Monday, December 22, 2014

Victorino expects to hit lower

Matt Gelb still here taking you through the January doldrums...

Victorino expects to hit lower

"I´m sure I´ll be hitting in multiple positions," Shane Victorino said about the 2010 season. (Ron Cortes/Staff file photo)
"I'm sure I'll be hitting in multiple positions," Shane Victorino said about the 2010 season. (Ron Cortes/Staff file photo)

Matt Gelb still here taking you through the January doldrums...

Shane Victorino joked that his first reaction upon hearing the Phillies signed Placido Polanco was, "Damn! He's a good contact guy." 

And the acquisition could eventually mean Victorino moving down from the two hole in the Phillies' lineup, a spot he held for much of last season.

"What am I going to do? Stomp around the room?" Victorino said, laughing. "I'm excited for the opportunity, wherever. It doesn't matter. I'm sure I'll be hitting in multiple positions. I've done it before. It's not going to be any different than the past. I've hit second, seventh, sixth, fith, I've led off before. Again, it's ultimately up to Charlie [Manuel]. He's done a great job of shifting things around."

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Is Polanco a great contact hitter? Of course. But is he vastly better than Victorino? It's closer than you think.

Obviously, the keys for a No. 2 hitter are predicated on plate discipline. If Jimmy Rollins is on base ahead of the No. 2 hitter, he might want a few chances to steal a base. So the No. 2 hitter should be able to take a few pitches.

PITCHES PER PLATE APPEARANCE (LAST THREE SEASONS)
Polanco: 3.49, 3.50, 3.51
Victorino: 3.51, 3.52, 3.75

Very little difference there. Another obvious key for the No. 2 hitter is getting on base in front of the heart of the lineup.

BATTING FROM NO. 2 HOLE (CAREER)
Polanco: 4675 PA, .303 / .347 / .415
Victorino: 572 PA, .307 / .370 / .467

OK, we're talking drastically different sample sizes. Polanco has been fairly effective from the two hole his entire career. Victorino has batted almost exclusively second since becoming a major leaguer and has shown the propensity to get on base with a .370 clip.

How about beyond that? Fan Graphs has wonderful plate discipline stats based off of pitch type, velocity, batted ball location, and play-by-play data provided by Baseball Info Solutions. Through that, they can come up with some interesting ways to quantify it all.

Victorino has swung a 28 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone in his career. Polanco has swung at 21 percent. But they both swing at nearly the same amount of total pitches (Victorino: 45.2 percent, Polanco: 45.1 percent). So that means Polanco has the better eye at the plate. He's swinging at fewer bad pitches.

Polanco makes contact with 92 percent of all pitches he sees. Victorino is at 87.9 percent. And it doesn't seem like a huge discrepency, but considering Polanco has maintained a 92 percent contact ratio eight seasons into his career is impressive. Polanco's strikeout percentage (7.1 percent)  is also better than Victorino's (12.8 percent).

So all of those metrics would point to Polanco being the more disciplined hitter, which is why the 34-year-old third baseman will likely start the season as the No. 2 hitter. But there is one last thing to consider: Speed. Polanco has stolen seven bases in each of the last three seasons. During that same span, Victorino has 98 steals.

If Victorino is batting lower in the order, he will be running less. Just another aspect to consider.

"Of course I'm going to have to stay the same player," Victorino said. "I can't change. There are certain parts of the game that will be a little different if I do hit seventh. The running aspect of the game; I'm not going to be running with one out and trying to steal second or third with the pitcher up. There will be aspects of the game that change, but again, I don't plan on changing anything. I'm going to play the game I know how to play."

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The place for up-to-the-minute Phillies coverage from The Inquirer beat writer Matt Gelb and columnist Bob Brookover.

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