Sep 162010
Phillies CF Shane Victorino

Phillies CF Shane Victorino

September 16 Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Excuse Shane Victorino if, for a fleeting moment, something else is on his mind. His wife, Melissa, is expecting the couple’s third child. The due date is Oct. 3, but Victorino is expecting the baby boy to come earlier, like “any day now.”

If she doesn’t give birth by next Thursday, well, it’ll have to happen then, Victorino said. It’s an off day and he doesn’t want to miss a game during a pennant race if he can avoid it.

Right now, Victorino is going as well as he has this season. The centerfielder is on a nine-game hitting streak that began Sept. 6, the day he replaced Jimmy Rollins as the Phillies’ new leadoff batter.

Victorino had two more hits Wednesday, including a triple that gave him 10 for the season.

“It’s just a coincidence,” he said of his streak. “I’ve done nothing differently.”

But that doesn’t mean the pitchers he is facing haven’t.

After Tuesday’s game, manager Charlie Manuel observed that pitchers had altered their approach this season against Victorino (and Rollins, too). Victorino, a fastball hitter, has seen more off-speed stuff. The numbers support it. According to data from Baseball Info Solutions, he has seen fewer fastballs than he has in any other season in his career. Pitchers have thrown him more sliders and curveballs than last season.

“Everyone in the league knows I’m a fastball hitter,” Victorino said. “Why are you going to throw me one? That’s why there are scouting reports.”

Nonetheless, Victorino had seen more fastballs in the last eight games as leadoff hitter entering Wednesday. Albeit a small sample size, it does show one potential benefit to batting Victorino higher in the order.

According to Major League Baseball’s pitch f/x data, Victorino had seen 56.7 percent fastballs in his last 41 plate appearances. In the 124 previous games, pitchers threw Victorino a fastball 50.5 percent of the time.

With Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jayson Werth behind Victorino instead of Carlos Ruiz and the pitcher’s spot, opposing pitchers may be more apt to throw Victorino a fastball.

Manuel said he wasn’t sure if Victorino would still be hitting leadoff if Rollins was healthy. Victorino was inserted there before Rollins injured his right hamstring. When Rollins is at the top of his game, Manuel said, he’s the team’s leadoff hitter.”

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