World Series Preview: The Outfield


Again, just the Phillies…

Left field: Raul Ibanez

When the Phillies signed Raul Ibanez to a three-year, $31.5 million contract this winter, some thought it a bit odd. Ibanez is a good player, but he turned 37 this season and has played notoriously poor defense for years — worse, possibly, than the man he was replacing, Pat Burrell. Add in Ibanez’s left-handedness — the Phillies had just one solid righty, Jayson Werth — and it seemed curious.

Still, the Phillies had signed a solid bat that can fill a middle of the order spot. Ibanez is insanely consistent from season to season, posting a batting average between .280 and .300, and an OBP hovering around .350 every year. His slugging had fluctuated a bit over the years, dipping as low as .436 in 2005, but over his last three years in Seattle he slugged an aggregate .491. Those are solid numbers all around.

Even so, Pat Burrell, a right-handed hitter, had out-hit Ibanez in all categories except batting average over the past three seasons. His batting average sat around .250, but his OBP was up at .400 in 2006 and 2007, and even with a dip in 2008 it was still at a solid .367. Combine that with a slugging percentage around .500 every year, and you’ve got a solid player. But the Phillies must have known something that extended beyond the numbers, because they clearly made the right choice in Ibanez

Burrell struggled in Tampa Bay, and that’s a kind description. His average dipped to .221, his lowest since hitting .209 in 2003. His on base free-fell to .315, and his slugging went from .507 to .367. Back up in Philadelphia, Raul Ibanez put on a clinic to start the season. In his first 50 games he hit .340/.399/.716, far out of line with his career statistics. This prompted the infamous steroids charges, but by season’s end all that Jerod Morris proved is that he doesn’t understand how a baseball season unfolds. From Game 51 through the end of the season, which included Ibanez missing a little less than a month with a groin injury, he hit .228/.313/.446. In other words, he regressed towards his mean. Lo and behold, he ended the season at .272/.347/.552, right in line with his previous three years, just with a bit more power.

In the playoffs, Ibanez had a great NLDS followed by a poor NLCS. Combined he’s 7 for 31 with two doubles, a homer, and five walks.

On defense Raul is notably poor, though he posted an 8.1 UZR/150 in 2009. This, combined with Juan Rivera’s 13.8 mark, makes me seriously question UZR’s accuracy. Damon’s mark is also questionable — he’s bad, but he’s not worst LF in baseball bad. But this is a topic better saved for the off-season.

Center field: Shane Victorino

As Ibanez, Shane Victorino is a pretty predictable player. Over the past four seasons he has hit around .280, .290, and has had an OBP around .340, .350. To his advantage, his power has climbed in the past two years, from the low .400s in 2006 and 2007 to the .440s in 2008 and 2009. That has transformed Victorino, a two-time Rule 5 pick, from a slightly below average hitter to a slightly above average one. He has also strengthened the Phillies’ lineup by inserting himself as the full-time No. 2 hitter.

Victorino has had his postseason moments. He hit a grand slam in Game 2 of the NLDS last season, off CC Sabthia. He also has three home runs this postseason, including one in each clinching game. The LCS was his time to shine, as he went 7 for 19 with a double, triple, two homers, and two walks.

As far as platoon splits, Victorino hit righties a bit better than lefties this season, though his sample numbers are skewed. He batted 499 times against righties to just 195 times against lefties. Part of his success against lefties could come from his .342 BABIP against them. His BAIP is .304 against righties. Then again, he hit lefties better in 2008 while posting just a .279 BABIP, against .329 against righties. In 2007 the discrepancy showed most in SLG, while in 2009 it showed up more in OBP.

In the field Victorino is solid by most anecdotal accounts. UZR/150 rated him as 7.8 in 2008 and then -1.9 this season in center. Unfortunately, UZR is the best thing we have to objectively evaluate defense.

Right field: Jayson Werth

The Orioles had big plans for Jayson Werth when they drafted him with the 22nd pick of the 1997 draft, but the match was not to be. He hit well enough in his first three full pro seasons, posting OBPs that ranged from the mid to upper .300s. His power hadn’t come along by age 21, though, and at that point the Orioles traded him to the Blue Jays for John Bale.

Almost immediately after the trade, Werth’s power came around. After topping out at eight homers in 1998, he hit 20 in 2001, and then hit 18 in 2002. This earned him a few cups of coffee with the Blue Jays, but he never stuck. Just before the 2004 season, the Jays traded him to the Dodgers for Jason Frasor. The trade worked out well at first, as Werth posted a .825 OPS in 326 plate appearances in 2004, but he dropped off a bit in 2005, mostly with his power, dropping to a .711 OPS.

Why the precipitous drop in power? In Spring Training 2005, A.J. Burnett hit Werth in the wrist on what A.J. recalls as the first pitch of the exhibition season. That sidelined Werth until the end of May, and the injury clearly affected him throughout the season. After the season he had exploratory surgery which revealed two torn ligaments. The corrective procedure kept Werth out for all of 2006, and after the season he signed on with the Phillies.

Werth has been a revelation for the Phils ever since. He came on strong in 2007, hitting .298/.404/.459 in 304 plate appearances. He took on more of a full-time role in 2008, and hit .273/.363/.498 in 482 plate appearances. His power, it seemed, had returned. He continued hitting well in 2009, bringing his slugging percentage above .500 for the first time in his career, mostly on the power of his 36 home runs. He is by far the biggest right-handed threat in the Phillies’ lineup.

Over seven postseason series, including the 2004 NLDS with the Dodgers, Werth has shined, hitting .288/.388/.663. This includes an insane 2008 World Series in which he went 8 for 18 with three doubles, a home run, six walks, and three stolen bases. He has also hit very well in the 2009 playoffs. Against Colorado he went 4 for 14 with a triple, two home runs, and four walks, and in the NLCS he went 4 for 18 with three home runs and two walks.

On defense Werth has a positive reputation, and UZR favors him as well. It favored him a lot more last season, with a 35.6/150 mark, though he was at only 5.7 this season. He also received high marks while playing left field earlier in his career.


Left field: Even. Ibanez could take advantage of the short porch while on the road. Damon has more speed and can also take advantage of the short porch, which closes the gap here.

Center field: Phillies. Melky has been hot, and he’s not all that worse than Victorino. Still, Victorino holds a slight edge.

Right field: Phillies. Again, it’s not a stark difference, though Swisher’s playoff woes play a small part in this. It would be a lot closer if he were hitting better, but I’d still give the edge to Werth.

Categories : Playoffs


  1. JM says:

    Well, Melky is superior defensively to Victorino. I can’t stop thinking about the “Frillies” thing. Victorino was in a skirt!

    • JMK aka The Overshare says:

      Melky is superior defensively?

      • Yeah, I’d give the nod to Victorino.

        It’s close, though. They’re both a bit overrated (anecdotally) as defenders.

        • Moshe Mandel says:

          Well, UZR has Melky as being better in 2009.

          baiting into UZR discussion’d

          • Shane Victorino, career CF UZR and UZR/150: +10.6, +4.9 (3216 inn)
            Melky Cabrera, career CF UZR and UZR/150 : -12.3, -4.7 (2924 inn)

            • Drew says:

              eh, Shane is 4 years older. An improvement over time is expected from Melky more so than Victorino. An entire season(only 103 games in CF for Melky because of Grit) should give you an idea of their capabilities. Going by that criteria, Melky has been a better defender in CF this year. All signs point that the same will be true next year as well.

              Melky has improved his CF UZR every year since 2005.

              • There’s a difference between the question “Is Melky better than Victorino” and “Will Melky be better than Victorino”?

                Melky might end up better, because yes, he’s still younger. As of this moment, though, Victorino’s probably the better defender.

                • Drew says:

                  Yeah but you’re bringing career numbers into a player comparison where the veteran obviously holds an advantage. This year Melky had the better defensive year(according to UZR, I haven’t personally seen Victorino play too many games).

                • whozat says:

                  Drew, we’re bringing in career numbers to try to figure out who, at this point in his career, is better. Not who will be better, or who an rather volatile stat says was better over a smaller-but-more-recent sample, but who is better right now.

                • They have similar sample sizes in CF, which is why I included the innings. Shane’s played in 643 games, Melky’s played 569.

                  They’re basically at the same level of “veteran-ness”. The only difference between them is Shane toiled in the minors longer (because he wasn’t good enough to break into the majors) and thus, his career was assembled at older age-years while Melky was jumped to the show as a relative infant and stayed because we never found an upgrade replacement.

                • Drew says:

                  I don’t really want to get into it but by “toiling in the minors” you still get more batted balls and get to read the spin of the ball off the bat. This helps immensely I would assume. While their MLB innings difference is that of less than half a season, there is still 4 years worth of knowledge and growth that Victorino has over Melk.

                  Either way, I’ve said many times that the UZR stat scares me, I don’t fully trust it but from what it reads, this year Melky had the better defensive season.

                • Moshe Mandel says:

                  As MGL would say, UZR reads this year that Melky had a better UZR, not that he is a better defender.

                • Chris C. says:

                  “Drew, we’re bringing in career numbers to try to figure out who, at this point in his career, is better.”

                  You know which guy is better? The one with the more effective pitcher on the mound that night. If the Yankees are going to strike out 10 times or more, Victorino can play centerfield wearing a boxing glove!

              • Chris C. says:

                “eh, Shane is 4 years older. An improvement over time is expected from Melky more so than Victorino.”

                Yes, this is sure to factor in if the series goes 7 games. This will prove to be quite a taxing series on old man Victorino.

            • Moshe Mandel says:

              I know. That was my point. One year of UZR data is entirely unreliable, yet it sometimes gets used around as legitimate evidence.

          • JMK aka The Overshare says:

            Is there one thing the RAB regulars are more divided on than UZR?

            • Moshe Mandel says:

              Yup. There are too many factions.

              1) UZR stinks because my eyes disagree with it.
              2) UZR stinks because of measurement/structural issues.
              3) UZR is useful in large samples, but smaller samples are to be used sparingly, if at all (I’m in this category. You need at least 2, and preferably 3 seasons of data before elevating UZR over scouting reports from legitimate sources).
              4) UZR is useful across the board, even in small samples, but small samples are not perfect.
              5) UZR is as good a stat as any other.

              • Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

                UZR would be so much better if it gave a player a zone based on where they are actually positioned when the ball is hit, rather than based on where the normal defensive postition is.

                • Should it? That’s highly debatable.

                  Should we be letting people off the hook (e.g. not penalizing them for failing to catch the ball) for being positioned poorly? They still didn’t make the out. What about players who intentionally play overly deep or overly shallow because they have the ability to cover more ground than normal players?

                  I don’t think the change you propose would necessarily make UZR better. I think it would make it worse.

                • Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

                  I think it would be better at accurately reflecting a players range. Players are positioned by coaches for the most part. Why penalize a player because he has a lousy coach?

      • pat says:

        The answer to that is no. No, he is not.

  2. Rose says:

    On defense Werth has a positive reputation, and UZR favors him as well. It favored him a lot more last season, with a 35.6/150 mark, though he was at only 5.7 this season. He also received high marks while playing left field earlier in his career.


    Jayson Werth aka Edge?

  3. jsbrendog says:

    i just have to reiterate again what tjsc said earlier this year.

    shane victorino = alex ochoa

    alex ochoa does not scare me in any way.


    • More from that thread, also from yours truly:

      Shane Victorino is only thought of highly because he’s got a cool name. If his name was Lew Ford, he’d be thought of like he was Lew Ford.

      Incidentally, Shane Victorino is Lew Ford. No, seriously, check it out:

      Lew Ford, career: .272/.349/.402 (96+)
      Shane Victorino, career: .283/.345/.425 (97+)
      Alex Ochoa, career: .279/.344/.422 (96+)

      • jsbrendog says:

        i ain’t scurred o none uv em

      • Rose says:

        Just as though Jim Rice IS Moises Alou and/or Andres Gallaraga…

        Do those other guys make it in the Hall of Fame too?

        Literally the same numbers…

        Kirby Puckett has eerily similar numbers to Don Mattingly as well…and he got in but they won’t let Donny Baseball in there…

  4. In Spring Training 2005, A.J. Burnett hit Werth in the wrist on what A.J. recalls as the first pitch of the exhibition season. That sidelined Werth until the end of May, and the injury clearly affected him throughout the season. After the season he had exploratory surgery which revealed two torn ligaments. The corrective procedure kept Werth out for all of 2006, and after the season he signed on with the Phillies.

    You thinking what I’m thinking? Have AJ start Game 1 and pitch the first two innings, just so he can drill Werth in the wrist again, then lift him for CC, and bring AJ back for Game 3?

    It’s brilliant and violent. The best of both worlds.

  5. Jake K. says:

    It seems the outfield is the one area where the Phils have a decided advantage. Infield, starting pitchers, bullpen, edge Yankees.

  6. Free Mike Vick says:

    Raul Ibanez’s OPS by half

    1st half: 1.015
    2nd half: .774

    not good.

  7. A.D. says:

    So basically:

    Roatation: Yanks
    Pen: Yanks
    C: Yanks
    1B: Tie
    2B: Phils
    SS: Yanks
    3b: Yanks
    LF: Tie
    CF: Phils
    RF: Phils
    DH: Yanks

    I’ll take it.

  8. Januz says:

    There is no doubt the Phillies have a superior outfield (But so did the Angels, but where did it get them?) This series comes down to home field advantage, and pitching. Even in Philadelphia, the Phillies have to face guys (Pettitte and Sabathia) who can dominate on the road (I know Philly great at home, but they did lose a game to Colorado, and they did not face the likes of Andy or CC (Both of whom can win anywhere on the road). Which means the Phillies may very well need to split the four games at the Stadium, to repeat (Not easy at all). Instead, I think the Yankees take a game or two in Philly. Yankees in six.

  9. Victorino is not a good CF. He’d be a fine RF (big arm) but his jumps/paths in center are laughable.

  10. JerodMSF says:

    Nice analysis, and excellent point regarding the myopic shortcomings of my Ibanez post way back when. I was trying to disprove the notions being bandied about that something was untoward about his numbers, and I missed the most obvious one: that Ibanez is a notorious streak hitter, prone to terrific 50- and 60-game stretches.

    That’s exactly how the season played out.

    I did mention the importance of recognizing the small sample size we were dealing with, and as you detail above, Ibanez’s numbers proved to ultimately fall right in line with his career averages.

    Ironically, even though people consider me some sort of example of Ibanez hate, my original hypothesis was vindicated more and more as the season went along: that Ibanez was not on steroids and that there were legit reasons for his hot start.

    It’s what I’ve always wanted to believe, and obviously do even more so now.

    Plus, he helped me win a fantasy championship with his strong play late in the season. Time to pay it back and cheer hard for the Phillies this week and next.

    Thanks for the link. Enjoy the Series.

  11. Joe D. says:

    I love this point:

    “In the ALCS, Hideki Matsui posted a measly .670 OPS. Mark Teixeira’s was a puny .550, and Nick Swisher put up a pathetic .442. Still, the Yankees scored at least four runs in every game, and posted a team OPS of .835 in the series.

    The Yankees’ lineup is so deep that even four horrid performances couldn’t shut them down.”

    …from The Hardball Times.

    • Joe D. says:

      Hmmm…I’m not sure then who “Horrid Performer #4″ is supposed to be, I must admit. Molina? He only had a small handful of ABs after all.

      Posada was at a .760 OPS for the series, about what you’d expect given his career .860 and the higher caliber of competition…hm….

      Well, I still like the point, but seems as though “three” horrid performances is more accurate than four, at least where the lineup is concerned.

    • #1) The favorable network schedule, #3) Mariano Rivera, #4) a deep Yankee lineup, #5) bad performances by the Angels hitters, and #6) a dominant ARod were all great reasons why we beat the Angels, but I have to quibble with Larry Mahnken’s second listed bullet point:

      Our boners were not limited. Trust me on that one, Larry.

      Nick Swisher

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