The debate over the best candidate to lead off has as much to do with a slumping Jimmy Rollins as it does with a high-flying Hawaiian.
While fans lament the lost glint in J-Roll’s bat, they’re missing another spark-plug season by Shane Victorino. Vic, who’s constantly riding a modest hitting streak and is currently on an 11-game run, has taken over the reins as this club’s catalyst. Recall Victorino’s involvement in many of the biggest plays of the post-season, everything from his grand slam in Game 2 of the NLDS to the dust-up against the Dodgers. This season, he’s shined against the Junior Circuit, tied for the most hits in interleague play with B.J. Upton after two hits last night, his sixth multi-hit game in the last eight contests. Ugly swing or no, it’s quite possible that he will lead the Phillies in hitting for a second-straight season; he’s at .308 now.
The hardest statistical evidence to support Vic’s table-setter status is his rapidly-rising .372 on-base percentage. An efficient lineup might include Victorino up top with Chase Utley sliding up, then stacking Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard into the 3-4 holes, allowing Vic to continue seeing pitches. Batting Utley second also keeps a left-handed pull hitter with speed in line to work the gap. But aside from OBP, Victorino is the best man to get something started out of the chute. He's the best pest, and he's consistently involved.