Giving Shane Victorino His Due: Maybe Hitting Leadoff Does Suit Him Well

Shane, I'm sorry.

About a month ago, I wasn't so kind to you.  I looked at your career numbers batting leadoff and found that in your 237 career plate appearances hitting from that spot your OPS was .140 lower than your career OPS hitting elsewhere in the lineup.  I even wrote that your career leadoff numbers should make us long for the 2009 Jimmy Rollins.  Yes, the Jimmy Rollins who hit .245/.292/.413 last year from the leadoff spot.  Ouch.

Now, I wasn't completely unfair to you, as I did note that this was a pretty small sample size.  I said so explicitly:  "Of course, to be fair, we're still in small sample size territory."

But your performance since I wrote that has made me eat my words, even with that warning.  And with Rollins probably returning to the leadoff spot tonight, I'll have mixed feelings to see you go.

Since I wrote about your leadoff issues on April 22, you've batted leadoff in 21 games.  In those games, your line has been .309/.347/.606 for a .953 OPS.  You've had 5 home runs with an incredible 21 RBI, given that you hit behind the bottom of the order.  You've scored 16 runs and stolen 4 bases (only caught once).  Only in July last year did Rollins have a stretch this good (1.029 OPS over 21 games ending July 26).

With such a great performance over the past few weeks, why are my feelings mixed about seeing you go?  Well, you still are struggling in getting on base.  With a .309 batting average over this period, your OBP is only .347 because you only had 6 walks (3 coming in one game).  That's one less walk than Rollins had in the 6 games he played in before he got hurt in early April.  If his walk rate that week is a sign of a new approach at the plate this year, then the top of the lineup won't miss a beat.  On the other hand, plugging your power into the seventh hole to hit behind the middle of the lineup will only increase the team's run production.

So, if yesterday really was your last day hitting leadoff, Shane, you've acquitted yourself well, much better than appeared was going to happen at the start of this assignment and much better than your career numbers indicated we could expect.  Nice work.

Now just keep it up in the 7-hole.

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