For the Phillies Nation news report on Shane Victorino’s injury, click here.
Dear Shane Victorino,
I think I owe you an apology. I’ve got a lot of rage in this tiny little heart of mine, and a lot of it tends to be directed at ballplayers. For a long time, I’ve championed the cause of Cole Hamels because he was a lot better than the average fan seemed to think, and I’ve spent countless hours trying to convince anyone who would listen that Wilson Valdez was nowhere near the player they thought he was.
So Shane, while I’ve never really thought you were a bad ballplayer, I certainly thought that you made so many running catches not because you had the defensive ability of a young Andruw Jones, but because you would spend several seconds after the crack of the bat running aimlessly in circles almost at random, like a golden retriever chasing a frisbee. I thought your overaggressive approach at the plate was compounded by a stubborn insistence on trying to knock the ball out of the park, rather than beating the ball into the ground and running, the way Ichiro would. I thought your speed, perhaps unmatched in the game, was wasted by your rank inability to read pitchers on the basepaths, as you racked up the caught-stealing totals while Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, and Chase Utley seemingly (and sometimes literally) went years without being caught.
I’ve always thought you were a decent ballplayer, if not a star, and I’ve caught a lot of flack for standing by that opinion. Like this time. And this time. And while I’m not quite ready to take back everything I’ve said, I will say this: I’m sorry, Shane, because you’ve been great this year.
By any measure, the Phillies’ center fielder has been their best position player this season, and by far. All of a sudden, the very same statistics that had proved how overrated Victorino was are singing his praises. In only 68 games, Victorino has amassed 4.4 WAR by FanGraphs and 3.3 by Baseball Reference, twice the next-highest total for a Phillies position player, Jimmy Rollins, and within a few tenths of a WAR of his career high only halfway into the season. The short, stubby Victorino now has a higher slugging percentage than Chase Utley or Ryan Howard, and the ordinarily slap-happy Victorino has a higher OBP than Carlos Ruiz. Victorino’s .399 wOBA is 13th in major league baseball, in the neighborhood of such well-regarded power/speed/on-base threats as Andrew McCutchen, Curtis Granderson, and Justin Upton.
So, Shane, as you can see, I am convinced. It might not be a true transformation, and it might not last, particularly with the way you hurt your thumb last weekend, but I think you deserve more credit than you’ve gotten for being the rock upon which the Phillies’ offense has been built this season. I thank you, and I’m sorry I ever doubted you.