The Countdown Continues: Left Field

 The Inquirer's Countdown to Opening Day continues with Phillies leftfielder Pat Burrell.The Inquirer's countdown to Opening Day continues.

It's down to 7.

Seven as in ... seven days before the season opener.

Seven as in ... left field.

It's hard to believe, but Pat Burrell has been in red pinstripes longer than any other current Phillies player. That run is expected to end after this season. Burrell is finishing his six-year, $50 million contract extension and is unlikely to return. There are a couple reasons for that. First, the Phillies could stand to get younger and more athletic in left field. Second, even if Burrell takes a substantial pay cut from his $14 million salary, the Phillies might be better served finding a cheaper left fielder, knowing they have guys like Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, etc., looking for big pay days in the future.

Burrell hit just .201 with eight homers and 32 RBIs in 214 at-bats through July 1 last season, but .302 with 22 homers and 65 RBIs in 258 at-bats the rest of the way. But even then he hit just .157 with two homers and seven RBIs in the final 16 games.

But here's the interesting thing: For as much as Burrell frustrates fans, he has been more productive than people think. He had an RBI every 5.05 at-bats in 2002 and an RBI every 4.80 at-bats in 2005 - his two best seasons with the Phillies. Some consider his last two seasons down years, but he actually had an RBI every 4.86 at-bats in 2006 and every 4.87 at-bats last season. He had fewer RBIs the last two years than in 2002 and 2005 because he had about 100 fewer at-bats.

Burrell would like those 100 at-bats back.

He could get them, but he'd have to avoid his notorious slumps and show he can move around better in left field.


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