I’ve always been a fan of the Flyin’ Hawaiian. Shane Victorino has long been one of those players who doesn’t hurt you in any of the five fantasy categories. He’s also one of the rare players that usually offers something positive in each of the five categories. The Red Sox realized how valuable a performer that Victorino is as they lavished on him a three year deal worth $39 million to be an everyday member of their club. Coming off his worst full season we have to assess whether or not it’s time to change our view of a player that is always cheaper on draft day than he should be.
In a season split between the Phillies and Dodgers, Victorino wasn’t up to his normal standards. He hit .255, a career worst. His total of 11 homers was a three year low and just one above his full season low. His total of 55 RBIs was a five year low. His total of 72 runs scored was a six year low. Does his total of 39 steals, a career best, offset the negative? Not even close, but at least it helped to keep his season from falling into the fantasy abyss. Why the struggles from the only player in baseball who has hit 10 homers, with 55 RBIs, 70 runs scored and 19 steals each of the past five years?
This is the second time in three years that Victorino has hit in the .250′s, and that’s a concern. The career .275 hitter batted at least .281 from 2006-09, but the last three years have seen him hit .259, .279 and .255. We often speak of rolling three year trends helping to set baselines, so perhaps we should admit to ourselves that Victorino may only be a hit every four at-bat kinda guy as a 32 year old (Nov. 30th). After all, Shane has failed to reach his career average of 18.5 percent in the line drive rate the past three years (17.4, 15.8 and 17.8 percent). He’s also failed to reach his .296 career BABIP the last three years (.273, .292 and .278). None of that speaks to a substantial batting average turnaround for Victorino in ’13.
We can pretty much gloss over the homer/RBI discussion. It’s just not Victorino’s game, even if he offers a little bit of something each year.
Running though is something that Victorino does, and does well. In two of the last three years he’s stolen at least 34 bases, and he’s hit that mark in four of the last six years (the two times he missed he swiped 25 and 19 bases). He’s going to run. Not just that, he’s going to be very successful at it as he has been caught just 23 times the past four years while stealing 117 bases (an 84 percent success rate). What makes his total last season even more impressive is that he reached his career best of 39 thefts despite a .321 OBP, .020 points below his career mark and his worst total since 2005. Part of the reason he was able to mount a high total was due to the fact that he was able to record 640 plate appearances for just the third time, but still gotta give him props for the theft total (will the Red Sox allow him to run as much? A fair question).
Something that should be pointed out. Having interviewed former GM Steve Phillips on The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (my daily radio show on Sirius210 and XM87), I’m still struck by one of the things he related during the visit. He said he respects Victorino for his all out style of play, but he’s also a bit concerned about it. Victorino grinds through at-bats and games very well, but that style of play eventually wears you down. It also means that when the player is struggling he works even harder to get out of it. Sometimes that extra effort works, but at other times it leads to a lengthening of the slump. When dealt to the Dodgers he hit .245 as he tried to prove his worth. Might he do the same thing with his new team in Boston – try too hard with the results not being the level of production we’ve come to expect?
When I look at Victorino I still think of him as a strong 4th outfielder in mixed leagues. He continues to run, and that will always help him maintain his value, and he still offers enough of an all-around game that no one should be disappointed if he ends up on their squad, even if you aren’t going to want to pull back on a twelve pack of Tecate, which I like more than Corona, to celebrate.
By Ray Flowers