ANAHEIM, Calif. - The margin for Ben Revere, a batter who does not walk or hit for power, is slim. He must hit at least .300, if not higher, to be productive.
"That's when he's at his best," manager Ryne Sandberg said, an obvious statement in a sport that has forever valued failure in 7 of 10 attempts as triumphant.
So here is Revere, a polarizing player with a .307 batting average since the start of 2013, and a living lesson in the dangers of relying on batting average as a sound metric. He is a centerfielder with flaws, ones that are well-documented. But the 26-year-old outfielder commands attention with his singles, his stolen bases, and his (sometimes) improved defense.
The Phillies settled for Revere two winters ago, although the other options look worse in retrospect. He is just another one of the many Phillies players who face an uncertain future. Sandberg, when asked if Revere could be an everyday player on a winning team, dodged the question.
"Well I definitely think he's a National League player; he can fit into a National League team very well," Sandberg said. "If he's getting three hits a day. . . . His arm has really come a long way. In one year, it's been fairly impressive how good it's gotten for improvement. But his speed plays in center field and I think he fits on a National League team, depending on the personnel. That's a factor on how he fits."
Revere will not have three hits every day, although he had multihit games in 12 of his last 20 starts. And Sandberg, ostensibly, did not commit to Revere with his qualifier of "depending on the personnel."
The Phillies have pursued Cuban import Rusney Castillo, a 27-year-old prospect who could command significant dollars on the open market. One scout who attended a Castillo private workout - not the Phillies' - believed Castillo could play a major-league-caliber center field next season.
Revere has an .804 OPS since June 26, when his numbers reached a low. He has just two doubles and three walks in 177 plate appearances since. His success is fueled by singles.
Revere ranks 24th in OPS (.691) among 30 centerfielders with 700 plate appearances since 2013. His 55 stolen bases are fourth. His 2.2 wins above replacement, as calculated by FanGraphs.com, rank 26th.
But Revere must be compared to the various options the Phillies considered in the winter that followed the purge of Shane Victorino and the subsequent John Mayberry Jr. center-field experiment.
Three top-flight centerfielders were on the market that winter. B.J. Upton signed with Atlanta for five years, $75 million. San Francisco re-signed Angel Pagan to a four-year, $45 million deal. And Michael Bourn signed with Cleveland for four years and $48 million.
Upton (.587 OPS) is one of the worst everyday players since the start of 2013. Pagan has played in just 140 games during that span and posted a .750 OPS. Bourn has a .683 OPS, worse than Revere's, in 196 games.
The Phillies, instead, focused their attention on trades. Denard Span cost Washington its best pitching prospect; Span, until recently, was not productive with the Nationals. The Phillies were enamored of the Angels' Peter Bourjos, who was later dealt to St. Louis. He has a .677 OPS in 420 plate appearances since 2013 and is relegated to a reserve role with the Cardinals.
Colorado floated Dexter Fowler that winter but did not trade him until December 2013. Fowler, perhaps, is the best of this flawed group. His .775 OPS ranks eighth among centerfielders since 2013, although he missed 40 games this season with a back injury.
Revere will have cost the Phillies $2.47 million once 2014 ends. Amaro traded young pitchers Vance Worley and Trevor May to Minnesota. Both Worley and May would occupy spots in the current Phillies rotation. Worley is measured as a 0.5-win player since 2013 by FanGraphs' wins-above-replacement metric.
Revere will remain flawed, still a debated piece on a fragmented roster. He lacks arm strength; his routes to balls are circuitous. Streaks like his recent one highlight the potential.
"If he hits .300, he can make things happen," Sandberg said. "Yeah, that's key for him."
When applied to Revere, however, that baseball aphorism shows an incomplete picture.