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Shane – Take a Pitch!

Shane Victorino is unlikely to be reading this, so that yell in the headline is for naught. Shane Victorino is also unlikely to take pitches and work counts any time soon.

Prototypical leadoff men bask in the glow of a high on-base percentage. They make pitchers sweat a little more than the others at the plate and on the bases. Leadoff hitters often times will attempt to steal those bases once on said bases, and hopefully after they’ve worked a nice, long count in the batters box.

During the 2010 season, leadoff hitters throughout baseball averaged an on-base percentage of .329. Shane Victorino’s .345 OBP actually shows him to be a viable threat compared to the rest of the league at the top. His penchant for swiping bags is also why Charlie Manuel has entrusted him there to begin the year while Jimmy Rollins bats third in Chase Utley’s absence.

All of those things are nice, except, at least early on, Victorino is up there hacking away again. The results have been positive through the first eight at-bats, as he’s reached base three times and has knocked in three runs. What is worrisome is his lack of selectivity.

Victorino has one walk and in that at-bat he saw six pitches. That’s his longest at-bat thus far. Five of those at-bats haven’t reached three pitches. You’re probably reading this and wondering why I’ve wasted your time – hell, the guy only has nine freakin’ plate appearances. Still, the writing is on the wall for a lot of hair pulling. Last season, Victorino ranked 58th out of 73 qualified batter in pitches per plate appearance in the National League. He looked at an average of 3.67 each time he stepped to the dish.

It’s been a running joke with some of my buddies who will watch my reaction after watching Victorino swing at the first or second pitch. Documentation will show Victorino has never been one to stand up there long, but still, you have to hope he does a little more. Getting the pitcher to work a little more can only help. Victorino’s greatest assets are his legs, but you can’t use them by softly grounding out to second base. Drawing walks isn’t his forte, although it would certainly be nice to see him be on base with contact hitter Placido Polanco hitting behind him.

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