Dodgers Get Shane Victorino for Nothing They’ll Miss

Okay, they didn’t actually get him for nothing. To acquire the Phillies center fielder (who will almost certainly play left in LA), the Dodgers gave up 25-year-old reliever Josh Lindblom and enigmatic right-handed pitching prospect Ethan Martin. Reports are that the Dodgers felt comfortable moving Lindblom after acquiring Brandon League from the Mariners last night, but in reality, they should have always been comfortable trading Josh Lindblom for value, because Josh Lindblom is simply not a particularly valuable player.

Over the last two years, Lindblom has thrown 77 innings in the big leagues and posted a 2.91 ERA, so on the surface, he appears to be a good young relief pitcher. In reality, though, there are warning signs everywhere.

Lindblom is an extreme fly ball pitcher, as only 69 of his 141 career balls in play (34.3%) have been hit on the ground. Not surprisingly, that has translated into a bit of a home run problem, as he’s given up 1.05 HR/9, a bit above the league average for NL relievers. But, HR-prone fly ball guys can still be good relievers as long as they pound the strike zone and miss a lot of bats.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, Lindblom has been essentially average at those two things as well. His 9.0% BB%/22.7% K% are just barely ahead of the average marks for an NL reliever (9.2 BB%/21.7% K%), and are supported by the underlying numbers as well — he throws an average number of strikes and gets an average amount of contact.

Toss in the significant career platoon split (.244 wOBA allowed to RHBs, .360 wOBA to LHBs), and Lindblom essentially profiles as a decent situational middle reliever. This is basically the same skillset the Dodgers got in Brandon League, so their bullpen won’t take much of a hit at all in this series of moves.

While the Phillies were unlikely to retain Victorino beyond this season and may not have wanted to risk making him a $12 million qualifying offer to get draft pick compensation if he signed elsewhere, getting an okay reliever and a prospect who is probably a reliever is still an underwhelming haul for one of the better position players to change places this summer. Victorino isn’t having the same kind of All-Star season he had a year ago, but his high contact/gap power/great baserunning/good defense package is still quite valuable. Even without as much power as he showed a year ago, he’s at +2.1 WAR in 431 plate appearances. Average hitters who do everything else well are nifty pieces, and the Dodgers just got a big upgrade in left field without having to give up much to get it.

Victorino replaces a black hole of a job share in left field, pushing Bobby Abreu and Tony Gwynn back to the bench where they belong. Given that he’s also replacing guys who were offering no production, this trade has the potential to offer the same kind of upgrade as last week’s Hanley Ramirez acquisition. The Dodgers have to be thrilled that they could solve their left field issues at this kind of low price, and they continue to put pressure on the Giants to make a counter if they want to keep pace in the NL West. This new Dodgers roster is a lot better than the one they were running out there two weeks ago.

For the Phillies, you can understand why they made this deal, assuming they weren’t going to give Victorino a qualifying offer in order to get draft pick compensation, but getting a bad command fly ball reliever and a bad command fly ball pitching prospect is not exactly a huge return. The Dodgers have to be pleased with how the last few weeks have gone, and if they add Ryan Dempster this afternoon, they might just be the big trade deadline winners.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

43 Responses to “Dodgers Get Shane Victorino for Nothing They’ll Miss”

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  1. ian says:

    are we comfortable labeling Lindblom an extreme fly ball pitcher based on 141 balls in play? (I don’t know, I’m asking.)


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    • suicide squeeze says:

      200 batters faced is when GB/FB stabilizes (only has to be regressed 50%). He’s over 300 BF for his career, so it should be a reasonable approximation of his true talent.

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      • ian says:

        thanks for that.

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      • gweedoh565 says:


        Have you seen Russell Carleton’s article last week up at BP ($) re: assumptions in the stat-stabilization studies? Very interesting- he basically points out that “true talent” is a moving target and that folks overuse his stat-stabilization figures in the context of how a player will perform from here to eternity.

        (not meant to criticize your post, just thought it was interesting and relevant!)

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      • vivalajeter says:

        gweedoh, I hadn’t read that article – but I’ve always thought it was silly the way people referenced that data, as if it’s fool-proof. Yeah, certain metrics might stabilize in 100 at bats on average, but that doesn’t mean you can look at 100 at bats for every player and say “it’s stabilized!”. Interesting that the author thinks it’s misapplied too.

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      • suicide squeeze says:


        Thanks for the info. I would definitely agree with the conclusion as you state it. I think the main thing is just to drum into people’s heads what stabilization means in the context of baseball stats.

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  2. jmb4028 says:

    Fair points, though I think you are a bit low on both of these guys.

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  3. James Fayleez says:

    141 pitches? That’s your sample size for this article?


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    • No says:

      141 balls in play, not pitches.

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    • suicide squeeze says:

      See my post higher up. GB%, GB/FB, etc stabilize pretty quickly. It’s one of those things where you can draw conclusions from small samples of data.

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      • James Fayleez says:

        OF COURSE YOU CAN DRAW CONCLUSIONS. It needs “to stablize pretty quickly” to support your point.

        This guy has pitched 77 innings in 2 seasons and you already have as a bum?

        C’mon. The sample size is too small.

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      • suicide squeeze says:

        I’m not saying he’s a bum. Just that we can be reasonably certain that he’s a FB pitcher. Plenty of great pitchers are FB pitchers.

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  4. MLB Critic says:

    “…and they continue to put pressure on the Giants to make a counter if they want to keep pace in the NL West.”

    This puts pressure on the Giants to acquire offense…Hunter Pence. This increased pressure will hopefully make the Giants overpay for Hunter.

    I like this move by Ruben Amaro.

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    • ralph says:

      Apparently I should have refreshed before posting my comment. I do wonder if that sort of discussion took place in the Phillies front office.

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    • Baltar says:

      Unofficially, the Giants have already overpaid for Hunter Pence. They have given up bright catching prospect Tommy Joseph for the 0.5 improvement in WAR that ZIPS projects for Pence (0.9) over incumbents Schierholtz (0.4) and Blanco (0.4) for the rest of the season.
      Shades of Wheeler for Beltran.
      (Fair disclosure: Pence apparently has another year on his contract at market rates.)

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    • fergie348 says:

      It looks like Pence for Joseph, Schierholtz and minor league pitcher Seth Rosin. Plus cash. So, if you thought Pence for Joseph was an overpay then Ruben gets paid some more..

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  5. bflaff says:

    I like the sleight of hand that takes Lindblom from a reliever with *slightly* better than average walk and K rates (4th paragraph) to a “bad command flyball pitcher” in the final paragraph.

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  6. ralph says:

    The thought that this puts increased pressure on the Giants to make a move might actually reflect a side benefit for the Phillies. It could make the Giants a little more willing to give up a decent return for Pence.

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  7. Tom says:

    Just 2 years ago Hulet ranked these two as the Dodgers #2 and #4 prospects

    and the Phils got them for a CF about to hit FA having the worst season of his career. The Phils won’t miss Vic (or anyone) the rest of this season.

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    • vivalajeter says:

      I know virtually nothing about either prospect, but 2 years is a long time ago when it comes to prospect ratings. A lot of prospects rise or fall quickly, and things can especially change when we’re talking about a low-A prospect. Heck, at the time of those rankings, Jason Bay was a legit ballplayer!

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  8. Dirck says:

    Something is wrong with your numbers on Lindblom’s ground balls ,69 out of 141 is not 34.3 % .

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    • Jim Lahey says:

      ya, Dave where did 141 come from? I can’t figure out a way to add anything on his page to get that. 201 balls in play by my count..

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    • Michael F. says:

      I was going to say…

      I can’t even find the simple typo that gives any of those numbers creedence.

      Of course I’m motivated enough to do that but not to look at his stat page.

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    • ppabich says:

      yeah, I don’t know where the 141 comes from. His ground ball rate is definately 34.3% but I added up his LDs, GBs and FBs and got 201 batted balls.

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  9. ramsey says:

    A big factor in evaluating this trade is how much of Vic’s salary this year the Dodgers took on. The Phils are really trying to avoid the luxury tax.

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    • ccoop says:

      when/how are luxury tax calculations made?

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      • joe says:

        the Luxury Tax is nothing more than a smoke screen because the value of the franchise is were the owners make their money. Recently, the cable networks have gotten involved and dramatically increased in the value of their franchise depending on how the team uses it (Everyone wishes they are the Yankees, but there are basically two systems. The first one is one the Phillies use, and keep the ad revenue for themselves. The second, is to outsource your rights, a good example are the home games shown on Local Fox Affiliates.)

        An equity stake in a regional sports network because is huge because there are two revenue streams (cable fees and advertising revenue). “Aggregate cable television revenue for baseball’s 30 teams has increased to $923 million from $328 million over the past 10 years.” – see link at the bottom.

        ust to begin with, here are some facts that were found on Forbes Business Journal, link is at the bottom of the page. the overall value increased almost 20% from $575 to $723 million, which is the 5th highest in all of MLB. In 2003, before moving into CBP, they were only worth $240 million. Over the last 9 seasons, they increased their value by roughly 300%. The purpose of the rest of this post is to point out that Payroll and Luxury Tax are basically meaningless when compared to growing the value of the overall Franchise.

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  10. Dirck says:

    Also , you certainly give Ethan Martin short shrift by dismissing him as an “enigmatic pitching prospect” and not saying another word about him . Ethan Martin was the 15th OVERALL pick in the 2008 draft . He is currently in AA where he has a 3.68 ERA . Over his minor league career ,he has averaged more than 9 K per 9 innings and has given up less than a hit per inning . His big shortcoming is control ,he has averaged about 5 walks per 9 innings .

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    • ecp says:

      Yeah, I was wondering why Martin was merely mentioned in passing. He was a HUGE prospect when he was drafted, but still very new to pitching, and could very well wind up the key to the deal if the Phillies can help him get it figured out. Irresponsible and lazy to dismiss him as if he was a throw-in.

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  11. baty says:

    Ethan Martin could be a guy you miss.

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  12. Fletch says:

    Looks like Victorino might stay in center with Kemp moving to left field:

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  13. Nathan says:

    Could someone refresh my memory… how do compensation picks work now? Are the Dodgers eligible to get a compensation pick if they don’t retain Victorino?

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  14. Dave S says:

    As a Phils fan, I’ll will miss Victorino, but can’t deny that this trade (and the others to follow) simply needed to happen.

    I think Amaro and Uncle Charlie stood by the troops for as long as possible (too long?)… and the results spoke for themselves.

    Time to shake things up!

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  15. JoeDE says:

    OMG, Dave Cameron was disingenious and dismissive of something involving the Phillies. WHAT A SURPRISE! Seriously, the moment I saw this articale was written by Cameron, I knew it was going to be a hatchet piece.

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  16. stumanji says:

    The worst part about this trade is that now I need to go drop a hundo on a new Phils jersey.

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    • otxis says:

      hilariously true. i squeezed the last bit of value out of mine–wore it out monday and today.

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    • ppabich says:

      Go to Michaels or some sort of craft store and they should sell a tool that removes stitching. It takes a while but you should be able to knock it out while watching a game. And there has to be someone in your area that does custom stitching. Luckily for you the Phills don’t have triple stitching like the Brewers.

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    • hk says:

      I would keep the jersey for now as I would not be surprised to see the Phillies re-sign Victorino as a free agent in the off-season.

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  17. razor says:

    Agree on Ethan Martin and it is short-sighted of Cameron. The ironic potential proof of that is none other than Shane Victorino himself, whom Philly picked up via the Rule V draft years ago. Then they signed Jayson Werth off the scrap heap and before you knew it they had 2/3rd’s of their outfield and a half decade run of excellence. Both were former Dodgers.

    Maybe Martin doesn’t work out but he is unquestionably the reason Philly made the deal. Regarded as among the better HS prospects around in 2008. A lot of scouts viewed him as a better 3B prospect. Blew a knee out and missed a year of development. Stranger things have happened than Martin turning a corner…and Philly has turned Dodger rejects around before.

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