Victorino is Effective in Leadoff Spot

April 25th, 2011 by AmyMac | Filed under Baseball, General, Phillies.

By Amy McCormick

At the start of the 2011 season, I had my doubts about Shane Victorino batting in the leadoff spot.  He wasn’t entirely successful in that position last season, when it seemed that our lineup changed nightly.  While Jimmy Rollins isn’t exactly stellar when batting first, I figured he was our best bet.  I admit that I was wrong.

First, let’s look at the numbers.  Last season, Jimmy Rollins played just 88 games due to injury.  He hit .243, which I don’t need to tell you is awful, and had an OBP of .320.  He stole seventeen bases and scored 48 runs.  The Phils currently have 22 games in the books for 2011.  Shane Victorino is hitting .295 with an OBP of .360; he has stolen four bases and scored fourteen runs.  Now, stay with me, because there’s math involved.  If Victorino in 2011 has played ¼ the games that Rollins did in all of 2010, then his projected numbers for 88 games this season would be 56 runs scored and sixteen stolen bases.  I realize there a lot of numbers here, but the bottom line is that when it comes to batting in the leadoff spot, Shane’s numbers are better than Jimmy’s were last year.

Now, let’s consider the functions of a leadoff hitter.  First and foremost, it’s his job to get on base.  Whether it’s by drawing a walk or getting a base hit, his job is to get himself to first and then into scoring position.  Both Rollins and Victorino are capable of stealing more bases than they have been, and I’d like to see them be more aggressive about it.   The leadoff hitter needs to distract and annoy the pitcher by taking a lead off the base in an attempt to keep him unfocused.  Jimmy and Shane are both good at accomplishing this.  Baserunning involves more than just stealing, though.  General speed is important; Rollins is quick, but Victorino is quicker. 

In addition to getting on base, the leadoff hitter has another important task that Jimmy Rollins likes to dismiss: work the pitcher.  It’s important to see a lot of pitches, but J-Roll is infamous for swinging at the first pitch that comes his way.  Shane seems more patient at the plate,  waiting for a pitch that will allow him to find a gap and get a base hit.  Forcing the pitcher to throw a lot of pitches accomplishes two things: it tires him and it gives the Phils a chance to see what he’s throwing on that particular night. 

It seems that power hitters get all the recognition for the runs they drive in; if it weren’t for quality leadoff hitters, though, there wouldn’t be runners to score.  Victorino has been showing that he’s extremely effective batting in the number one spot.  If Chase Utley returns this season, there will be some rearranging to do with the lineup, but I think that Shane should stay at the top of the order.  He’s proving that he is successful there.

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