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Every Ex-Phillies Outfielder Is Having an Awesome Season

Sep 9, 2013, 12:15 PM EDT

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A rotating cast of Cesar Hernandez, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr. and Freddy Galvis (!) certainly isn’t what most Phillies fans would have ever pictured the team’s outfield looking like a couple years ago–hell, even at the beginning of this season–and though injuries (to Dom Brown and Ben Revere, namely) have much to do with this destabilization, there are days where you have to wonder how it ever came to this for the Fightins.

In the years that were good for this Phillies team, dating back to the days of Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell, the outfield was always a strength. But over the last three years or so, Ruben Amaro Jr. made the decision to cut bait with a number of the outfielders who helped power the team’s glory years–due to age, increasing expense, seeming decline, and a number of other reasons, most of which seemed pretty sound at the time.

However, as luck would have it, this season has brought back basically every one of those decisions to haunt Ruben Amaro Jr. (and us by extension). If you’re an MLB outfielder in 2013 and you once played for the Phillies, chances are you’re having your best season in years, if not ever. To wit:

source:  Jayson Werth. The seven-year, $126-million contract that Raw Power signed with the Nats in the 2010 off-season–one which still gets him booed by a good percentage of the Phillie Phaithful upon return visits to the Bank–looked like a disaster in his first few seasons for Washington, in which Werth missed a combined 92 games and hit a combined 25 homers. This year, however, Jayson might be an MVP candidate if he hadn’t missed a month with a hamstring injury and if the Nats were doing a little better. He’s batting a career-high .323, with 21 homers and a near-.400 OBP, and when facing the Phillies he’s doing even better, batting .400/.466/.640 in 58 PAs against the Phils. Seven years at $18 mil a year is probably still a stretch for Jayson, now 34 years old, but man could we have used that outfield production this season.

source:  Shane Victorino. As part of the Phils’ half-hearted teardown at the end of last season, Victorino and his expiring contract was jettisoned to the Dodgers for Josh Lindblom and Ethan Martin. After Shane did nothing for the Dodgers in 53 games and LA missed the playoffs, and after he got off to a slow start this year for the Red Sox after signing a three-year, $39 million deal, it seemed like Ruben let go of Vic at just the right time. But the Flying Hawaiian has roared back with a vengeance in Boston, hitting .328 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in the month of August alone. Now he’s hitting nearly .300 for the season, with 14 homers and 20 steals, and according to Baseball-Reference WAR, he’s been worth a career-high 5.7 wins this season, seventh-highest in the whole AL. What’s more, on the Red Sox, Victorino is all but guaranteed to do something no one else on this list (or on the Phillies, natch) will do this season–play well into October.

Hunter Pence. The other casualty of the Phils’ partial rebuild at the end of last year was Hunter Pence, who had a sub-par end of season and post-season for the Giants after being dealt for Nate Schierholtz and a couple minor-leaguers at the deadline (though the Giants would win the World Series anyway, and Hunt had that weird three-RBI double where his bat hit the ball three times on one swing). Anyway, Pence is having a much better year in his second season in San Fran–his first real walk year–hitting .287 with 19 homers and a career-high 21 steals (against just two caught, remarkably). His defense has been less unanimously celebrated, but Fangraphs value says he’s having the best season of his career anyway, and his googly-eyed enthusiasm is certainly missed on and off the field in Philly.

Nate Schierholtz. The 28-year-old pro throw-in in the Pence deal performed unremarkably in his 37-game stint for the Phils at the end of last year, and was unsurprisingly let walk at the end of the season. For the Cubs, however, Nasty Nate has hit on a career power surge, knocking 20 dingers after never reaching double digits in any season prior. It’s hard to get too mad at Ruben for not seeing this one coming, but given some of the scrubs we’ve had cycle through our outfield this season–all of whom have performed as such–it’s especially irritating to see a career fourth or fifth outfielder like Schierholtz hitting at such a high level elsewhere.

source:  Raul Ibanez. Perhaps the most surprising career resuscitation among the Phils’ ex-outfield crew is the year Raul Ibanez is having out in Seattle. The 19 homers he had (as well as the two post-season pinch-hit blasts) he had in part-time duty for the Yankees last year was impressive enough after he seemed to be on his last legs as a 39-year-old for the ’11 Phils, but this year he’s gone yard 27 times in one of the sport’s most hitter-oppressive ballparks, and at age 41, has posted the highest OPS+ of his entire career. Most remarkably, he’s now hit more homers in his 40s than he did in his entire 20s, officially giving Ibanez one of the weirdest career arcs of any slugger in baseball history.

Marlon Byrd. OK, it’s not really fair to count Byrd here–it’s been eight years and now six teams since Byrd was a Phillie, and he wasn’t a part of any of the division-winning squads of the late ’00s and early ’10s. But damn…even Marlon friggin’ Byrd is having a near-All-Star year? The dude was all but out of baseball last year, posting an OPS under .500 as a 34-year-old, surely reaching the end of the line for his respectable career. But somehow, he not only caught on with the Mets this year, he had the best season of his whole career, hitting .288 with 22 homers for New York before getting shipped in a post-deadline deal to the Pirates, where he’s hit .325 with six XBHs and eight RBIs in 11 games so far. It’s maybe the most bizarre story of the whole baseball season, and it serves as just one more jab to the gut for the Phillies and their crappy, crappy current outfield.

  1. mattcrwi - Sep 9, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    There is an easy explination for a power surge at the end of your career….

    Reply
    • Dan - Sep 9, 2013 at 2:31 PM

      I know what you are implying but I really feel like Raul Ibanez respects the game too much to juice. He has always been known as one of those large workout high intensity players who works out really hard in the offseason.

      Reply
    • willh888 - Sep 9, 2013 at 3:11 PM

      Hank Aaron’s career high is 47 HR in a season (age 37). No no no, Raul is no Hank but sometimes the more slender, slim career power hitters have a longer shelf life. Bigger guys like Howard, Winfield, Cecil peaked late 20′s and fell off in their 30′s…. likely due to size/wear and tear on their big ol bodies. I’m sure the DH rule really helps Raul as well. Eliminates basically half your work load.

      Reply
  2. Sarcasm - Sep 9, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    Man I miss the days of running Ibanez and Pence out there. Coming up short in the playoffs always leaves me with the best memories.

    Reply
  3. whizkid - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    Interesting article. Victorino, who I really liked, experienced a drop in performance the last two years in Philly. Schierholtz is a decent player but never targeted as an everyday player. Remember, he platooned in SF too. He’s playing everday in Chicago because they have no one else in their system. Werth is a nice player who complimenetd the Phillies line-up well. He is finally playing up to his contract in his third year with Washington. ‘Bout time!! He is insanely overpaid. Plus, at 34 does anyone really think he’s going to excel for the next 5 years!? He is injury prone as well – $126M player – not by any stretch!!

    I would have kept Pence. Good player with high energy. Better OFer than given credit for. Not only did they give up on him they got nothing in return. Big mistake. The Phillies would do well to try and resign him to a 4 year contract if the opportunity arises. And, please don’t even suggest that Brown, Hernandez, Ruf or Mayberry are better defensively in any of the OF positions. Surely you jest!!

    Reply
    • Greg O - Sep 9, 2013 at 4:00 PM

      I was with you until the Pence part. As sad as it was seeing a player I personally liked get traded, he is going to get WAY more money than he is worth on his next contract, and a Phillies team already saddled by several bad contracts (Howard, Papelbon, Lee, Rollins) doesn’t need more bad money on the books. I also doubt pence signs a 4 year deal anywhere.

      Blame Ruben for again successfully getting nothing when trading a star player for young talent, just like he did with Cliff Lee after 2009.

      Also, not sure if you ever watched ol’ hunter play in right. Sure he has a cannon but he’s nowhere near accurate enough and he can’t play balls at or near the wall to save his life. He routinely dropped flyouts and though he makes the occasional web gem, is most definitely a sub par fielder. I’d take Dom and possibly even Mayberry over him in the field any day.

      Reply
      • whizkid - Sep 9, 2013 at 4:59 PM

        Have you watched two fly balls land squarely between Mayberry and Brown just in the last 3 weeks. Both balls HAVE to be caught. A joke really! If you were watching you could hear the ‘boos’ from the fans raining down and deservedly so. And, these two same outfielders catch fly balls one-handed. It wasn’t long ago where Brown put up his glove and plain missed a text book fly ball only to prelong an inning with a precarious one run lead.

        Both players (Brown & Mayberry) look disinterested at times. At least, with Pence, you have a player with energy, awareness and, what apears to be, a pulse! Pence is easily a better player defensively that either of these two guys.

        I haven’t even mentioned the ‘bat flipping’ nonsense by Brown. The guy needs to mature a little and raise his baseball awareness and concentration. Mayberry was offered an outfielders position and has not siezed the opportunity. This is the major leagues. You don’t get many chances because winning and effort is what it’s all about. That’s why these guys are multi-millionaires. If you’re happy being a minor leaguer and making $30 – $40K a year – so be it.

    • Matt M - Sep 9, 2013 at 5:22 PM

      I could argue that the Phillies should have never traded for Hunter Pence in the first place because they didn’t need him and that they gave up WAY too much to get him, but then I’d just be making myself sad.

      Reply
  4. Joseph - Sep 9, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    What about Brandon Moss? 26HR, 73RBI, 4SB, .834OPS. Amaro is a total retard for trading Pence and letting Moss go for nothing. If we had Pence and Moss in the lineup this year instead of Mayberry and Frandsen (1B), I think we would be fighting for a wild card spot right now.

    Reply
    • Utley"s Knees - Sep 9, 2013 at 5:21 PM

      Joseph, the Phillies traded Pence and Victorino so that Cole Hamels could be resigned and this was a FO decision that was forced on Ruben. As for Brandon Moss he did not make it in Boston and Pittsburgh so its hard to blame them when we won 102 games in 2011. Also, Moss is strictly a platoon player and Charlie Manuel does not platoon players and lastly how many lefthanded batter do you want in our lineup.

      Reply
      • Joseph - Sep 9, 2013 at 6:38 PM

        We traded so much for Hunter Pence, who was in the prime of his career and continued to play really good baseball this season, then flipping him for pennies on the dollar was a horrible FO decision. This guy Amaro hasn’t made one good move and continues to trot out horrible MLB players like Mayberry, Martinez, Orr, Nix, etc. who are minor league talents. Moss played really well for our AAA team and never really got a fair chance with the Phillies. When they called him up, I said I liked him better than Mayberry and Nix, but they got rid of him, just like Jason Grilli who was great for our AAA team, then was dominant in the MLB the last 2 years for the Pirates before he got hurt. The only moves I liked in the last few years have been Mike Adams (didn’t work out), Michael Young (since we didn’t give up a lot), resigning Chase and Cole, and trading Victorino made sense. This team won the World Series with POWER in a hitter’s park. Trading Pence and letting Moss go really killed this team’s chances, because you’re replacing them with Mayberry, Martinez, Casper freakin Wells, and other players who should be nowhere near an MLB team.

  5. Dan - Sep 9, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    I feel like the Pirates a couple years ago when they had a chart of players that the Pirates had traded away and they were all good.

    Reply
  6. Jon - Sep 9, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    You forgot one–just like Ruben did. Brandon Moss came up at the tail end of 2011 and went 0-for-6 in 5 games. He’d previously hit 25 homers in 5 years with the Red Sox and Pirates. The Phils released him after the season–in part so they could lock up Laynce Nix for 2 years.
    Moss signed with the A’s and has since hit 47 homers–26 this year–with 125 RBIs–73 this year.
    Not saying he would’ve done that here, but clearly they never gave him a real chance.

    Reply
  7. Over easy - Sep 9, 2013 at 7:23 PM

    Don’t forget this is exactly what they’re doing to Susdorf too

    Reply
  8. jason R. - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    I want you all to remember the “The Phillies got nothing for Hunter Pence” discussion when you look at Schierholtz’ season (what could have been instead of Nix) and Tommy Joseph is the Phils catcher for the next 10 years…

    Reply
    • whizkid50 - Sep 12, 2013 at 5:46 PM

      Joseph may never catch another game. He’s had concussion issues all year. The only chance he has is in the outfield, and, that probably won’t work either. So, in effect, the Phillies got ZIP, ZERO, NADA for Pence!!

      I’d still try and resign Pence to a 3 or 4 year deal. He’s a ‘gamer’ who is coming into his prime.

      Reply

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