Dr. Strangeglove: On Pineapple Express

Posted by Michael Baumann, Tue, July 05, 2011 04:00 PM | Comments: 8
Dr. Strangeglove, Opinion, Posts

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.

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: 2897 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    I’ll admit that….for a lot of the same reasons that you stated……I’m not a huge Victorino fan.


    This year he HAS been impressive …. and had made a believer out of me (sort of). I hope his latest injury isn’t some kind of huge setback.. This offense needs him

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    I am convinced that Shane is having a real good season so far. Digressing a bit, I am curious as to whether Mike is aware that there has already been a Dr. Strangeglove. If so, I think it odd that someone else would write with the moniker. I mean, I wouldn’t write as “The Big Hurt” or “Oil Can Dipsy”. Just sayin’.

    The Dipsy

    • Posts: 33 Michael Baumann

      Avatar of Michael Baumann

      For what it’s worth, Dick Stuart’s nickname was the inspiration for the running title to this column. Since I found it extremely clever, I appropriated it. Also, Stuart has been dead almost nine years, and never (to my knowledge) made much of a name for himself as a writer, so I figured no one would confuse us. I hope this puts the matter to rest.

  • Posts: 0 Tavian

    Dick Stuart was the original “Dr. Strangeglove.” A home run hitter in Pittsburgh, Philly and Boston and one of the the least effective defensive players in the history of baseball. Struart played mostly in the 60′s.

    Shane Victorino is having a fine year. I hope his thumb is ok and he continues to produce offensively. We really need this guy this year. Our offense is very mediocre, at best.

  • Posts: 385 Publius

    Avatar of Publius

    His defense still take more circuitous routes than Magellan though

    • Posts: 2897 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      Nice word…..”circuitous”

  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    As long as he gets to the ball who cares what routes he takes. He can do a somersault just before the catch. I realize his speed will diminish as he ages. Lately he is taking better routes most of the time. His caught stealing isnt too bad perhaps been aggressive at time does cost some Yes he does have the knack to try an hit the ball out of the park an sometimes his head get a little big. He is a product of Cholly teachings perhaps. Do any of the Philly hitters attempt much slap hitting/bunts. There is only on Ichiro an his style of hitting. He has also made some great plays out there on balls that not many would of got to. Cast aside the Pessimism goggles for a second.

    • Posts: 33 Michael Baumann

      Avatar of Michael Baumann

      My frustration with Victorino has never been so much with his performance in a vacuum, but with how he performs based on what I think he’s capable of. By physical skill alone, Victorino is as talented a player in a game, and his popping out when he could beat the ball into the ground and run, or getting caught stealing, is evidence of a flawed approach, whatever the source.
      As far as his outfield defense, I’m with you in that I don’t care how he gets there as long as he catches the ball, but if he took better routes, he’d catch a lot more balls and get more use from his speed.
      With that said, he’s finally come good this season, and I hope he continues to put it together going forward.

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