Shane Victorino, Backbone of Phillies’ Offense

As Paul Boye pointed out in yesterday’s column, the All-Star break is fast approaching. The Phillies must complete six three-game sets before they are able to take that mid-July rest. In the time leading up to the midsummer festivities, the rest of us will start speculating on All-Star snubs. Or, if you’re like me, you will start petitioning for the inclusion of Adam Dunn in the Home Run Derby (even if he hasn’t been so great this year).

Once the All-Star rosters take shape, columnists will start campaigning in favor of the snubs, hoping to help them earn a last-minute online election to their league’s respective roster. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports has already created a list of players he thinks will be snubbed. It’s a fairly comprehensive list, and quite reasonable. The factors that cause a player to be snubbed include the popularity of the team (e.g. Phillies vs. Marlins), the strength of the league at a particular position (e.g. the National League is quite strong at first base), and a player’s individual popularity (e.g. Tommy Hanson vs. Ryan Vogelsong).

One surprising inclusion on Passan’s list was Shane Victorino. Victorino certainly does not suffer from the same environmental detriments since the Phillies are and have been the class of the National League. The Phillies sold out the ballpark at the last home game for the umpteenth time, so they have had fans sending in ballots more than just about everyone else. However, Passan notes that the National League has a glut of worthy outfielders. Currently, 12 NL outfielders have a WAR of 2.0 or more — certainly some worthy names will be left off the roster.

But Victorino? He actually sits with the second-highest WAR (FanGraphs version) in the league at 3.7, just a hair behind Matt Kemp at 3.8. Of course, defensive data goes into WAR, which is less than reliable just 70 or so games into the season. Still, Victorino has the second-highest defensive marks with eight runs added (or saved, if you prefer). The only outfielder with a better mark is Gerardo Parra of the Arizona Diamondbacks at 11.0. Victorino also benefits from the newly-implemented base running runs (which differs from Equivalent Base Running Runs, or EqBRR, from Baseball Prospectus), earning an additional 2.4 runs, or roughly one-fourth of a win.

Then you look at the offensive stats and find the most surprising result of them all: Victorino has the fifth-best weighted on-base average (wOBA) among NL outfielders, at .392. Kemp, Lance Berkman, and Ryan Braun are the clear-cut leaders as all are above .400, but Victorino is not far behind them. Of the components of WAR that he directly controls (a.k.a. not league or positional adjustments), which are batting, fielding, and base running runs, Victorino’s offense accounts for over 58 percent.

Of Phillies with at least 110 plate appearances, only Victorino and Ryan Howard have an above-average OPS+, at 143 and 128 respectively. Per FanGraphs, the Phillies have been below average with -14 batting runs. To say the Phillies’ offense would be stagnant without Victorino would be a huge understatement. The following chart should drive that point home (click to enlarge):

Passan thinks Victorino will be an All-Star snub as voting concludes in the coming weeks. That very well may the case, but it would be unjust. Not only has Victorino been the backbone of the Phillies’ offense, he has been one of the most productive outfielders in the league, and he does it in a plethora of ways: with the bat, with his glove, and with his legs.

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16 comments

  1. Richard

    June 20, 2011 07:57 AM

    Yeah, Victorino has been really good this year. And the offense sure enough was stagnant when he was on the DL. He needs to stay off it the rest of the way.

  2. LTG

    June 20, 2011 08:45 AM

    “Still, Victorino has the highest defensive marks with eight runs added (or saved, if you prefer). The only outfielder with a better mark is Gerardo Parra of the Arizona Diamondbacks at 11.0.”

    It may be that I am groggy but what do those two sentences mean in conjunction? How does Victorino have the highest defensive marks but Parra have a better one? Should “highest” be in the comparative and not the superlative because Victorino there is being compared to Kemp and not the whole NL?

  3. Phil

    June 20, 2011 10:00 AM

    Okay, I’m officially confused by WAR. Victorino was sitting at 3.0 going into Saturday’s game. He raised it to 3.4 after that game. That made sense to me. Now, it’s at 3.7 after an 0/4 game (with some of the worst at bats I’ve seen him have all year (not that it matters)).

    Clearly I’m missing something, because raising your WAR by .3 points after essentially doing nothing seems… odd. Hell, Howard’s WAR is 1.1 and does nothing all the time.

    I guess it could have to do with fielding, but I don’t really remember him making any particularly spectacular plays yesterday.

    Please help me Bill, for I am confused.

  4. Richard Hershberger

    June 20, 2011 10:19 AM

    The problem I have with these discussions is the unstated assumption that the criterion for selection to the all-star game is (or should be) having a good first half season. This seems to me both non-obvious and uninteresting (though better than the “is having a good June” criterion we sometimes see).

    Vote for a declining star several years past his peak and fans of a statistical bent will accuse you of sentimentality at best, if not of uninformed voting for familiar names. But putting players with great careers on the field together seems to me a pretty reasonable interpretation of “all-star”.

    Of course we can also go the other direction. Another reasonable interpretation of “all-star” is “players I might not have noticed, but should”. I fondly recall a column of some years ago bitching about the rule that each team sends at least one player, and how this results in no-name nobodies. The specific example of writer used? A kid named “Jimmy Rollins”.

    My point is that “all-star” is at most very loosely defined. There are many ways it can plausibly be interpreted, and some are more interesting than others. I think there is some value in considering where “had a good first half of the season” falls in there.

  5. SJHaack

    June 20, 2011 11:04 AM

    If he was snubbed this year, it would make up for 2009 when he really had no business being selected in the first place.

  6. Sundar

    June 20, 2011 11:21 AM

    good point by SJHaack

    He deserves a spot, but clearly not as a starter ahead of Matt Kemp.

  7. Richard

    June 20, 2011 11:32 AM

    Phil – the defensive stats are updated on a weekly basis, so that probably explains the odd looking bump — a week’s worth of games were added to the total at once.

  8. KH

    June 20, 2011 11:32 AM

    Thats not really a good point at all. First of all, when baseball decided on the ridiculous charade of the 25th player they signed off on it being nothing but a popularity contest. Second of all, hardly anybody outside of Philly even remembers he made it in 2009. Bruce Bochy and the coaches are not going to remember and snub him because of that. I guess some kind of karmic force is going to work to balance things cosmically and keep Victorino off the all-star team to make up for his undeserving 2009 seclection? Give me a break

  9. Jay

    June 20, 2011 12:42 PM

    Whatever happened to FieldFx replacing UZR for defensive stats? FieldFx seems like it would be a highly accurate defensive measurement which wouldn’t create as volatile fluctuations in small sample sizes. Also, is Ryan Howard an All-Star even with the Pujols injury?

  10. Phil

    June 20, 2011 12:43 PM

    Richard – Gotcha, thanks. That would probably explain it.

  11. SJHaack

    June 20, 2011 12:48 PM

    Jay,

    FieldFX is coming. Hopefully! Hopefully sometime next year.

    Ryan’s currently 7th in raw OPS, and 8th in wOBA among qualifying national league first basemen. I don’t think he’s anywhere near worthy of an All Star spot this year.

    @KH

    The 2009 thing was a joke, and just reinforcing that All Star selections mean basically nothing.

  12. Jesse

    June 20, 2011 01:17 PM

    Don’t the Phillies have six three-game series before the All-Star Break, not five? (at St. Louis, A’s, Red Sox, at Toronto, at Florida, Atlanta)

  13. LTG

    June 20, 2011 09:23 PM

    When do we start betting on the fight? Who’s setting the line? Does anybody have BB’s hook-to-jab ratio?

    Oh, wait, that’s probably just a Family Guy reference.

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