Did the Boston Red Sox just commit three years and $39 million to a platoon-worthy outfielder? ESPN's Keith Law thinks so (subscription required), taking the sox to task for giving Shane Victorino so much coin for his age 32 through 34 seasons:
Shane Victorino's three-year, $39 million contract with the Boston Red Sox vaults to the top of the rankings of the worst contracts signed so far this offseason, giving him virtually the same total dollars that Angel Pagan -- a superior player -- will receive in a contract that's a year longer.
Victorino is a platoon outfielder at this point, and paying him $13 million a year, even with the rapid salary escalation we're seeing this offseason, is mad as pants. His bat speed was noticeably slower in 2012, especially later in the season, and despite being a switch-hitter, he doesn't really hit right-handed pitching.
Law's assessment might be on the harsh side, considering that Victorino's defensive and base running skills still made him an above-average player last season (3.3 Wins Above Replacement) despite a subpar showing at the plate. But Victorino did scuffle against right-handed pitching, with his triple-slash line falling from .271/.333/.456 in 441 plate appearances during the 2011 season to just .230/.295/.332 in 480 PA last year.
Could bat speed be an issue, like Law suggested? Maybe so. Check out Victorino's slugging percentage by pitch location against right-handed fastballs in 2011, and then 2012:
Victorino vs. right-handed fastballs, 2011
Victorino vs. right-handed fastballs, 2012
Victorino slugged .437 against righty fastballs in 2011, above the .412 average for left-handed hitters that year. In 2012, however, Victorino's .268 slugging percentage was dead last among lefty hitters getting at least 100 plate appearances versus righties. He chased and missed more righty fastballs, and his ground ball rate climbed as well:
Victorino vs. right-handed fastballs, 2011-12
|Year||Chase Pct.||Miss Pct.||GB Pct.|
|Avg. for LHB vs. RHP, 2011-12||24.4||14.9||39.4|
Victorino's range and base-running prowess should make him more than a fourth outfielder, even if he continues to get beat by righty fastballs. But for Boston to get more than a marginal return on investment on this deal, the Flyin' Hawaiian needs to show some punch from the left side.