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« Chapman's Starter To-Do List | Main | Bobby Abreu's Lefty Woes »

Five Years for Victorino?

While Cole Hamels deservedly gets press for the potential CC Sabathia-like windfall coming his way following the 2012 season, he's not the only important Phillie eligible soon eligible for free agency. Shane Victorino can shop his services to other clubs after this year, too, though he'd prefer to stay where he is if Philly offers him five years.

A switch-hitter with quality range and a career 81% success rate on the bases, Victorino has plenty going for him. He ranks fifth among MLB center fielders in Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement over the past three years, trailing just Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Michael Bourn and Curtis Granderson. And while he might have wished it coincided with his walk season, Victorino is coming off a career year at the plate: His .491 slugging percentage and 129 OPS+ were both personal bests.

For the former Rule V pick to get five years, he'll have to stay healthy and replicate the greatest offensive performance of his career in 2011. And to do that, he'll have to keep ripping breaking pitches.

Victorino's best season with the bat was the result of his killing breaking pitches that previously gave him heartburn. He slugged .322 against curveballs and sliders in 2009-10, nearly 40 points below the major league average. Here's his in-play slugging percentage vs. breaking stuff over that time, compared to the league average:

Victorino's in-play slugging percentage vs. curveballs and sliders, 2009-10

Average in-play slugging percentage vs. curveballs and sliders, 2009-10

In 2011, though? Victorino slugged .529 against curves and sliders. That placed seventh among qualified MLB hitters, between Matt Holliday and Robinson Cano. Victorino struck with deadly force against breaking stuff thrown belt-high:

 Victorino's in-play slugging percentage vs. curveballs and sliders, 2011

While Victorino battered breaking stuff last year and has ranked among the game's best up-the-middle players in recent years, a team giving him five years would be paying for his decline phase (Victorino will be eligible for agency at age 32) and would have to have some concerns about his durability, as he has served DL stints in each of the past two seasons (thumb and hamstring in 2011, oblique in 2010). To get what he wants, Victorino must avoid getting hurt or letting curves and sliders hurt his offensive line.

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