WS Coverage: Victorino Playing Through Pain

In the first inning of Game 5, Shane Victorino was hit in the hand with a pitch as he squared to bunt. Victorino showed signs that the hand was bothering him. Of course, with the machismo culture of sports as it is, Victorino sucked it up and played through the 8th inning, when the Phillies had a comfortable enough lead to replace him. This brings up one of my personal favorite questions regarding the world of baseball, and in fact all sport. Does leaving Victorino in actually help the Phillies?

The process of answering this question is quite simple. We need to look at what the gap in production between a Phillies team with a healthy Victorino and a Phillies team without him.

The obvious replacement is Ben Francisco, as there’s no way that Matt Stairs sees any time in the outfield. The first defensive alignment is to just put Francisco in CF, where he is a -15 UZR/150 in a tiny sample size, but that seems close to where his -2.2 UZR in LF would place him given positional adjustments, a 10 run difference between LF and CF.

The other alignment is to move Werth to CF and play Francisco in RF. Francisco does have experience in RF, and played at a similar level to in RF. Werth is a fantastic outfielder, and by all accounts, he could handle playing CF and play it very well. His +15.4 UZR/150 in RF translates to roughly a +5 UZR in CF. It’s not a perfect estimate, but it works for the exercise here.

So you’re either replacing a +5 CF in Victorino with another +5 CF in Werth and then losing roughly 20 runs between Werth and Francisco in RF, or you lose roughly 20 runs between Victorino and Francisco in CF. Either way, it’s a 20 run difference over 150 games, or .13 runs per game.

At the plate, the loss is much, much lower. Francisco has a career wOBA of .337, which lines up perfectly with his numbes from 2008 and 2009. Victorino has been in the .350-.355 range since 2007. His .354 wOBA from 2009 will serve as a good estimate. Then, over four PAs remaining in the game, the Phillies lose roughly .06 runs. Over five, they lose about .07. For the sake of argument, we’ll take the biggest difference here, .07. Then we have the switch from Victorino to Francisco as a .2 run difference in Game 6.

The question that we can’t answer is the impact that Victorino’s injury has on his performance. Seeing him throw gingerly in the outfield and shake his hand after a later at-bat makes me question if he was at 100%. Is he a .320 wOBA hitter after the injury? Lower? Does he lose a good chunk of his throwing ability? Of course, I can’t answer these questions. I do, however, think it’s fair to say that there’s uncertainty here. If his hand is really bothering him and keeping him from playing to the best of his ability, Victorino should help his team and take himself out, instead of valuing machismo over all else.




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48 Responses to “WS Coverage: Victorino Playing Through Pain”

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  1. Tom B says:

    it’s a damn shame he had to get hurt, but it was a foul ball.

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  2. neuter_your_dogma says:

    If Victorino can’t go, can the Phillies put Mayberry in LF or RF for this game, moving Werth to center? He is on the 40-man roster, and a RH bat that can field a little.

    I would also move Utley up to 2nd in the order, followed by Werth at 3.

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    • The A Team says:

      The batting order switch is something I would have done all season. It baffles me that the Phillies use two OBP sinks at the top of the lineup. It allows hitters 3-6 to be a terrifying matchup, but at the cost of potential ab’s to Werth and Ibanez. As the best RH hitter on the team, Werth should be getting more opportunities.

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      • don says:

        Victorino had a .358 OBP this year, and .352 last year. They have better options, but he doesn’t make outs like Rollins.

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      • Joe R says:

        It’s amazing how managers can just continue to neglect obvious things like this.

        Victorino’s okay, he’s sporting a .351 OBP since becoming a full time player.

        But I don’t see why you wouldn’t consider a lineup of Werth / Utley / Howard / Ibanez as the first four. Why is giving your best hitters the most PA’s such a novel concept to so many people in the game? That’s a healthy 127 or more in OPS+ from all 4 (btw, EIGHT of the Yankee starters in 2009 had an OPS+ of 123 or more).

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      • The A Team says:

        I’ve had some long arguments about the top of the lineup. Victorino is not a perfect leadoff man but he’d be an improvement to Rollins who could put his slugging to good use in the 6 hole.

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      • Christian Seehausen says:

        Speed is a factor too, not just OBP, which is why Rollins and Victorino bat first, actually. Whether the gains on the basepaths outweigh the gains at the plate is the question.

        Of course, both of their base stealing ability is down this year versus last, and Jayson Werth is no slouch on the basepaths. I’d probably do something like this:

        1. Victorino
        2. Werth
        3. Utley
        4. Howard
        5. Ibanez
        6. Rollins
        7. Ruiz
        8. Feliz

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      • Joe R says:

        Honestly, I would think speed is more important at the bottom of the lineup, putting a base stealer in the 6th or 7th hole to run his way into scoring position instead of 1st or 2nd hole where guys hitting behind him can drive in him from first anyway seems to make sense. It seems like the only reason to bat a guy leadoff solely for speed is to maximize his chances to run.

        I would personally do:
        1) Werth
        2) Utley
        3) Howard
        4) Ibanez
        5) Victorino
        6) Ruiz
        7) Rollins
        8) Francisco
        9) Feliz

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      • Joe R says:

        Actually flip Feliz and Francisco. Francisco would turn the lineup over to the good hitters better.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Utley, Howard, then Ibanez? Three big lefty bats in a row? Sending in a lefty specialist at the end of the game could be devastating.

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      • Joe R says:

        FWIW Utley’s career lefty – righty split is very small (just 32 points of OPS, and actually has a higher OBP v. lefties).

        And I know saves are stupid, but 10 of the top 11 in saves in 2009 were righties. The lefty in the group? Brian Fuentes.

        For a less stupid stat, 7 of the top 10 relievers in WPA (and most, if not all the top 5) were righties.

        And it’s not like that’s locked in stone, if a team has a lethal lefty relief ace, you can always go Utley – Victorino – Howard – Werth – Ibanez. Even though given Utley’s platoon split, I think you can just flip Howard and him and be ok.

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    • Joe R says:

      You really want a guy with 60 career major league PA’s and a .331 minor league OBP starting an elimination game if Victorino can’t go?

      I’d take my shot on the proven serviceable Francisco.

      And the lineup, well, Take this with a grain of salt

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      • don says:

        Francisco will be in the lineup anyway against a lefty in Yankee Stadium pushing Ibanez to DH. If Victorino can’t play, they need to add someone else too. Mayberry isn’t a great, but what options for a 5th outfielder really are?

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      • Joe R says:

        Right, I forgot about DH.

        Honestly, though, I’d still rather DH Stairs over Mayberry. With all the boppers on the Philly team, they’d be much better off DHing a stable hitter who can get on base via the walk over putting Mayberry in there and hoping he sees a hanger.

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      • neuter_your_dogma says:

        My thought was Mayberry plays the field in place of Ibanez. Keep Stairs on the bench against the lefty pitcher.

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      • Joe R says:

        Yuck. I wouldn’t like that roster move if I were a Phils fan.

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  3. Rick says:

    This is one of those circumstances where you have to manage to the downside. The Phillies don’t have the luxury of simming 100 games to find out just how hurt his hand is. What they do have is a must-win game. The difference between any two of those players, given an average level of performance isn’t likely to be the difference in the game. But what if Victorino can’t throw the ball properly and commits an error? At that point, I don’t want an unknown quantity running around CF. I make the switch.

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    • Jack Moore says:

      This is a pretty good summary of what I think too. Thanks.

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      • Joe R says:

        And of course, Victorino is the Phils only real CF. Statistically, it looks like Werth can slide over, but we said that about Ellsbury and look how his FRAA and UZR turned out, and he is a natural CF. If I’m the Phillies, there isn’t a dollar I don’t spend right now getting that hand checked out.

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  4. Joe R says:

    1) Francisco was better than I thought in Philly in a SSS. Wasn’t much for walking, but nice SLG.
    2) Maybe now Charlie Manuel will learn something…DON’T BUNT IN THE FIRST INNING. Wait, this is the guy who still bats Jimmy Rollins leadoff? Okay never mind.

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    • neuter_your_dogma says:

      I am not convinced it was Charlie telling Victorino to bunt. I mean, he put Stairs on the plate and let him swing away in the 8th when a bunt seemed more reasonable, although possibly statistically not the best play. Result – doubleplay.

      Victorino has many times attempted drag bunts from the left side for hits. So let’s not blame Charlie until we know he called for the bunt.

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      • Joe R says:

        True.
        But it’s fun to bash managers and their, um, questionable moves. It’s one thing to have to make an in game decision and be wrong, but it’s totally another thing to do things like bat Rollins leadoff despite his OBP. Truly Dusty-esque.

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      • The A Team says:

        However the decision to bat Rollins leadoff is defensible (albeit barely so) using past data. Charlie believes firmly in regression to the mean even if he has no idea that he does.

        Dusty has no such excuse with Taveras.

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      • The A Team says:

        And last time I checked Rollins has been reaching base lately…

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      • Joe R says:

        Rollins OBP by month:
        .241
        .289
        .206
        .385
        .294
        .320

        Postseason: .328.

        Is .320′s acceptable for an excellent fielding player w/ pop in his bat? Sure. Just don’t leadoff with him. His career # is .329, his career best is .349. I think Rollins is a very good player, but that’s an obvious flaw and he should not be leading off. Especially since he has the baseball version of Dran-O batting behind him in Utley, Howard, Werth, and Ibanez (143 HR between then, combined HR rate of 5.43%).

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        Rollins also has a .253 BABIP and makes a lot of contact, so his average is low at least partly due to ‘luck’. Rollins’ OBP is tied directly to his average. However, I don’t think anyone should be expecting someone with his skill set to continue to sport such a low BABIP. He does still have a 6.8 speed score.

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      • Joe R says:

        Right, lady luck crapped on Rollins this season.
        His career BABIP is .293. He was close to that number in 2007 and 2008, and sported a league average OBP. Obviously from a great base runner, good power, and great defense, league average OBP is very, very valuable, and you can pretty much peg him to be a +5 to +6 WAR guy. But his skill set just does not translate to being a leadoff hitter. He’s led the NL in outs made 2 of the last 3 seasons, and in 2006, he was 2nd. This decade, he’s 3rd in outs made. Obviously that’s a by-product of being an average OBP’r and good enough in his other skill sets to warrant all that playing time, but it’s still not exactly a stat you want to rank that high in.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        It also might have something to do with leading the league in plate appearances twice and coming in third the other time.

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      • pounded clown says:

        he’s also been struggling at the plate…instead of a pop up, dp, or strike out, a bunt would at least be a productive out .Also if Rollins was going to steal it impedes the view of the catcher for a split second….I thought it was a good idea esp. with the offensive lineman behind the plate.

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      • Joe R says:

        I said that, David.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        No, Joe, you said that he lead the league in outs. I said he lead the league in PA’s. That those two mirror each other kind of makes sense.

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      • Joe R says:

        “Obviously that’s a by-product of being an average OBP’r and good enough in his other skill sets to warrant all that playing time, but it’s still not exactly a stat you want to rank that high in.”

        Not sure how else that’s supposed to be interpreted…

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        all that playing time != leading the league in PA’s

        A lot of players warrant a lot of player time, but that doesn’t equate to leading the league in PA’s.

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  5. Gilbert says:

    Most of the posts are correctly looking ahead about what to do in the next game. The article seemed to be about whether it would be better to take him out of the game, without adding that in an NL park you are also removing one possible PH by putting in a defensive sub. The chance of a weaker throw being a difference-maker might be equal to that of a rangier outfielder making a catch, and trading a hit into an out is probably more valuable than stopping a baserunner from advancing to 2nd, but not as much as keeping him at 3rd instead of trying to score. But when Francisco did go into CF, the TV guys thought he didn’t make a good throw on A-Rod.

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  6. DavidCEisen says:

    I’m slightly confused, because it seems that the conclusion of this article is that it doesn’t matter how you line up your outfielders defensively. Following the logic outlined above, switching a CFer and a RF will result in the CF being 10 runs better defensively and the RFer being 10 runs worse–meaning there is no net difference. What am I missing?

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  7. Alireza says:

    Personally, without Victorino in there, only should at least give consideration to leading off with Utley. He has the speed and OBP to do it and you break up the lefties by then batting Werth second. I know Ibanez killed lefties this year, but his career numbers are better against RHP and Howard is stomach churning against same-handed pitchers. A strong LOOGY like Coke or Marte could create huge problems by not having Werth in there to break things up.

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  8. MGL says:

    Davis, it does matter. Jack is not doing it right. You have to go by “UZR per opportunity” since that is really the unit of measurement with UZR. And CF has more opportunities than RF or LF. So a below average fielder (for a CFer) who moves from the corners to CF will lose a lot and an above average fielder will gain a lot if he moves from the corners to CF (more opportunities to leverage his good fielding). There is a break even point where it doesn’t matter who plays where, but above and below that BE point, it does matter. For example, if you are +15 in RF, you might be +7 in CF (losing 8 runs). If you are -10 in RF, you might be -21 in CF (losing 12 runs). The reason you want your best outfielder in CF is not because it is a “harder” position – it is because there are more opps and obviously you want your best fielder to have the most chances and more importantly, your worst fielders to have the fewest chances possible. I hope that makes some sense.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      Yes, thank you. Watching the game I was wondering why Werth wasn’t moved to center, as he is a better defender than Fransisco. To use a single play as an example, the sac fly A-Rod scored one likely would not have resulted in a run if Werth were in CF due to his strong arm. And while there was a possibility that that fly ball could be hit to any outfielder, the CFer has the greatest probability of making the play.

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  9. phorever says:

    a) for those who don’t know, werth is an experienced cf.
    b) in game 6, the offensive dropoff is the big one from victorino to bruntlett/mayberry, not the small one from victorino to francisco. francisco is easily the phillies best bench option. when they need a dh, he’s in the lineup, leaving total dreck to replace victorino, especially against pettitte. stairs and dobbs bat left (and the latter is sick), bruntlett is one of the worst hitters in the league. if victorino can’t go, the best hope, and not a particularly good one, is that they dh dobbs and activate mayberry.

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