honestly not a fan of him at all (fielding or batting) except when he bats RH.

    Nice post, Bill.

  8. Richard

    October 29, 2010 12:49 PM

    I don’t know that it’s obvious that he’d be better batting right-handed only. Presumably he started switch-hitting for a reason. For all we know, he’d be like Bob Dernier chasing that low-and-away breaking ball from RHP…. it’s at least plausible that his Polanco-ness from the left-side actually increases his value over what it would have been otherwise.

    What I mean by my earlier comment is, if coaching is aware that he struggles against the breaking ball batting lefty, and if so, what can be done to address it. (If you were Ryan Howard, say, wouldn’t you try to get all kinds of batting practice reps against left-handed breaking balls?)

  9. JE

    October 29, 2010 04:14 PM

    Could you do something like this for Rollins? I bet his are flipped and he bats batter lefthanded. Maybe Manuel should consider flip flopping Victorino and Rollins between 1st and 6th (or 7th) spots based on lefty/righty starting pitcher.

  10. Scott G

    October 29, 2010 05:14 PM

    Rollins career OPS

    as RHB – .757
    as LHB – .782

    2010 OPS

    as RHB – .773
    as LHB – .657

    As LHB Rollins has a slight edge on Vic, but as a RHB it’s really not even close. Victorino is actually pretty good as RHB vs LHP. I think Victorino should be in more important lineup spots than Rollins regardless.

  11. Dan

    October 30, 2010 10:26 AM

    I wonder if Dom could be taught how to lead off against righties… if only temporarily.

  12. bill

    November 01, 2010 08:25 AM

    Victorino batted righty against I believe Dickey and Wakefield, so it’s not something he does normally.

    Cool post though.

Next ArticleChase Utley and Accountability