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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Focus on Shane Victorino 

With the free agency period winding down and the Phillies impact in the market basically over – the Phillies aren’t in the mix for Barry Bonds or Barry Zito – the Phillies are basically set for their position players in 2007. In failing to sign Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Lee, and in failing to move Pat Burrell, the Phillies are left with a fairly static outfield situation. They will basically go into the 2007 season with an outfield rotation of Pat Burrell in left, Aaron Rowand in center, Shane Victorino in right, and with Jeff Conine and Chris Roberson on the bench and occasionally filling in.

Last season Shane Victorino got to play a lot. Coming into the ’06 campaign with just seventy At-Bats under his belt (17 with the Phillies in ’05, and 73 with the Padres in ’03), Victorino had 415 in 2006 and appeared as a pinch-hitter or outfielder in 153 games. To give you an idea about his versatility:

Games …
Right Fielder: 21
Left Fielder: 44
Center Fielder: 67
Pinch Hitter: 41
Pinch Runner: 8

With Bobby Abreu gone, with no major free agent having been signed, with Pat Burrell likely to miss stretches of the ’07 season, it seems that the Phillies will rely very, very, very heavily on Shane Victorino. He’ll play a full 162 games in ’07, and if he’s injured, the Phillies are in trouble.

Let’s take a quick look back at Victorino’s 2006 campaign …

… but first a quick detour into Shane’s minor league stats. I am looking at them because there is precious little data to examine with respect to Shane’s MLB career prior to last season. Shane played with the Scranton Wilkes Barre Red Barons in 2005, playing along side such players as Ryan Howard, Chris Coste, and Carlos Ruiz. Shane played well with the Red Barons, hitting .303 GPA with a .224 ISO. Shane legged out an impressive sixteen triples with the Red Barons, and stole 17 bases in 26 tries (65%), showing some speed and a little power with eighteen home runs.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Gross Productive Average (GPA): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.
Runs Created (RC): A stat originally created by Bill James to measure a player’s total contribution to his team’s lineup. Here is the formula: [(H + BB + HBP - CS - GIDP) times ((S * 1.125) + (D * 1.69) + (T * 3.02) + (HR * 3.73) + (.29 * (BB + HBP – IBB)) + (.492 * (SB + SF + SH)) – (.04 * K))] divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH+ SF). If you use ESPN’s version be advised that it is pitifully is out-of-date, however. James adjusted RC after the 2004 season ended.
RC/27: Runs Created per 27 outs, essentially what a team of 9 of this player would score in a hypothetical game.
Zone Rating (ZR): Is a stat which measures a player’s defensive ability by measuring plays they should have made. Admittedly, this is a stat left open to subjective opinions.
Fielding Percentage: (Putouts + Assists) / (Putouts + Assists + Errors). How often the player successfully handled the ball.
Range Factor: (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays.

Elevated to the Phillies to be the fourth outfielder with the departure of Jason Michaels, Victorino stepped into the starting role of center field with the injury to Aaron Rowand, filled in whenever Pat Burrell was injured, and played right field after Bobby Abreu departed. A jack of all trades in the outfield, he was a strong defensive performer. Let’s start by showing you where he played and what percentage of innings he played:

Innings / % of Team Innings
Center Field: 557 / 38%
Right Field: 156 / 11%
Center Field: 101 / 7%
Total: 814 / 56%

How strong a defensive player was Shane? Let’s start by comparing him to Aaron Rowand:

Innings / Putouts / Assists
Rowand: 901 / 251 / 6
Victorino: 557 / 161 / 6

Victorino made more putouts per inning played and remarkably had the same number of assists despite playing 344 fewer innings.

Range Factor / Fielding Percentage
2.57 / .981
Victorino: 2.69 / 1.000

Shane made no errors to Rowand’s five. Shane bettered the league averages in those stats as well (2.58 and .998).

Shane played fewer innings in right and left, but at both he bested the team and league averages for Fielding Percentage and Range Factor:

Range Factor:
Right Field / Left Field

Victorino: 2.37 / 2.14
Phillies: 1.95 / 1.92
N.L.: 2.11 / 1.97

Interestingly, in 814 innings of work Shane Victorino made not a single error. His fielding percentage stats are pristine: 1.000%

Shane has an impressive arm as well: in 846 innings in right field, Bobby Abreu had five assists. In 690 fewer innings, Shane had three. Right field is where teams test a player’s arm, so for Shane to log so many assists it must mean that teams tested his arm and lost several times. I’d be curious to see if The Fielding Bible 2007 stats indicate that Shane had success in holding runners on base.

Offensively, Victorino was less strong. As a Phillie he hit just six home runs, a major power drain for an offense largely predicated by the long-ball. He showed some speed on the base-paths, with eight triples. His base-stealing wasn’t as productive as hoped: four steals in seven tries (57%). He’s got good speed, but not great speed. I don’t see the Phillies expanding their running game in 2007 to incorporate Shane.

At the plate, Victorino had a .259 GPA and .127 ISO, far off the Phillies team averages of .268 and .180. Victorino was only slightly better than the league average for GPA (.257) and still significantly worse than the league ISO (.163). As with Aaron Rowand, the problem with Shane Victorino isn’t that difficult to figure out: he doesn’t work counts, and thus he doesn’t draw walks, and thus he isn’t a consistent threat to get on base for the Phillies. Again, scope out pitches per plate appearance:

Bobby Abreu: 4.5
Pat Burrell: 4.3
Ryan Howard: 4.1
Chase Utley: 4.0
David Dellucci: 4.0
Chris Coste: 3.8
Abraham Nunez: 3.8
David Bell: 3.7
Jimmy Rollins: 3.7
Sal Fasano: 3.6
Carlos Ruiz: 3.5
Jeff Conine: 3.4
Shane Victorino: 3.4
Aaron Rowand: 3.4
Mike Lieberthal: 3.2

No surprise that the Phillies most productive players are at the top of the list, and that the Phillies problems are at the bottom. Certainly, when you compare negatively to Sal Fasano, you are doing something wrong.

The problem (and I know people reading this who read my comments about Aaron Rowand on Monday are probably thinking “change the record!”) is that when a player doesn’t work counts they become an inconsistent threat to get on base because they can go on a cold streak hitting-wise as easily as they can go on a hot streak. Interestingly, Shane probably had a little more success in 2006 then he ought to count on for the future:

Shane’s batting average with balls put into play BA/BIP was .318, better than the league average (.301) and better than the Phillies team average (.305). So was Shane lucky? I suspect that he was slightly, so his ’06 performance might, if not be a career best, it might be better than we ought to expect from Shane, unless he manages to learn to work counts and draw walks.

I like Victorino a lot: his defensive skills are considerable and he's got the tools to be a good offensive player if he just learned to draw more walks. I am happy he's poised to be a big part of the Phillies plans in 2007, because I think he's a real asset to the team. Tomorrow I'll wrap up a quick summary on recent events such as the Phillies decision to deal Gavin Floyd and the recent signings in the free agency market.

Out of curiosity, why do you prefer GPA to EqA? While GPA's a little easier on the eyes, I find EqA to be a more comprehensive stat.
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