Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Shane Victorino: What to Expect in '07 

Yesterday I talked a little about Shane Victorino’s path to the majors, which included leaving beautiful Maui for the life of a minor-leaguer in rural small towns in America, being subject to a pair of Rule 5 drafts, before finally joining the Phillies and moving in to become the team’s right fielder. Today we are going to talk a little about what to expect from Victorino in 2007. While Victorino has played a little in the majors before – a few games in 2003 as a Padre and a handful as a Phillie in ’05 before basically becoming the team’s right fielder in ’06 – this will be the first time that Victorino starts a season as the team’s starting outfielder and it will be interesting to see how he does as a full-time starter.

What did Victorino do in 2006: he hit .287 with a .346 OBP and a .414 Slugging Percentage. His OPS+ was 92, meaning that he was somewhat below average for an N.L. hitter (100 is average). He hit six home runs, eight triples and 19 doubles. There are thing I like about Victorino that might be of interest to fans and fantasy players: hitting eight triples is a mark of a player with a lot of speed. The Phillies didn’t have Victorino run much in ’06 (seven attempted steals, of which four were successful), but with new First Base coach Davey Lopes on the team, expect the Phillies to send Victorino to second base more often.

What is interesting to me about Victorino’s ’06 campaign was how often he put the ball into play. Of Victorino’s 462 plate appearances in 2006, just 12% ended in strikeouts, well under the major league average of 17%, and better than such Phillies as Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell, etc. Victorino doesn’t draw enough walks for my liking – 24 in 2006 – but he’s a good contact hitter.

I looked at Victorino’s minor league stats and the story is confirmed there:

K / PA
1999 (Rookie): 12%
2000 (Single-A): 16%
2001 (Single-A+): 12%
2002 (Double-A): 9%
2003 (Double-A): 14%

With the Scranton Red Barons Victorino struck-out just 13% of the time. The high percentage of balls put into play meant that Victorino got a lot of hits when they fell. Victorino rode a nice batting average with balls put into play (BABIP) to success in the minors. In Scranton, for example, Victorino’s BABIP was .336, pretty nice. As a result Victorino had 98 Runs Created, or 7.29 per 27 Outs. If he can duplicate that in the majors, he’ll be doing very, very well.

Any predictions about Victorino’s season-line? First, I’d note that The 2007 Bill James Handbook rates Victorino as a “low” risk for sustaining an injury. The Handbook goes on to project Victorino playing in 147 games, hitting .266 with a .319 OBP and a .401 Slugging Percentage. Victorino will steal 11 bases in 17 attempts and hit 12 home runs and eight triples. Interestingly, The Handbook states that Victorino will strikeout just 75 times in 538 At-Bats, which is a pretty nice percentage. I think some of those numbers are going to be low: I think Victorino will hit ten or more triples, and he’ll steal 20-25 bases. I also think he’ll increase his on-base percentage somewhat.

Defensively Victorino is a superstar, something that I don’t think many people have considered or thought about. He had 11 assists playing in the Phillies outfield and his Range Factor numbers were far superior to his teammates and to the league averages for the position. If your league utilizes individual defensive stats (and I don’t know of one that does), Victorino is a keeper.

In the final analysis, Shane Victorino is a player that I am cautiously optimistic about for 2007. Fantasy leaguers, he might make a nice late-round sleeper pick for your team. I expect some good things from him in 2007.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Shane Victorino: Path to the Phillies 

Or: “Lovin’ the Rule Five Draft”

Out of all of the Phillies the one that I have gotten the most questions about from people off the internet by email and from friends and coworkers into fantasy baseball is Shane Patrick Victorino, a.k.a. The Flyin’ Hawaiian. Victorino is a very intruiging player: a defensive genius ideally suited to play center field or right field with his tremendous range and powerful throwing arm, and a raw talent at the plate. Is Victorino a good pickup for your fantasy team? Will he help the Phillies win? Let’s start, today, with a look at how Shane Victorino became a Phillie:

Shane Victorino was born in 1980 in Wailuku, Hawaii, a town on the island of Maui, east of Lahaina, the main town on the island. He grew up there and went to St. Anthony’s High School in Wailuku.

As an aside … anyone who has ever been to Hawaii typically raves about Maui and how gorgeous it is. My wife and I took our Honeymoon to Hawaii in ’04 and loved it. While we both liked Maui over crowded, bustling Oahu, I encourage anyone going to Hawaii to consider going to Kauai, the oldest and most western of the Hawaiian islands. It is quieter and less expensive than Maui, and just as lush and interesting. That said, Maui is absolutely perfect, an ideal vacation / honeymoon spot. If I grew up there, I’d never leave. I guess Victorino really loves baseball …

A talented player, Victorino was selected in the sixth round of the 1999 amateur draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was the 194th overall pick. He went to the Dodgers rookie team in the Pioneer League and appeared in 55 games that season. Victorino hit well enough in 1999, amassing a .335 OBP and a .111 ISO, not bad for minor league ball, when player’s haven’t developed their power stroke. He also displayed some speed, hitting six triples and stealing twenty of twenty-five bases. He performed well enough to be elevated to the Dodgers Single-A affiliate, the Yakima Bears of the Northwest League. Victorino was given a new position – second base – and saw some of his numbers slip: he stole 21 of 30 bases, but only hit two triples and .072 ISO. His OBP declined to .310 … The next several seasons Victorino continued on the long torturous journey through the minor leagues, playing in small towns across the Pacific Northwest, North Carolina and Florida. He was a part of the Dodgers organization from 1999-2002 when the team left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft and he was taken by the San Diego Padres on December 16, 2002.

What’s the Rule 5 draft? It is a little complicated … Basically, to prevent players from being stockpiled on teams, the major leagues decreed that any player not on his team’s 40-man roster can be taken if it has been four or more years since he was drafted. As quickly as that, Victorino found his way to the Padres, where he played sparingly, appearing in 36 games and hitting just .151 (11-for-73) with eight runs scored and four RBIs. As part of the Rule 5 draft a player has to stay on the 25-man roster of the team that drafted him for the entire season. If not, then he’s returned to his original team.

That is what ended up happening in Victorino’s case. He was returned to the Dodgers on May 28, 2003, after his struggles in San Diego and once more reverted to the Dodgers system, going to the Dodgers Southern League (Double-A) affiliate, the Jacksonville Suns, before being promoted to the Las Vegas 51’s, the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate in the famed Pacific Coast League (PCL). Victorino showed major improvement in Jacksonville and Las Vegas. With the Suns Victorino raised his OBP and slugging percentages several points over his stint with the team the previous year. He also hit very well with the 51’s, with a .395 OBP and .585 slugging percentage. After playing with both teams in 2004, Victorino was once more snapped up in the Rule 5 draft, this time by the Phillies on December 13, 2004. The Phillies kept Victorino on the team’s roster briefly before sending him to the Scranton Red Barons for finishing. In ’06 he became a full-time member of the Phillies, filling in at various points as the Phillies fourth outfielder before taking over for Bobby Abreu once he was dealt to the Yankees in late July of ’06.

Tomorrow we’ll delve into Victorino’s potential in 2007 by looking at some of his numbers from the minors and with the Phillies in ’05 & ’06.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Journey North: Are the Phillies Ready? 

Thursday I was watching ESPN’s coverage of last week’s Phillies – Red Sox game from Clearwater when I heard one of the announcers comment that Charlie Manuel was worried that the Phillies were playing sloppy and weren’t focused. As if right on cue, Jimmy Rollins boots a routine ground ball to short and fails to convert the 6-3 put-out. Mentally the Phillies don’t seem to be clicking. Their 9-16 spring training record is pretty meaningless, until you back it up with those observations of the team’s lackadaisical attitude towards the game at the moment.

It doesn’t seem like the Phillies are prepared, mentally, for the long haul of the season ahead. They’ve been sloppy this pre-season. They don’t seem like they are hitting the ball well and there have been a raft of injuries.

1. Freddy Garcia, the Phillies major off-season acquisition, may or may not be prepared to start the season due to a biceps injury. I tend to think that Garcia will be ready to go, but a major injury (or even just a long-term nagging one) to Garcia would be a major blow to the Phillies, who brought Garcia to Philadelphia in exchange for two outstanding pitching prospects, knowing that they were just renting him for the ’07 campaign. This is garcia’s walk year and he’ll probably expect to command millions upon millions of dollars on the open market. Dollars the Phillies cannot match, so they need Garcia to be healthy to justify the price they paid.

Ironically, the likely replacement for Garcia and Adam Eaton, the Phillies other major acquisition, Jon Lieber, is out indefinitely with an abdominal muscle, precluding the Phillies from swinging a deal to ship him somewhere in exchange for a middle relief pitcher.

2. Carlos Ruiz was also suffering from a biceps injury, but is expected back soon. Ruiz uncertain status might be good news for many Chris Coste fans out there in the blogging world: Ruiz’s status might encourage the Phillies to keep Coste with the team when it heads north.

3. Ryan Howard. Disturbingly, the 2006 N.L. MVP has been slumping at the plate recently, going 0-for-17, and apparently losing his temper when he talked with a sports writer. Howard is 12-for-52 this spring with just two home runs. Coming off of a season in which he clubbed 58 home runs, perhaps a little of a let-down was to be expected, but I think that Ryan Howard might be in for a bigger decline than we all anticipated. Between teams pitching around him and the natural regression to the mean, Howard might slump into the 35-40 home run range … If I played major league baseball, I’d be estatic hitting just ten home runs, but Ryan Howard and the Phillies would be very, very disappointed.

The 2007 Bill James Handbook doesn’t see much of a chance for Howard to slump, however: they project Ryan Howard to hit 56 home runs, 148 RBIs and have 167 Runs Created in 2007, basically what he had in 2006 (58, 149, 138). I can’t help but wonder if that is wildly optimistic.

4. Aaron Rowand & Pat Burrell are both really struggling (.169 with a home run, three doubles and eight RBIs, and .178 with a home run, three doubles and seven RBIs, respectively). Burrell I am less worried about: he’s never had a particularly high batting average because he draws a lot of walks. For Rowand, who drew 18 walks in 2006, this is a major, major cause for concern. Rowand could be a major, major anchor on the Phillies offense. Let’s hope his defense makes up for it.

A few weeks ago I was feeling very optimistic as the Phillies broke camp. Best offense in the majors, a revamped pitching staff … this team was primed to contend. Now I look and I wonder if the Phillies pitching will be healthy, and I see major problems with the Phillies 4, 5, & 6 hitters.


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Monday, March 26, 2007

The Journey North: Quick Start 

Time to start thinking about the Phillies opening month of the season. Part of being a Phillies fan is dealing with the anger and frustration you feel watching your team start slowly and find itself battling to make the playoffs. Since moving to Citizens Bank Ballpark in 2004 the Phillies are 30-39 in the month of April, going 10-11, 10-14 and 10-14 the last three seasons. In 2004 they emerged from April in fourth place, four games out; in 2005 the Phillies were dead-last and five games out of first; last season the Phillies were in third-place but were six games behind the Mets already. Slow starts have bred pessimism amongst the fan base and left the Phillies scrambling to catch up to the leaders. If the Phillies can start strong then they’ll be in good position to close the season strong.

The Phillies open the season at home on April 2 with the Atlanta Braves, then get an off day before going again on April 4th and 5th. The Braves series gives the Phillies a nice chance to serve notice on the Bland Empire that they won’t be able to resurrect their 1991-2005 success. Add in the fact that the Phillies were 11-7 against the Braves last season and have had real success over the last several years with them, there is a real possibility for the Phillies to get off to a 2-1 or a 3-0 start to the season. The Opening series will also be an opportunity for Phillies fans to see how dominating the new rotation is: assuming that Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Freddy Garcia will go 1, 2, 3 in the rotation, then we can see if the Phillies starting pitching is going to dominate the division this year, as we hope it will. (We'll also have to see if Garcia is healthy...)

After the Braves the Phillies go on the road to square off with more N.L. East foes, traveling to South Florida to play the Marlins over the weekend and then going to Queens to play the Mets starting April 9th. After an off-day on the 10th, the Mets and Phillies go again April 11th and 12th, before the Phillies head home and start a home-stand.

Again, as with the Braves, the Phillies have an opportunity to gain separation from their N.L. East rivals. The fact that they play N.L. East teams in their first nine games is a real opportunity. The Mets series in New York in particular is important for the Phillies to win, given that the Mets are expected to be the Phillies main rival for the division title.

Heading home the Phillies play the Astros for three games, which ought to be two or three wins, then play a two-set set with the Mets before heading on the road to Washington D.C. to play the Nats and then traveling to Cincinnati to play the Reds. The Phillies close the month with home games against the Nationals and Marlins. Of the Phillies 26 games in April, 20 are against N.L. East teams. This is a unique opportunity for the Phillies to move ahead and capture a lead in the division by defeating rivals.

So the opportunity exists for the Phillies to get out to a quick start.

Let’s talk worst-case scenario: what if the Phillies struggle out of the gate?


Simply put, there is tremendous pressure on this team to succeed. If they don’t I predict that Pat Gillick and the Phillies High Command will fire Charlie Manuel in May and replace him with Davey Lopes in an effort to fire the team up, then if the team doesn’t show immediate improvement, watch Gillick attempt to move Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand to anyone who will take them. Such a shakeup would probably end the Phillies season and leave the team thinking about 2008. So, yes, a quick start is vital for the Phillies.

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