NLCS 2010: Comparing the Phillies and Giants Outfields
This slideshow will examine the only part of the teams we haven't focused on yet: the outfield. Outfield defense is extremely important in the playoffs.
Need an example? Last night in Atlanta, Cody Ross gets a base hit with the bases loaded, and Braves left fielder Matt Diaz threw out Pat Burrell, who was trying to score from second at home plate to keep the damage to just one run instead of two.
The Braves would go on to lose, but with runners on first and second with one out in the ninth inning, they could've won the game with an extra-base hit, rather than just tie the game with one. It was almost a huge play.
This slideshow will examine both San Francisco's and Philadelphia's outfield offensive production and defense. So far, the teams seem evenly matched in pitching, while the Phillies infield smoked the Giants infield in our last slideshow.
Will the Giants outfield even it up, making this series a complete toss-up?
Phillies Outfield: Offense
Left Fielder: Raul Ibanez, .275, 16 home runs, 83 runs batted in.
Center Fielder: Shane Victorino, .259, 18 home runs, 69 runs batted in.
Right Fielder: Jayson Werth, .296, 27 home runs, 85 runs batted in.
All three outfielders had years quite similar to the ones they had in 2009, although all three of them faced decreases in one aspect or another.
Ibanez had an amazing 2009 in which he hit 34 home runs and drove in 93 runs after being signed for three years by Philadelphia in the offseason. His home run total went down drastically this year, and he drove in 12 less runs in 21 more games played. Age is probably beginning to become a factor for Ibanez, who is now 38.
Victorino hit a career high 18 home runs in the regular season and drove in a career high 69 runs. Although, his average dipped all the way to .259 for the year, when he had never hit below .281 in a full season. Was Victorino swinging for the fences too much? Regardless, he's still a major threat on the bases, swiping at least 30 in three of the past four seasons.
Werth is in his contract year and hears the cash register add a few more zeroes to that shiny new contract that awaits him every time he gets a big hit. Unfortunately, Werth also saw his home run total drop from 36 in 2009 to 27 this season. He's still a guy who can hit one out at any given time and usually boasts on-base percentages that general managers around the league will be craving in the winter when he's a free agent.
While these three outfielders are not quite as productive as a whole as they were in 2009, they are still dangerous in every aspect of the game. All three are legitimate home run threats (especially in Philadelphia), while Werth has other ways of getting on base besides going yard, and Victorino can swipe one at his whim. Those last two points will be crucial for Philadelphia, as you can't just wait for three-run home runs against the Giants pitching staff. They'll need to find creative ways to score runs.
Giants Outfield: Offense
Left Fielder: Pat Burrell, .252, 20 home runs, 62 runs batted in.
Center Fielder: Andres Torres, .268, 16 home runs, 63 runs batted in.
Right Fielder: Cody Ross, .269, 14 home runs, 65 runs batted in.
If you had asked anyone six months ago what the Giants outfield would've looked like if they were playing October baseball, I don't think anyone would've guessed this combination. Pat Burrell was picked up off the scrap heap in June after he looked like a shell of his former self for the past year and a half. Andres Torres had been a journeyman his entire major league career, and this was the first season he was given an opportunity to play everyday. Cody Ross was picked up off waivers from the Florida Marlins.
Realistically, the Giants outfield boasts three bats that are, well...quite average. All three have mediocre (at best) averages and average home run power. They have some speed with Cody Ross and Andres Torres (both stole 20 bases in the regular season), but even with that, these are essentially just three average-producing outfielders.
Offensive Advantage: Philadelphia
The Giants outfielders just can't be relied on as a source of any kind of offense that's going to carry a ball club. All three are average, and I'd be hard-pressed to say that either Werth or Ibanez is an "average" bat, even if Ibanez did have an off year. Ross, Burrell, and Torres are all league-average players.
Essentially, I'm having trouble figuring out if I'd rather have Victorino (worst of the Phillies' three) or Burrell (best of the Giants' three). With that in mind, Philadelphia runs away with the offensive edge in the outfield battle.
Phillies Outfield: Defense
Left Fielder: Ibanez: Four outfield assists, two errors, .991 fielding percentage.
Center Fielder: Victorino: 11 assists, two errors, .995 fielding percentage.
Right Fielder: Werth: Eight assists, four errors, .985 fielding percentage.
Don't take Victorino's 5'9", 190 lb. frame for granted, like 11 base-runners this year did. He has an arm on him.
Victorino covers a ton of ground in the outfield. He's very aggressive in center field, so I was mildly surprised to see he only had two errors on the year considering aggressive outfielders tend to have more due to the fact they're taking a lot of chances.
Werth ranks up there with eight outfield assists as well. For a big guy, Werth covers a lot of ground in right field and has an a plus-arm.
Giants Outfield: Defense
Left Fielder: Pat Burrell: Four outfield assists, two errors, .984 fielding percentage.
Center Fielder: Andres Torres: Four outfield assists, zero errors, 1.000 fielding percentage.
Right Fielder: Cody Ross: Two outfield assists, two errors, .982 fielding percentage.
The only excellent fielder of the three is Andres Torres. He's been stellar in center field all year. He'll be fine in San Francisco like he's been all year, and the small outfield in Philadelphia should make every ball hit to center field that doesn't go over the wall catchable for Torres.
Burrell has an excellent arm and is an average outfielder, much like Cody Ross. Ross does not have the arm that Burrell has though, which is unfortunate because Ross is the right fielder, and the right fielders usually have more chances to throw runners out.
Defensive Advantage: San Francisco
Based on arm strength (and age), you'd much rather have Pat Burrell in left field than Raul Ibanez. Based on consistency, you'd also rather have Andres Torres in center field than Shane Victorino.
Although Werth is a better fielder than Ross; obviously the defensive superiority of Burrell/Torres over Ibanez/Victorino seals this one for the Gigantes.
Overall Advantage: Philadelphia
Let's be honest. Offense is more likely to come up big in a seven-game series than defense is. Playoff series are rarely won by amazing defensive plays and more commonly won with big offensive production from the guys that are paid to hit. Very few guys are paid to make diving catches, but almost all of them are paid to hit with runners in scoring position.
Good hitting with average defense can win a World Series. It's happened countless times before. But average hitting rarely wins it all, unless they have insanely good pitching. The Giants have great pitching, but so do the Phillies, along with a killer lineup. I give Philadelphia the advantage when it comes to their outfielders.
If you feel differently, feel free to comment below!