Over the last few weeks, the Philadelphia Phillies have silenced many of their doubters and critics, going on a 10-2 tear and frequently lighting up scoreboards with run totals in the high-single and low-double digits.
This has come as a huge relief to Philadelphia fans, who have been worried about the team’s low offensive production for most of the early season and concerned that the Phillies’ best-in-the-league record was unsustainable if its pitching staff, phenomenal as it is, did not start getting some run support.
One of the major driving forces behind this offensive surge has been the hot-streak of Shane Victorino, who has hit safely in 11 out of the last 13 games.
Within a 10-game span from the Phillies' June 10 win over the Cubs (7-4) to their June 18 victory over the Mariners (5-1)—during which the Phillies lost only a single game and really saw their offense come alive—Victorino hit .415 (17-for-41), with five RBIs and 12 runs scored.
While he may not get the same kind of hype as team superstars Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, or even the amount of respect lavished upon the ever-consistent Placido Polanco, the Phillies record during his recent hot-streak shows just how vital he can be to the team’s success.
Even before his excellent last few weeks, for the early part of the season when guys like the injury-plagued Utley and the slow-out-of-the-gate Howard were plodding along, Victorino was one of the main reasons the Phillies were able to keep winning games.
Is Shane Victorino an underrated player?
He was consistently able to find ways to reach base and score runs when nobody else could, whether it be by home runs, bloop singles, walks or stolen bases. His weighted on-base percentage (wOBA)—a saber-metrics statistic designed to measure a player's overall offensive contributions per plate appearance—is an impressive .389 on the season, 17th highest in the Majors and significantly better than that of any of his teammates.
More importantly, Victorino has been virtually the only exception this season to the entire Phillies roster’s inability to get key hits with runners in scoring position.
In games like their May 13 win over the Braves (5-4) (when Victorino singled in the seventh to drive in the tying run) and last Saturday’s victory over the Mariners (when he snapped the team’s 0-for-7 streak with runners in scoring position with a huge tie-breaking double), he has come through at clutch moments when none of his teammates have seemed up to the task.
Both of the games were the Phillies' sole wins in the respective series.
Imagine what a momentum-killer getting swept by either the Braves (their biggest division rival) or the Mariners (one of the worst teams in the league) would have been. Instead, thanks in part to some quiet heroics by the Flyin’ Hawaiian, Victorino managed to limit the damage done to their record while the rest of the team’s bats were sleeping.
Victorino probably will not make the All-Star team. At the end of the season, if the Phillies reach postseason glory once again, his contributions to the team will likely be eclipsed by those of flashier players like Howard and Utley, or the massive achievements of the Halladay-Lee-Oswalt-Hamels juggernaut.
But every Phillies fan should take a moment to be thankful for the presence of Shane Victorino on their team. Without his considerable contributions, the Phillies organization would almost certainly not be the powerhouse ball club that it is today.