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Shane Victorino, Backbone of Phillies’ Offense

Posted By Bill Baer On June 20, 2011 @ 7:44 am In MLB,Philadelphia Phillies,Sabermetrics | 16 Comments

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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