Shane Victorino’s Strange Season

By Eriq Gardner
By almost any
measure, Shane Victorino has put up a season so far that’s
downright freakish.
The Flyin’ Hawaiian
came into the 2010 season a good bet to be slightly above average in
every major statistical category. Throughout his career, Victorino has
always put the ball into play, striking out just 13 percent of the time.
That’s typically led to a pretty decent batting average (.283 for his
career) and he has buttressed his fantasy value with decent pop (two
straight seasons of double-digit home runs) and excellent speed (61
combined steals in 2008-2009).
This year,
Victorino is slightly off his career batting and speed numbers. He’s
hitting .275 and is on pace for 25 steals, when most people expected at
least 30. 
Then again, we can hardly call
Victorino a disappointment. Right now, he’s slugged 8 HR out of the
ballpark, which gives him two more than teammate Ryan Howard and
puts him on pace for 36. He also has a team-leading 32 RBI and 28 runs
scored, second on the high-powered Phillies offense.
Still, Victorino was drafted as a guy who
could go 12-.290-90-60-30 and right now he’s looking like a
35-.270-110-140-22 player. What in the name of Alfonso Soriano is
going on?
Here’s a graphical look at
Victorino’s season:
victorino1.png
Victorino’s
strikeout rate is up slightly, but he’s been the victim of poor luck
on balls hit in play. Despite possessing ample speed to beat out
infield hits, Victorino’s BABIP sits at .277, where league average
typically hovers around .300. 
His ISO is up,
from .153 to .244, but it appears he’s been the beneficiary of good
luck
in the HR department. Victorino is putting the ball in the air
more, increasing his flyball rate from 33% to 44%, but at the same time,
his fly-ball-to-home-run rate has rocketed from 5.5% to 13.3%.
As
for steals, this depends on one’s viewpoint. His speed indicators –
such as extra-base hits and his stolen base success rate — are all
fairly normal. He’s simply not attempting as many steals as he did in
prior seasons. 
After the Phillies acquired Placido
Polanco
in the off-season, manager Charlie Manuel slotted Victorino
into the seventh position of his batting order — bad luck since that
slot is not known to produce many SB opportunities. But then, Jimmy
Rollins
got injured and in a stroke of good luck for him, Victorino
got time as the leadoff hitter. Victorino actually hit .289 in the
leadoff slot compared to just .161 in the 7th slot, but he didn’t use
his time as Rollins’ replacement at the top of the order to swipe many
bases. Instead, he just knocked one ball after another over the fence.
On
Monday, Rollins was activated from the DL. For one game at least,
Victorino remained in the leadoff spot, with Rollins and his out-making
bat hitting third.

victorino2.png

What can we expect from here on
out?
According to all sensible projections
that adjust for the flukish good and bad luck that Victorino has
been seeing lately, he should be the same batter we expected all along.
(See the graph to the right.) Decent, but not great pop. Good speed.
Nice average. 
Of course, six weeks of very
strange numbers could mean there’s a reasonable chance that Victorino
ends up pushing that highly improbable 20-20 season. Go figure.
For more on
Shane Victorino, check out
 Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits. 

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