Shane Victorino’s One-Dimensional Bat

The latest rumor around Shane Victorino comes from Cincinnati, where one Reds insider claims the club turned down a deal that would send Logan Ondrusek to Philadelphia straight up for Victorino. Ondrusek appears a decent long-term bullpen piece, but for a team in the Reds’ position — fighting for the playoffs and with a mediocre 102 wRC+ out of its left fielders — Ondrusek seems like a pittance to pay for Victorino.

But then again, maybe the Reds didn’t want a short-side platoon outfielder. That’s what Victorino has been this season, hitting a tremendous .312/.393/.570 (159 wRC+) against lefties but flailing against right-handers with a .234/.294/.328 (68 wRC+) line. Victorino has presented to buying teams a switch-hitter in name only. If the Reds report is true, his one-dimensional bat is scaring teams away.

Victorino has never been a typical switch-hitter. As opposed to a zero-split we see with many switch-hitters, Victorino has always favored hitting right-handed, posting a career .381 wOBA against lefties as opposed to .322 versus righties. He walks less, hits for significantly less power, and has a 17-point lower BABIP as a left-handed batter. This is who Victorino has been for the last four seasons:

Victorino lost the ability to use left field as a left-handed batter in 2010, when he posted a .191 wOBA (8 wRC+) to the opposite field. Since then, Victorino has just eight extra base hits to left — seven doubles and a triple — with five of them coming in the 2011 season. This year, the power to the pull field has disappeared as well. For the first time in his career (outside of 2003’s cup of coffee) Victorino has a wRC+ below 100 as a lefty going to right field, at 73.

Instead of lofting the ball for doubles and home runs, Victorino is pounding the ball into the ground on the right side for outs. His 68.2% ground ball rate is a career high and his 11.4% line drive rate in the split is a career low. And the fly balls aren’t leaving the yard — his 16.7% HR/FB ties a career low (2006, 2008, and 2009 as well).

Victorino still has real value to offer a team, but he hasn’t looked like an everyday major league player this season. His deficiencies as a left-handed batter are getting too widespread to ignore, and it’s unlikely teams will be willing to give up major-league ready talent for a platoon outfielder. The Phillies likely thought they had set their sights plenty low with a reliever like Logan Ondrusek, but they might have to dig deeper if they want a return for their center fielder.

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10 years ago

Or, as is more likely, the Reds are posturing, like every team does at this time, hoping the Phillies will drop their demand- much like apparently the Pirates and Dodgers are doing. At this point, the Phillies don’t have a need to trade Victorino, so getting anything worse than Ondrusek should not even be a consideration. You are clearly underrating Shane here- who obviously has killed his shot for a large contract, but is nowhere near as bad as you made him out to be- the statement that he hasn’t looked like an everyday major league player is ridiculous.