Red Sox News: The Quietly Excellent Shane Victorino

Red Sox NewsGuess who leads the Boston Red Sox in bWAR? Ok, it’s Dustin Pedroia with 6.1, but Shane Victorino is just a hair behind. The 32 year-old outfielder has 6.0 WAR in 180 fewer plate appearances. After a somewhat disappointing 2012 in which Victorino compiled just a 91 OPS+, pundits suspected Victorino might be a fourth outfielder going forward.

In the offseason, the Sox signed Victorino to a 3 year, $39 million deal, adding him to an outfield that already featured incumbents Jacoby Ellsbury and Daniel Nava, and new addition Jonny Gomes.

Despite battling various injuries, Victorino has put together what might be his best season. His 119 OPS+ ranks behind only his 2011 season with the Philadelphia Phillies, and is fifth on the Red Sox, ahead of Pedroia. The 21 bases he has stolen are second on the Red Sox to Ellsbury. Victorino’s 23 Defensive Runs saved leads the team and is a career-best.

How much longer can Victorino keep up this level of production? While defensive metrics and scouting reports have always liked Victorino, the 23 Defensive Runs Saved is significantly higher than he has managed in previous years.

Defensive metrics are still something of a work in progress, and a big one-year jump has to be taken with a grain of salt.

It seems unlikely that Victorino can maintain his current level of offensive production. His career-best .323 BABIP is backed by an elevated line-drive rate, but it’s likely that the 10-year veteran will regress to his career rate. His HR/FB ratio is also the best of his career, though his average flyball distance is not any better than in previous years.

While Victorino doesn’t strike out often, his 13.7% K-rate is the highest of his career. His 4.9% walk rate is the lowest of his career. Victorino has relied on the HBP to reach base, and his AL-leading 17 hard-earned bases isn’t a recipe for staying healthy.

Red Sox fans should enjoy the contribution Victorino has made to the team. While he won’t get any MVP consideration, his 6 WAR is 8th among AL position players even though he has missed more than 30 games. However, expecting Victorino to continue to produce at a star level is probably too much at this point in his career.

He can still be a solid player, and for $39 million, the Red Sox have already gotten their money’s worth.

 

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