Next Up, Shane Victorino, And More to Come?

July 31, 2012 at 10:10 am | Posted in Shane Victorino | Leave a comment

As we’d expected for some time now, Shane Victorino is a Dodger, and there are going to be more than a few of you who are wildly unhappy about that. For me, I don’t care so much about his personal reputation – he does, after all, seem like the kind of guy you hate to play against yet love to have on your side – as much as I do about what he’s going to do to help the Dodgers win games.

As I noted yesterday, left field is an absolute disaster right now, one that often gets lost among the James Loney & Juan Uribe infield atrocities. So make no mistake, whatever you think of Victorino, he is an upgrade both offensively and defensively over Bobby Abreu, Juan Rivera and friends. That says a lot more about the incumbents than it does about Victorino, of course, but how much of an improvement really depends on which Victorino we’re going to be seeing. He’s in the midst of the worst year of his career, as his power and on-base skills have each largely disappeared, though he’s still effective on the bases (24 steals in 28 tries). This year, as over his career, he’s been crushing lefties, but the less said about his performance against righties the better. Since I really, really doubt he was acquired to be a platoon outfielder, that’s something we’re going to have to live with.

Still, the team is better with him in the outfield than it was without him, so that’s something. Besides, an underrated yet important aspect to this is that it markedly improves the bench and/or infield by freeing Jerry Hairston up to fill in where needed, assuming we won’t be seeing him in left field so much. Perhaps that means third base if Hanley Ramirez does move to shortstop full-time, or perhaps it means the “everywhere” utility guy he was signed to be. Either way, that’s a plus.

Victorino didn’t come for free, and both Josh Lindblom and Ethan Martin will be missed – though not quite as much as you’d think. I like Lindblom well enough, but he’s an eminently replaceable non-elite middle reliever with home run problems. Martin is someone a lot of people think of as having a bounceback season in his second try at Double-A, and while I’m still a fan of his, it’s more than a little concerning that his big year is one in which he’s walking “only” 4.7 per nine. I’m not happy to see him go, but he’s the kind of guy the Dodgers have several of.

Dave Cameron over at FanGraphs agrees on Lindblom, even if I know you won’t:

Lindblom is an extreme fly ball pitcher, as only 69 of his 141 career balls in play (34.3%) have been hit on the ground. Not surprisingly, that has translated into a bit of a home run problem, as he’s given up 1.05 HR/9, a bit above the league average for NL relievers. But, HR-prone fly ball guys can still be good relievers as long as they pound the strike zone and miss a lot of bats.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, Lindblom has been essentially average at those two things as well. His 9.0% BB%/22.7% K% are just barely ahead of the average marks for an NL reliever (9.2 BB%/21.7% K%), and are supported by the underlying numbers as well — he throws an average number of strikes and gets an average amount of contact.

Toss in the significant career platoon split (.244 wOBA allowed to RHBs, .360 wOBA to LHBs), and Lindblom essentially profiles as a decent situational middle reliever. This is basically the same skillset the Dodgers got in Brandon League, so their bullpen won’t take much of a hit at all in this series of moves.

It is, I will admit, still a large price to pay for two months of a declining outfielder. Will it be worth it? Well, that all depends on Victorino. If he plays well back in a pennant race as he completes his free agent push and helps the Dodgers deep into the playoffs, I doubt any of us will be complaining. If not? Could get ugly around here.

Oh, and there’s still 2.5 more hours to go. This trading season is far from over…

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