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The Phillies Nation Top 100: #60 Placido Polanco

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #60. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff. 

From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.

Please check back later today for #59.

http://www.reclinergm.com/images/polanco-phillies.jpg#60 – Placido Polanco

Years: 2002-2005, 2010-2012

.289/.341/.398, 51 HR, 31 SB in 2963 PA

Previous Rank: New to Rankings

fWAR Phillies Rank: 42nd among position players, 60th among Phillies

Signature Season: Won Gold Glove and made All-Star team in 2011

Signature Stat: From 2002-2005 and 2010-2012, Polanco was the toughest third baseman to strike out in baseball. Currently third-most difficult to strikeout active player.

The infielder so nice, the Phillies acquired him twice. On July 29, 2002, the Phillies acquired Polly, along with Bud Smith and Mike Timlin, for Scott Rolen and Doug Nickle. Polanco would play second and third, and a little bit of left field and short, before being traded for Ramon Martinez and Ugueth Urbina on June 8, 2005. Despite outplaying David Bell at third (38 HR, 23 SB, .297/.352/.439 in 1510 PA v. Bell’s 32 HR, 1 SB, .253/.327/.381 in 1568 PA), Polanco was thought to be an expendable super-sub thanks to the presence of Bell at third and Chase Utley at second base. Well, at least one worked out.

The trade was a shame and would hurt them in more ways than one. Urbina would face jail time in his home country Venezuela on murder charges and miss the 2006 season and beyond, Bell would be traded to the Brewers in 2006, and, despite winning the World Series in 2008, the Phillies struggled to find an offensive force at third base until Polanco returned as a free agent for the 2010 season. The move is still a curious one: Polanco led all third baseman from 2002 through 2005 in batting average, was 12th in OBP, and was the hardest third baseman to strike out in the Majors.

Polanco returned with fanfare in 2010, joining a team that had reached the World Series the previous two years. Polanco had a strong 2010 and a very strong first half of the 2011 season that saw him elected to the NL All-Star team. For a year and a half, Polly was as advertised – a fine offensive third baseman that would get a lot of base hits, that wouldn’t strike out, and would play a fine third base. Perception was reality: from 2010-2012, Polly ranked ninth in batting average among third baseman, was the most difficult to strikeout third baseman, and saved the most runs defensively according to FanGraphs.

Polly may have ranked higher on this list had he stayed healthy through the end of 2011 and through more of 2012. Polanco missed a chunk of 2011 and a significant chunk of 2012. Polanco also struggled in the playoffs for the Phillies, hitting just .167/.226/.208 in 53 PA across 2010 and 2011. But because of his consistent hitting and top notch defense, Polly cracks the Phillies Top 60.

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