I myself am ambidextrous. Write with my left; throw with my left; golf left-handed. I shoot a basketball right-handed and use a hockey stick right-handed. It doesn’t make much sense. But, it’s kind of cool.
It used to be cool to see Shane Victorino use both hands at the plate. Not anymore.
If you’ve noticed, Victorino is struggling swinging the stick left-handed. This isn’t really a new trend, either. He’s been far better as a righty than a lefty for quite sometime. Except this season, it’s more pronounced.
During his career, Victorino has 2,194 plate appearances as a lefty and only 932 as a righty. His numbers: .274 as LHB, .299 as RHB. Here is a look at how he’s faired from each side of the plate since becoming a starter.
as LHB vs. RHP: .276/.733 OPS (7 HR in 356 PA)
as RHB vs. LHP: .291/.857 OPS (5 HR in 154 PA)
as LHB vs. RHP: .298/.762 OPS (5 HR in 431 PA)
as RHB vs. LHP: .282/.882 OPS (9 HR in 196 PA)
as LHB vs. RHP: .283/.787 OPS (8 HR in 499 PA)
as RHB vs. LHP: .314/.844 OPS (2 HR in 195 PA)
as LHB vs. RHP: .233/.681 OPS (11 HR in 456 PA)
as RHB vs. LHP: .321/.921 OPS (6 HR in 181 PA
as LHB vs. RHP: .257/.733 OPS (2 HR in 125 PA)
as RHB vs. LHP: .382/1.300 OPS (4 HR in 38 PA)
What’s this say? That Shane Victorino is crushing lefties and has for quite a while. Save for his 2008 season, each year as a full-time player, Victorino has been better from the right side than the left. As time has gone on, those numbers have rapidly moved in favor of batting right-handed.
Countless times this season, he’s pounded a ball into the turf, rolling it along to the second baseman. He’s a major pull hitter, so expect that trend to continue. Batting left, he’s hitting just .235 on balls hit to the right side. If he goes the opposite way (left-handed to left field), his average soars to .333 and up the middle, .387.
His OPS over the past five years as a right-handed batter has been on average nearly 222 points higher than as a left-handed batter. Obviously, in that equation is this year’s ridiculous split, but overall, he’s clearly better right-handed. Yet, Victorino has stepped to the plate 1,084 more times as a lefty.
Who’s to say Shane would hit more as a righty against same-handed pitching. He’s only done that 80 times in his career; 11 of those plate appearance came last year and he did OK, going 3-for-10 with a hit by pitch. Overall as a righty against a right-hander, Victorino is only hitting .186.
Looking at the numbers as a whole, you realize this is no fluke. Shane Victorino just isn’t as strong from one side to the other and it’s getting worse as time goes on. How can that be fixed?
It’s not like he’ll just stop batting left-handed. He brings that added element which is crucial to a lineup – and it’s not as if he can’t hit AT ALL with his left. What Charlie Manuel and his coaching staff could do is put him in a situation to succeed. And for him to succeed, batting righty is part of it.
We know Chase Utley will soon be back, which will add a new and important element. That will include the shuffling of said lineup, with a likely candidate to drop being Victorino. What if he bats fifth? He hasn’t done it a whole heck of a lot, but that doesn’t mean he can’t.
Since Raul Ibanez and Ben Francisco, among others, haven’t set the world on fire batting in the five-hole, Victorino could provide a welcomed run-producing bat there. With Utley batting third, Ryan Howard fourth, and Ibanez sixth, opposing managers will be chomping at the bit to use a situational lefty in late-inning situations. To combat that, Manuel could pencil in Victorino fifth to turn his bat around to right-handed in the middle of those three sluggers.
Just think; when you start seeing guys like Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, George Sherill, Mike Dunn, or any of the great Giants lefty relievers down the road, he’ll need to keep those lefties broken up. That’s where Shane could actually prove to be a force.
His best numbers come from the sixth spot in the order, but that was also hitting behind Jayson Werth for most of the time. Batting sixth, he’s a .323 career hitter, as opposed to just .276 in the five spot. But, hitting behind Ryan Howard could give those figures a slight boost.
It’s also a long shot. Charlie Manuel has gone with three lefties in a row many times before, but it could work well slotting Vic in-between.
If it doesn’t happen, keep an eye on Victorino’s eroding skills as a left-handed batter and pray that a left-handed pitcher takes the mound that day, because it hasn’t been pretty for him lately. Obviously, he won’t be trying the righty on righty matchup, unless an injury incites the switch, which isn’t a good thing (I believe that was the reason for him hitting solely right handed for a short time last season).
As you saw the other night, Victorino’s power swing is coming more from the right side and that’s something he’ll continue to look for – home runs. I guess we’ll just have to live with his ambidextrousness.