A Salute to the Flyin’ Hawaiian

It’s after1:00am on Tuesday morning. I just watched game four of the NLCS at my friend Chris’ place (on a sweet tv that looks like mine x 20 . . . with surround sound). The Phillies emerged victorious, thanks to some timely hitting. Now I have a substantial amount of adrenaline in my system, and I won’t be falling asleep anytime soon. So I thought I would type a blog entry and work on homework.

Shane Victorino hit a big two run homer tonight, so it is quite easy to sing his praise and talk about how valuable he is to the team. And I’m going to do just that.

When Aaron Rowand left via free agency before this season many fans criticized the Phils for not offering him a big contract. He brought a solid right handed bat to the lineup and provided strong clubhouse leadership.

The Phillies were confident that Shane Victorino was ready to take over in centerfield. They were right. I’d like to review the results of this decision and do a bit of comparison. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Rowand hater. I’ll always be a Rowand fan. But I think the Phils made a good baseball decision in letting him go. All the stats that follow are from the 2008 regular season.

Here we go:

Defense: Shane has exceptional range and better than average instincts. His closing speed when chasing a ball is extraordinary. He is very good at maintaining speed as he approaches the wall. His arm is above average and he is very accurate. Shane committed fewer errors and had more assists than Rowand in 2008. I feel Shane is a defensive upgrade.

Offense: Shane is a switch hitter, which is a major strength. Here are a few numbers that might surprise you:

Offensive Production of Shane Victorino and Aaron Rowand in 2008

So a casual perusal of the digits above will reveal that Shane had a better year than Rowand. Shane was better at getting on base and hitting for power. Also note that he struck out less. Since the Phils strike out at an appalling rate, it’s nice to have a player that make a lot of contact.

Speed on the basepaths is a big part of Shane’s game. He combined with Jimmy Rollins to drive NL pitchers crazy. The Phillies big guns often got to face distracted pitchers.

Intangibles: This is where the grittiness, rapport with the media, general likability, and clubhouse leadership factors fall (I write this tongue-in-cheek). But in all seriousness when Rowand left he took 17.3% of the Phillies grittiness, 7.3% of their scrappiness, and 88% of their run-into-the-wallability. Into the gaping void strode Shane. He is a fan favorite. He brings passion to the team, which is needed on a team led by stoics Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. He busts down the line, plays hard, and works hard. He has filled Rowand’s shoes. . . Oh yes, I believe this is where I should mention that Shane is very clutch. He has had many big hits and big catches in both the regular season and postseason; he rises to the occasion.

Conclusion: Fans like to complain about decisions management makes. In some cases they are justified. The Phillies decision to let Aaron Rowand walk was the right decision, and the Phils deserve recognition for making it. But this post is not just about a management decision, it’s a tribute to a player.

Thanks for the memories, the effort, and more to come Shane.

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