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Why Do Phillies Fans Like Wilson Valdez So Much?

Posted by Michael Baumann, Thu, January 13, 2011 07:01 PM | Comments: 25
Analysis, Opinion, Posts

In April, when Jimmy Rollins went on the DL for an injury sustained while coming out for player introductions at the home opener, the Phillies called up a 32-year-old career minor league journeyman to fill a spot on the bench while Juan Castro deputized for Rollins. This man was such a nonentity that my only reaction was to say “I hear he’s a slick fielder” when I found out his last name: Valdez.

Valdez is the “replacement player” of “wins above replacement player”. Every team has at least one Wilson Valdez: a minor league veteran who, in case of injury, can be called up to fill a hole in the lineup and contribute just enough to keep his manager from wishing he were playing with only eight players in the lineup. In 2010, Valdez did that, plus a little extra, combining outstanding defensive performance with as bad an offensive season as you’d ever want to see. According to FanGraphs, Valdez’s career year resulted in 0.9 wins above replacement, a little better than we could have expected. For comparison, J.J. Hardy (a decent shortstop) posted 2.4 WAR, while Troy Tulowitzki led all major league shortstops with 6.4 WAR. Valdez was 30th in WAR among shortstops with 250 or more plate appearances in 2010; considering the circumstances, that’s certainly worth being happy about.

What I don’t understand is how he became a folk hero. Near the end of the season, I wrote this about Valdez’s historic proclivity to ground into double plays and got more than 100 comments (since lost in the site update last month) questioning my intelligence, motives, and worth as a human being. I later got into a shouting match with a relative stranger at a bar when he suggested that he’d rather have Wilson Valdez come up in a clutch situation than Jayson Werth.  Then, a reader called Inquirer Phillies beat writer Matt Gelb “obtuse” for having the gall suggesting Valdez isn’t a stone cold lock to make the team out of spring training. And apparently that was just the beginning.

I don’t have anything against Wilson Valdez. Phillies prospect Jarred Cosart was taking questions over Twitter the other day, so I asked him, in the light of the attack on Matt Gelb from the Church of Wilson Valdez, for his opinion. His response: “he’s a good defensive player who is just a fill in guy.” Right on: great glove, bad bat, nothing particularly special. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with Valdez as a player (or, as far as I know, as a person), or being a fan of Valdez. But neither is he a special player–Gelb listed, in his article, three other Phillies minor leaguers just like him.

So I pose the question to the public, because I just don’t understand it: Why do Phillies fans have this bizarre fascination with, and love for, Wilson Valdez? It doesn’t make any sense, and I need it explained.

Avatar of Michael Baumann

About Michael Baumann

Michael Baumann has written 229 articles on Phillies Nation.

Michael is a graduate student at Temple University who lost his childlike innocence when, at the age of 6, his dad let him stay up for the end of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Unsettled by the Phillies' recent success, he has threatened over the years to leave the team he loves if they don't start losing again, but has so far been unable to follow through. Michael spent 4 years as an undercover agent in Braves territory at the University of South Carolina, where he covered football and soccer for The Daily Gamecock before moving back up north. He began writing for The Phrontiersman in June 2009 before moving to Phillies Nation in January 2010.

 
 
  • Posts: 14 phillygirl17

    Avatar of phillygirl17

    Oh good, someone asked this question, because I have been for a while.

     
    • Posts: 1 pbstud08

      Avatar of pbstud08

      Here’s why I personally like Wilson Valdez. He played unbelievable defense, arguably better than Rollins. Don’t jump down my throat, I’m not the only one who has said this. When you combine his stellar defense with his .258 average, he could probably be a starting shortstop on some teams.

      He is also extremely versatile. He played games at 3rd, SS, and 2nd, all with exceptional defense. When you think of a career minor leaguer, you don’t think of a guy who plays amazing defense and still hits for .258. So he played well above expectations for him. He also had multiple clutch hits, and at least 1 walk off comes to mind.

      Is Valdez an allstar? No, absolutely not. Is he an amazing bench player who one could argue was the team MVP last year? I think so. Considering that he could have played average defense and hit .200 and nobody would’ve been surprised, I’d say he was a big reason we stayed competitive while we were so banged up.

      http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=10408959
      http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=10414943
      http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=10415159

       
  • Posts: 2 philliesmama

    Avatar of philliesmama

    He came in and played excellent defense… double plays on offense yeah, but others more highly paid never take their bats off their shoulders. He also got himself on base pretty creatively at times to help the team. Leave Valdez alone and start worrying about the big bats that go silent

     
  • Avatar of The Original Chuck P

    Because if we still had the major league baseball equivalent of a punt (AKA the beard), Eric Bruntlett, we would have struggled to make the playoffs. Valdez wasn’t great but he really gave us what we needed – defense, timely hitting and a sense of professionalism (it seemed like he really wanted to do well). I’m not a Valdez fanatic… he is what he is… but he was a very important piece of the puzzle in 2010.

     
  • Posts: 31 Josh

    Avatar of Josh

    I totaly agree. I have been saying all off season that the phills need another inf off the bench that they can place in front of valdez. Someone who can get 200 to 300 plate appearences a year and contribute at a major league level. While valdez’s defence was very good, it is not a skill set that is very hard to find.

     
  • Posts: 222 tavian

    Avatar of tavian

    Valdez never complained, played hard, showed solid defense, had a career offensive year despite double plays and stayed healthy. He was serviceable at a deep, deep discount and it was apparent that he was absolutely delighted to be contributing in the big leagues. He was an underdog and Philly loves an underdog.

     
  • Posts: 2 Rich Wilkins

    Avatar of Rich Wilkins

    Valdez is exactly what you get from a utility guy, and was a huge upgrade on Bruntlett. You’re not going to get starting caliber middle infielders to come back up Utley and Rollins on the free agent market, they can start in Pittsburgh and Kansas City. As for comparing him and Werth, I wouldn’t maybe go so far as saying I’d rather have Valdez up, but he did get timely hits, and Werth, well, sucked in the clutch. I don’t see much reason to try and replace Valdez.

     
  • Posts: 1 John Russo

    And to think, the fans used to HATE him haha.

     
  • Posts: 6 Hyunno Lee

    fans have different expectation for each player respectively. why fans seem to love him? that’s simply because Valdez over-achieved the expectation of his own. he filled in perfectly at least with his superb defense when team needed somebody to step up. Jimmy down, Utley down, Polanco down. who showed up? Valdez was the guy literally saved our season last year. I don’t give a $hit if his number or skills could not reflect his work.

     
  • Posts: 5121 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    I can only speak for myself, but maybe this will help you understand Michael.

    Wilson Valdez did one thing that so many of our players did not this year, he exceeded expectations.

    Did Jimmy Rollins do that? Chase Utley? Ryan Howard? Raul, Shane, Jason? Quite simply, I liked Valdez because he played better than I thought he would.

    I’m not crazy about him, but it was nice to have someone like him to fill in for all the man games lost to injury, and help us lead the Major Leagues in wins.

     
  • Posts: 10 Schmitty

    Avatar of Schmitty

    I also think he became a fan favorite because he was so much better than Juan Castro.

     
    • Posts: 2 fuhs

      Avatar of fuhs

      And Dobbs.
      And Bruntlett

       
  • Posts: 962 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    You can take your GIDP line and with fifty cents get a cup of coffee. He put the bat on the ball, and look at his avg in the 7th inning and after, If i remember correctly he was pretty good along with his obp. I will take a back up guy that plays stellar defense in any infield positiion (out side first base) Versitale does not complain. I will take a great defensive player who grounds into dp in the first six innings then gets a hit in the 8th to tie the game or take a lead or get a rally started or finished. I will take a guy who you know can play D bat him 8th and let him hit .229, over a guy who will make an error a game and hit .300. You have pinch hitters that hit, utility infielders that can play defense at many positions and gets hit in the last three innings. Did you see this him play, and some of you say there are hundreds of guys like him out there, well we got one of them, and he can take should stay how can you hate on the this guy

     
  • Posts: 38 GoPhils

    Avatar of GoPhils

    Of course Jarred Cosart is correct in his description of Valdez. However, I think you have to consider an intangible that he brought. He is a 4A player who last year had the opportunity to play a lot of games for a contending team and who held his own. This is a nice story with which people can sympathize. It similar to the story of Chris Coste, the 33 year old rookie. Mike Sweeney also brought a similar charisma: a guy who played for last place teams his entire career finally gets a chance to play for a contender and plays his heart out. I call this type of story the Rudy type. Its about the little guy finally getting a shot. After all, Wilson was living out of a hotel. When he told his wife, Kami (?), that a fan had greeted him on the street she could not believe it. Also, I think the word “professionalism” does apply. He did whatever Manuel aksed of him, subbing for Polanco, Utley and Rollins or coming off the bench. He even was available to play the outfield. He therefore really was the guy who held the fort down during our many DL stints and therefore is a mini-MVP of the team. In fact, it seems that during our slumps, he was the only guy that was hitting! Also, it seemed that he was playing with a lot of heart. So I think there’s more to Valdez than just his numbers and, though I understand the desire to create competition for his spot, I would also understand letting him keep that spot just because his play has allowed him to put roots down in Philly. From a cold business standpoint, yes, he’s a fill-in. But there’s more to it than that.

     
  • Posts: 1 xplorer007

    Avatar of xplorer007

    I’d argue that, with the possible exception of Chooch, Valdez was our MVP among position players last season. Three of our All-Stars — Rollins, Utley, and Polanco — all lost significant playing time. Versatile Valdez filled in spectacularly for all three. The team never missed a beat when he was in there, especially on defense. And he hit 30 points above his career average to top it off. I’d like to see the comparison of the team’s winning percentage with Valdez in the lineup — playing in place of Rollins, Utley, or Polanco — and without Valdez in the lineup. I’ll bet it’s pretty close. And if he can sub for any of the 3 All-Stars without the team losing any ground, that’s pretty damned impressive….

     
  • Posts: 43 Greg

    Avatar of Greg

    I completely agree with Michael. Valdez filled in admirably, but he wasn’t that good.

    Valdez UZR at Second and third were both below 1, as far as I remember.

    Valdez’s UZR at Short, where he got the majority of playing time, was 4.6. That’s pretty good. Guess what, Jimmy Rollins’ UZR was 12.3 in 2010. He got to three times more balls in play than Valdez. Valdez has a cannon for an arm, but it really isn’t like our Gold Glove everyday Shortstop has a slingshot for one.

    He had a 30.6% chance of getting on-base. That’s dreadfully bad.

    Sure, he filled in well defensively, which was what was expected of him, but he’s nothing more than a Replacement player, as his .9 WAR showed.

    All that being said, I like him. I agree with whomever posted above that he played with a lot of heart, and I thought it was pretty cool that he died his goatee red during the playoffs. I’m glad that a guy like him got to play for us. I wouldn’t mind seeing him back as an Utility guy again, but only if he proves that he can beat the competition (and he does have competition) again.

     
  • Posts: 193 bfo_33

    Avatar of

    Michael, the stat weinie in me agrees 100% – he’s the definition of a replacement player. What makes him a fan favorite is he’s decent at multiple positions (no where near as good as Rollins on 1 leg, but serviceable ), and he makes contact. He also seems like a decent guy – happy to be here, willing to do whatever it takes to help the team.

     
    • Posts: 193 bfo_33

      Avatar of

      The issue I had about gidp post was you were targeting a guy making the minimum where there was another $120M + on the payroll (Doc was beyond reproach last year, could probably say the same about Chooch, every other player on the roster had a down year in at least some aspect of their game). It appeared that you were looking for a fight, and chose to go up against the nerdy kid in corner with the coke bottle glasses, vs the biker dudes right in front of you.

       
  • Posts: 2 phillies34

    Avatar of phillies34

    For the person that thought Wilson was more cluth then J_dub your nuts. Everytime he came up with a runner on first it was almost an automatic double play. the guy can’t hit. but fields like one of the best in the league. i hope he comes back but its going to be tough for him to compete with Martinez at second. sorry Wilson

     
    • Posts: 2 Rich Wilkins

      Avatar of Rich Wilkins

      You’re saying it’s going to be tough for him to compete with a Rule 5 guy from Washington??? I mean, I agree we’re picking between guys who couldn’t hit beach balls, but let’s remind you Martinez isn’t exactly impressive. If you’re not a Valdez fan, you should hope someone else comes along via free agency.

      As for Jay Werth, he sucked in the clutch. If no one was on, he was getting a hit. If someone was on 2nd or 3rd, forget it. Lest we forget:
      http://bleacherreport.com/articles/443754-mlb-history-can-jayson-werths-batting-average-with-risp-be-beat

       
  • Posts: 2 southonbroad

    Avatar of southonbroad

    I think it mostly comes down to timing, selective memory and intangibles. Despite Eric Bruntlett’s unassisted triple play (which I’m sure none of us will ever forget) he’s mostly remembered for having some pretty terrible defensive skills. When compared to Bruntlett, Valdez’s defensive skills make him look like Ozzie Smith. He’s also incredibly quick in the field, and I think some comparisons were made in fans’ heads between the speed of Valdez and the speed of an injured (and aging) Jimmy Rollins. Mind you, I’m not saying those comparisons were valid, just that they were made.

    And finally, I think his antics at the plate were so ridiculous that fans almost couldn’t help but love the guy. Have you ever seen anyone ground into THAT many double plays, and with such consistency? As maddening as it is, you find yourself almost having to laugh at it.

     
  • Posts: 87 Johanna

    Avatar of Johanna

    I think everyone that commented pretty much summed it up regarding Valdez’ skills to fill in where needed and how he exceeded expectations. I also think a large part of it had to do with his attitude. Valdez is a competitor and a true team spirit guy. Phillies fans love that. In regards to attitude, he far surpassed Jayson Werth. Jayson spent the better part of 2010 with a major ‘tude – most likely because Ruben was smart enough not to overpay him. I agree that Valdez is bad at the plate – but I saw some potential. Maybe Charlie could work with him this year like he did with Chooch.

     
  • Posts: 2981 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    UZR. WAR. Who gives a SHT?

    The answers have been provided in the many posts above…..he EXCEEDED expectations. Played MULTIPLE positions. Didn’t complain. On and on…

    Ask yourself this…would you rather have Greg Dobbs, Eric Bruntlett, Cody Ransom or Wilson Valdez?

    Anybody know where I can get a #21 Valdez jersey??

     
  • Posts: 2069 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    Double down Wilson!
    Wilson was really quite adequate with his defense, not outstanding as some are carrying on about. It was his mortar like arm that stood out. When people are (sic) questioning Rollins’ defensive skills vs Wilson – I bet when they break it down its all about the rocket.

    What expectations do any baseball fans have for a replacement player, especially of a fan favorite? Not too high for sure so when he displays an outstanding feature (I remember his first HR at CBP barely making over the left field wall, it was exciting!) – such as that rocket for an arm, it was easy for Wilson to capture our good graces. As a matter of fact, when Jimmy came back at the end of the year, there were (albeit silent) comparisons between the 2 in arm strength. Jimmy did not stand out but did not dissappoint either.

    Remember when Iguchi filled in for Chase in 07? He hit .304, and I dont believe his D was all that bad either. Point is, most of these guys are just that, fill in players. Frankly, like so many of our bench players in the past, I would not be surprised at all to see his name off the roster by next year.

     
 
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