COMMENTARY | Everyone knows how important Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are for this resurgent 2013 Boston Red Sox club, but few people have acknowledged just how profound of an impact outfielder Shane Victorino has had on the team with the best record in baseball.
He may not hit homers, bat .330 or win any awards this year, but without his stellar play in the outfield and in the batter's box, the Red Sox wouldn't be where they are today -- which is precisely why he is Boston's unsung hero of 2013.
The following five reasons explain why:
1. The rocket for an arm in right field
Everyone knows the three-time Gold Glove Award winner can play the field as good as anyone, but it's his incredible arm strength that has made the difference this year for the Red Sox. In only 111 games, Victorino already has more outfield assists, currently totaling 10, than any player on the team last season, and he is currently ranked 4th in the American League in outfield assists per game, sitting only behind Dayan Viciedo, Alex Gordon and Leonys Martin. It should also be noted that of the three players in the AL with more outfield assists, only Alex Gordon has fewer errors.
2. Speed kills, thrills and wins baseball games
With 20 stolen bases in only 487 plate appearances, Victorino is one of the most dangerous base runners on the team, stealing 20 bases. Only Ellsbury, who is currently far and away the best base stealer in all of the MLB this season, has more steals on the roster. Victorino is also one of only six players this season to steal home, further proof of just how fast and talented he is on the basepaths.
The number of steals, however, is not as impressive as his rate of success. In 23 attempts, Victorino has been caught only three times, giving him the eighth-best stolen-base percentage in MLB.
3. Clutch hitters are hard to come by
Anyone who watches baseball in the postseason knows that teams with clutch hitters are far more successful than teams with a high level of offensive talent who can't seem to put together big hits in the most important moments in October. Red Sox fans should be thankful then that Victorino is on their side. In 111 games, he has amassed a batting average of .314 with 7 homers, 28 RBIs and 14 stolen bases when the game is within 1 run.
4. Quality at-bats make Victorino always dangerous
Shane Victorino has a history of making the most of his at-bats, a trend that has increased in 2013 for the Red Sox. Victorino currently strikes out in only 13.6 percent of his plate appearances, second on the team to Dustin Pedroia and 23rd amongst all players in the AL. Victorino has also managed to get an extra-base hit in 8.2-percent of plate appearances, only 0.2 points lower than Detroit Tigers slugger Prince Fielder.
5. A recipe for success
Perhaps the most telling sign of Victorino's importance to the club is that the team tends to play much better when Victorino is successful at the plate. In 69 games that Victorino has appeared in this season that were Red Sox victories, he has tallied a batting average of .340, 11 home runs, 50 RBIs and 18 doubles. In losses, Victorino has hit only .205 with 3 homers, 7 RBIs and 6 doubles.
A big move for Boston
Shane Victorino is turning out to be one of the most important moves the Red Sox made in the 2013 offseason. He plays hard, he hits the ball well, he's having a clutch season, and he is an outstanding outfielder. As long as Victorino continues to play well, Boston has a good shot of postseason success.
Don't agree with me? Tell me why I am wrong on Twitter @THATCelticsGuy.
Justin Haskins is a New England native and a freelance journalist. He has been obsessively following Boston professional sports for 10 years and has been published in numerous online publications and websites.
- Sports & Recreation
- Shane Victorino
- Boston Red Sox
- Dustin Pedroia