For whatever reason, Shane Victorino
isn't the name anyone puts out there as an MVP candidate when such predictions are prognosticated each spring.
The Phillies obviously have an abundance of big names with resumes worthy of such praise when it's doled out each preseason.
Ryan Howard has won an MVP award and has finished in the top 5 three other times. Chase Utley is a popular pick each spring, perhaps moreso than Howard. Jimmy Rollins has won an MVP. Roy Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, is also a unique name to throw into the mix.
Even though Victorino hit over .290 in both 2008 and 2009, he still couldn't put himself onto the radar ahead of his more popular teammates.
But not anymore.
As the season closes in on September, Victorino has been the most valuable and most productive position player on the Phillies. And since they're the best team in baseball, the best position player on the team is a candidate almost by default.
Victorino's problem, if he has one, is he doesn't have the two, traditional flashy stats that the older generation still values come MVP time: home runs and RBIs. I point that out for the sake of pointing it out, not because I agree with it.
To keep that line of thinking going, I tried to think of an MVP winner in the last five years who was not a "traditional" MVP candidate. Someone who wasn't a power hitter, but was still highly productive.
It didn't take me long to come up with the name: Boston's Dustin Pedroia
, who won AL MVP honors in 2008.
Since Victorino's full stat line is staring me in the face here at Great American Ball Park (we're two hours from game time but they're already ready for the leadoff hitter), I'll use that and then post Pedroia's 2008, too.
Victorino in 2011:
.308 BA, .381 OBP, .544 SLG, .925 OPS, 399 ABs, 79 runs, 123 hits, 21 doubles, 14 triples, 15 home runs, 53 RBIs, 41 walks, 17 SBs.
Pedroia in 2008:
.326 BA, .376 OBP, .493 SLG, .869 OPS, 653 ABs, 118 runs, 213 hits, 54 doubles, 2 triples, 17 home runs, 83 RBIs, 50 walks, 20 SBs.
(It should also be noted: both play(ed) Gold Glove caliber defense).
One of the numbers that jumps out to me is "200 hits," simply because it's one of the traditional plateaus for a top hitter (like a 20-game winner on the pitching side, kind of, sort of).
Victorino isn't going to reach 200 hits. But that doesn't necessarily discount his candidacy. What it points out, if anything, is that his numbers have been hurt by two stints on the disabled list.
But the Phillies still have 32 games left in the next 30 days and Victorino's numbers, unlike Pedroia's, are not complete. If he can maintain his lofty numbers in BA/OBP/OPS and reach the 100-run plateau, he will surely be in the final mix when NL MVP ballots are being filled out a month from now.
Here's another Victorino stat, courtesy of the Elias Sports Buraeu:
Victorino's two-run home run in the 8th inning on Monday night was his fifth in Late-Inning Pressure Situations this season, one more than he hit in L.I.P.S. over 7 previous seasons combined (4 HR in 375 AB coming into 2011).
(Late-Inning Pressure Situations are defined by Elias as any at-bat in the 7th inning or later, with the batter's team trailing by 3 runs or less or 4 runs if the bases are loaded.)
A postscript: I purposely did not include the other NL MVP candidates (Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Justin Upton are among the worthy) because I was examining Victorino more as an MVP candidate than as an MVP winner.