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Entries in Shane Victorino (4)
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.
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:
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:
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.