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October 25 2006

With Moyer signed to a two-year deal it looks as if the Phillies will soon turn their attention to center fielder Aaron Rowand.  Rowand has until next week to decide on his $3.25 million option.  Assuming he declines, the Phillies have a $5 million option.

If the Phillies don't bring in somebody from outside the organization it looks as if their choices at center are primarily Rowand or Shane Victorino.  I would guess the chances of Michael Bourn or Chris Roberson playing regularly in center, or anywhere else barring injury, are slim.  While most fans would probably feel comfortable with either Rowand or Victorino as the every day center fielder, many would feel much less comfortable if either of them were forced to play one of the corner outfield positions regularly.

Here's a look at what both of them did offensively last season:

 

Player AB AVG OBP SLG HR RBI
Rowand 405 262 321 425 12 47
Victorino 415 287 346 414 6 46

and defensively:

 

Player Inn FPCT PO A E RF ZR
Rowand 900.2 .981 251 6 5 2.570 .857
Victorino 557.2 1.000 161 6 0 2.700 .858

The numbers are pretty similar, but Victorino was a little bit better both offensively and defensively.  Rowand probably will hit for more power, but given how little data there are on Victorino after just one full season it's harder to guess what he might do in the future.  Victorino's season was the best of his young career, Rowand's was his second-straight disappointing one since hitting 310/361/544 with 24 home runs and 69 RBI in 2004.

Important also to remember about their offensive numbers is that while they were very similar last season, neither was especially good with the bat.  The value that each brings is they can play center field well defensively.  Each of them would be a weak-hitting corner outfielder.  Victorino led the pair with a .760 OPS, which would have tied him for 58th in the NL had he gotten enough plate appearances to qualify.  Other right field candidate Jeff Conine posted a .717 OPS with the Phillies and a .726 with the Orioles this season.  .724 overall.  Phillies right fielders, led by Abreu and Dellucci, combined to OPS .816 in 2006, which was sixth-best in the NL for the position.  San Diego was 11th in the NL for OPS at right field with .770, so had Victorino played every day in right field and posted the same OPS last season the Phillies would have gone from getting the sixth-most offensive production in right to getting the 11th most.  In 2005, Victorino's .760 OPS in '06 would have put the Phillies ahead of just three teams in terms of offensive production from right field.  In the NL, only Florida got less offensive production out of right field than the Phillies would have gotten if they started Conine in right every game this year and he had put up the same OPS.

A big part of the question is whether the Phillies can get a better outfielder than Rowand for what it's going to cost them to bring him back, which is likely somewhere between $3.25 million and $5 million.  And I think the answer is no, and if that's true I think there's a good chance he's coming back.

There's almost no doubt the Phillies are going to get less out of right field in '07 than they did in '06.  Their right fielders hit the ball very well last year.  The best case for the Phillies outfield may be they bring back Rowand and Burrell, get a better hitter than Victorino to play right every day and keep Victorino as a fourth outfielder and Conine as a fifth.  Or give center to Victorino, keep Burrell in left and add a bat in right better than Rowand and let Rowand go.  I don't think either of those things are likely to happen, though.  More likely seems to be that Conine and Victorino man right field with Victorino getting more of the time and the Phillies try to make up for the offense they lose by upgrading themselves at third base.  The offense they would lose in right, however, is going to be significant.  There's no guarantee that Burrell is back either -- a dangerous scenario for the Phillies would be one where they put Rowand in center, Victorino/Conine in right and someone worse than Burrell in left.  The Phillies would have a tough time getting enough of a boost at third to make up for that.

Other factors to consider are how left-handed the Phillies are with their two best hitters, Utley and Howard both hitting left-handed.  The Phillies would no doubt be thrilled if Rowand could return to his 20-home-run power days of 2004 and give them another right-handed bat.  The switch-hitter Victorino had similar numbers against righties (293/349/410) and lefties (273/340/424).  Also not to be forgotten is that it's hard to leave one's home without being bombarded with the news of how Davey Lopes has been brought in to help Victorino become a better base-stealer.  I'm fairly certain Victorino is a big part of the Phillies plans -- and he should be because he is inexpensive and very solid.  If they make him an everyday right fielder, however, he's going to be a bad one, and they're going to have to make up for it elsewhere.

Elsewhere, the Saguaros fell 12-7 to the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, which drops their record to 7-6.  Kyle Kendrick was hit hard but briefly, charged with a run on three hits and a walk in just 1/3 of an inning as his ERA puffed to 5.06.

The St Louis Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers 5-0 in Game 3 to take a two games to one lead in the World Series.  Chris Carpenter was the hero for the Cards, he held the Tigers to three hits in eight shutout innings and did not walk a batter.

The Cards jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a two-run double by Edmonds in the fourth.  For the second time in three games in the series, a Tigers' pitcher had fielding trouble -- the Cards extended their lead to 4-0 in the seventh on a two-run error by Zumaya.  So Taguchi scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth to make the score 5-0. 

The Cardinals, awful against left-handed pitching during the regular season, got it done against lefty Nate Robertson as Detroit threw their second southpaw in two games.  Several of the best hitters on the Cardinals, Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds, had issues with lefties this season.  Rolen and Edmonds both struggled and Pujols was better against righties.  It makes sense Edmonds would be better against righties, but he was unusually horrible against left-handed pitching:  156/198/281 after hitting 296/385/584 against lefties in '05.  Oddly, righties Pujols and Rolen both hit righties better than lefties this season.  Pujols was 329/429/688 against righties (1.118 OPS) and 336/435/620 (1.055) against lefties.  Rolen 310/381/540 (.921) against righties and 259/335/462 (.797) against lefties.

Edmonds' two-run double to open the scoring against the lefty Robertson came as a surprise.  Two lefty starters or not, he's 4-for-9 with two doubles in the series and leads St Louis with four RBI.  Pujols 2-for-10 and Rolen 5-for-12 (.417).  Belliard and Encarnacion have combined to go 0-for-15.  Eckstein's 2-for-13 (.154) with two singles and Molina 3-for-11 (.273) with a double.  Preston Wilson is 1-for-7 and 6-for-32 (.188) in the post-season.

For the Tigers, the bats have gone sleepy.  Granderson, Polanco and Rodriguez have combined to go 0-for-34.  Carlos Guillen is 5-for-10 and is tied with Craig Monroe (3-for-11 with two home runs) for the team lead in RBI.  They each have two.  Casey is 3-for-9 and Inge 3-for-10 -- they have six singles and one RBI between them.  Marcus Thames still has one at-bat in the series.  The Tigers have scored five runs in three games.

Two righties tonight for Game 4 as Jeremy Bonderman (14-8, 4.08) faces Jeff Suppan (12-7, 4.12).  Bonderman is 1-0 in his two playoff starts, throwing to a 3.00 ERA.  He made one start against the Cards during the year and held them to a run on seven hits and a walk over seven innings.  Suppan has been a post-season star for the Cards, going 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA in three starts.  Most recently he held the Mets to a run on two hits over seven innings in Game 7 of the NLCS.  He made one start against the Tigers this season, allowing three runs on nine hits and three walks in five innings.

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