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.