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Spin Doctors: Keystone kingpins, Victorino vs. McLouth

Brad Evans
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We know a lot of Yahoo! fantasy readers legends will be deciding between a pair of Pennsylvania outfielders in their drafts this month, so we thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to break down Shane Victorino versus Nate McLouth. Miraculously, we were able to drag Brad Evans away from his self-promotion tour and Scott Pianowski away from his pizza buffet long enough to put together this offering. Have at it, and please vote at the end. Bon appetit.

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The Noise Leads Off: With apologies to Magnum P.I., a certain political leader of the free world, the macadamia nut and the Big Pineapple, Benny Agbayani, Shane Victorino could be the greatest product ever imported from the Aloha State. That is, in the competitive stat-mad world of virtual rawhide.

Since exploding onto the scene two years ago, the Flyin' Hawaiian has been a multi-cat sensation. Last season, the speedy 28-year-old was only one of two outfielders (Grady Sizemore the other) to score 100 runs, swipe 30 bags and slap double-digit homers. His .293 BA was nothing to scoff at either.

Without question McLouth will dwarf Victorino in homers and RBIs. The gopher-destroyer's GB/FB returns have hovered steadily around 1.30 since '06. But the long-ball disparity won't be as sizable as some pundits may lead you to believe.

The Pittsburgh sparkplug's power surge last year was spectacular, but his substantial muscle decline after the break (Pre: 19.3 AB/HR, Post: 32.9) combined with his suspect history suggest the homer summit has been reached. Frankly, a regression to the 18-22 range is possible.

Because Victorino is entrenched ahead of run generators Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez, there's minimal uncertainty compared to McLouth in several key categories – specifically steals and batting average. Yes, the Pirates outfielder is a highly efficient base burglar, but it's unlikely he'll surpass 25 steals playing for conservative manager John Russell. Victorino will easily outpace him by 12-17 swipes and 20-25 BA points.

For the Noise, fleet-footed, plate-touching, batting average studs taste sweeter.

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Pianow counters: Mr. Evans wants to label Victorino a multi-cat sensation, but let's go to the numbers. Victorino is a boon for steals and runs, sure. He'll help a little in average. Fourteen homers and 58 RBIs? That doesn't move the needle. He's a 2-3 category guy, in truth.

Let's stop with the idea that McLouth was a first-half wonder, exposed down the stretch. Does anyone remember his monster September, when he scored 24 runs, knocked in 17, slugged .500 and stole nine bases? If anything McLouth should steal more this year – he ended the season with 21 consecutive swipes, and he was 22-for-23 as a part-timer in 2007. When this guy wants a bag, he takes it.

McLouth is also in a better position to produce runs for his mythical owners – he's expected to bat third for the Bucs all season, while Victorino toggles between second and sixth. Sure, the Phils have a much better lineup, but in our make-believe games it's about opportunity as much as anything else, and batting No. 3 on any team, even the Pirates, is the catbird seat.

I'll concede to Victorino at batting average, call it 10-20 points. Runs scored, who knows – McLouth bested him last year. The power cats, McLouth in a runaway. Stolen bases, it's closer than you think given McLouth's sublime ability to read moves. The sexy pick is the Philly guy with the ring on his finger, but I'm a fan of mining small markets for value, and that leaves me with the underappreciated Nate Dogg yet again.

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