Last night the Boston Red Sox won their third World Series title in ten seasons when they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 to take game six. The Red Sox offense was little beyond David Ortiz for most of the series. But game six went to the Red Sox thanks to the offensive contributions of former Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, who drove in four runs. The box score will tell you that Victorino hit .154 in the World Series, but the big hits had Phillies fans wishing that Shane Victorino was still in a Phillies uniform.
So, would the Phillies have better off keeping Victorino? For a clear answer to that question, there are many things to consider. It is clear, however, Victorino was a perfect fit for the Boston Red Sox.
What position would Victorino play on the Phillies?
Shane Victorino played right field for the Phillies in 2006 after Bobby Abreu was dealt to the New York Yankees and moved to center field in 2008 after the Phillies let Aaron Rowand walk away as a free agent. When the Phillies were assessing their needs after 2012, the Phillies felt the clear need to bring in a younger, speedier center fielder. A great deal of Victorino's outfield success came with his speed. If he got a bad jump or took a bad route to a ball, his speed always made up for it. However, as with any player in his 30s, Victorino's speed would surely decline so they looked for young Ben Revere.
Should the Phillies have signed Victorino to be a right fielder? It is very easy to look at what Delmon Young gave the Phillies in 2013 and scream a resounding "YES!", but one must consider the goal of a right fielder on most teams. The right fielder should be a power bat. The Phillies did well with Victorino in right field in 2006 and 2007 because he hit like a second baseman while Chase Utley hit like a right fielder and Jimmy Rollins hit like a left fielder. Victorino would not be seen as that power-type bat for the Phillies in right field, and Rollins and Utley have declined and are hitting more like traditional up-the-middle players.
The Phillies need a power bat in right field and that is more clear than ever. With the Phillies committed to Rollins and Utley and a youthful center fielder up the middle, Victorino probably would not be a fit in right field.
Would Victorino Switch-Hit Or Bat Right-Handed?
Victorino found a lot of success giving up switch-hitting. As a right-handed hitter, Victorino's stance hovers over the plate. It caused him to get a hit a lot (he was hit 17 times as a right-handed hitter and only once as a left-handed hitter), but Victorino's stance as a right-handed hitter enabled him to get more of the pitches thrown his way. Victorino hit 12 home runs (helping make up for Pedroia's career low of nine) from the right side of the plate, batted .309 , and got on base at a .376 clip (partially thanks to being hit). The Red Sox found his successful spot.
Would the Phillies have figured out that Victorino is better suited to hit right-handed? They probably should have. Victorino's numbers were always exponentially better batting right-handed. But Victorino would only bat right-handed against left-handed pitchers and knuckleballers. In Victorino's last full season with the Phillies he posted an OPS of 1.032 as a right-handed hitter. In 2010 it was .934 and in the World Series seasons of 2008 and 2009 he had an OPS of .882 and .844 respectively.
Victorino has said he would return to switch-hitting next season, but I tend to doubt it. His success as a right-handed hitter was too strong to give up at this point.
Boston is the Perfect Fit
I think much of Victorino's success has to do with the team he is on. Right field in Boston is perfect for his defensive ability, and the coaching staff helped get the best out of Victorino. Moving Victorino to right field may have been seen as a demotion to Victorino and he may not have taken it that well. The Phillies did not have the offense elsewhere for Victorino to fit into the lineup and I am not sure that Phillies leadership would have thought to move him away from switch-hitting. In this case, I think the enviornment. the needs of the team he signed with, and coaching of the Boston Red Sox all lined up perfectly for him to have success. I am not sure he would have found it here in Philadelphia.
But of course, we Phillies fans are happy for him. Congratulations on your ring, Shane.