As a diehard Red Sox fan, I have to admit I was skeptical of Ben
Cherington spending $13 million per year over three seasons on the Flyin’
Hawaiian this offseason. Shane had been a very solid and above average player in his days with the Philadelphia Phillies (averaging about a 108 wRC+ over 7 seasons).
However, he took a major step down in 2012 with the worst season of his
career. He posted a slash line of .255/.321/.383 with a career low 93 wRC+.
His walk rate was only 8% and he had a career low ISO of .128. At 32 years of age, I
believed he would continue his decline. In Shane’s defense, he did have to move
from hitter friendly Citizens Bank Park to pitcher friendly Dodger Stadium
midway through the season. He was even worse in his time with L.A.
As we sit here entering September of 2013, Shane Victorino has
absolutely proven me wrong. His value to this Boston club has been extremely important and in my opinionoverlooked by many. He is overlooked because a majority of his 2013 value comes from his defense, which leads me to my main question. Is Shane Victorino really the fifth best outfielder in all of baseball for 2013? According to Fangraphs, he is, as they have him listed with a 4.9 WAR. This puts him ahead of some huge names such as Carlos Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, Shin-Soo Choo, Adam Jones, Josh Hamiltion and Justin Upton. Let’s dig a bit deeper into the numbers to analyze further.
I’ll bring up the fun part first…offense. Victorino has no doubt had a tremendous offensive season, batting mainly out of the two spot for John Farrell.
This still holds true even with him only playing in 102 games to this point in the year. According to wRC+, Shane has been an even more productive player than Jacoby Ellsbury, mainly because of a 30 point advantage in SLUG and ISO. One thing that does not go Shane’s way is walk percentage. He’s walking just 5% of the time this year! With that said however, he doesn’t strike out (just 12%). Obviously a few more walks would be beneficial however a player with his kind of speed that doesn’t strike out a lot and puts pressure on defenses can be sufficient. He uses the speed when he’s on first base as well; stealing 18 bags while being caught only 3 times.
There are 22 outfielders that are behind Victorino in WAR, but have a higher wRC+ than Victorino. This is where defense comes into play in a big way. With the all-star Ellsbury already manning centerfield at Fenway, Victorino was asked to play what is in my mind the toughest right field to play in all of baseball. Right field at Fenway is very spacious and includes many different quirks. You have Pesky’s pole, which is just 302 feet away from home plate, which then jets all the way out to the bullpens which are 380 feet away from the plate. The Red Sox lead the American League in triples this season, and that is not all that surprising considering many of them come from looping around the warning track and fence in right field. Shane, however, has been up to the challenge. He currently leads all big league outfielders in defensive runs saved (DRS) with 24. He has just 3 miscues in the outfield to go along with 10 assists. His UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) is astounding this season at 25.4 in right field. Victorino has been able to track down balls that others simply cannot get too. I also believe that John Farrell has an effect on his outfield play, as
the Red Sox have been known for using various shifts in the infield and
outfield. Simply put, more often than not, Victorino is in the perfect position to make a play before the pitch is even thrown.
A majority of viewers pay much more attention to the offense. However, defense plays a big role as well. Limiting the opposition in runs scored due to terrific defensive play can make the difference in whether a team makes the postseason or not. Therefore, with Victorino’s unbelievable defense and terrific offense, he is one of the best outfielders in
all of baseball for 2013.
By: Nick Rabasco