Shane Victorino + contract year + low BABIP = imminent improvement.
Unless he's hiding an injury, which isn't outside the realm of possibility, the only person more baffled by Victorino's worst campaign in seven years is the man himself. Vic was the Phillies' most consistent hitter last season and best overall contributor on a 102-win team, earning his second All-Star nod and garnering MVP grumblings until his .577 OPS September silenced the discussion. Heading into 2012, and seeking his first real payday, he was supposed to anchor the offense as the Phillies "Mr. Everything."
So what's the deal? Four months of mediocrity, dating to last season, is a little unsettling for a 31-year-old "little guy" who needed to convince his team that he had the dexterity to be an everyday player as recently as 2008. So, is it the beginning of the end?
I doubt it. Much has been made about his cavernous left/right splits, but they're not "terribly" different from 2011, which was a career year. Instead of splits, the focal point should be his .259 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which is frustratingly low for a player with his speed and ability to drive the ball. Considering the toolset and point in his career, that number should really be in the .295-.315 range. To put it another way, he's got two triples, compared to 16 a year ago. The speed is there. Something's gotta give.
Considering their lack of centerfield alternatives, his body of work on the whole, I'd advise caution on selling Vic for peanuts and speeding up the John Mayberry Jr. / Tyson Gillies era in center field.
I'm also eager to see whether Vic improves once another threat is added to the lineup, which could happen Wednesday ...