According to Eric Seidman of Brotherly Glove, it’s not even close:
This shouldn’t exactly be groundbreaking news even if it seems controversial. Shane plays a much tougher position, and though he takes questionable routes, he makes up for them with his speed, which is enough to earn solid fielding marks.
He is one of the best baserunners in the game, and generally a very good hitter. Howard is undoubtedly a better hitter, but he is one of the worst baserunners per Fangraphs, and he is mediocre at best at the easiest position to play.
Seidman was commenting on a piece from his sometimes colleague, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron, who had written yesterday:
Offensively, Howard wins fairly easily — his .276/.372/.566 line is 36 percent better than league average (park adjusted), while Victorino’s .283/.347/.440 mark is 11 percent better than league average (again after accounting for Citizens Bank Park) during that time. The gap between the two offensively is just under +13.5 wins, a pretty large margin.
However, when adding in base running and defense, including positional importance and scarcity, the article demonstrates that Victorino easily surpasses Howard.
Cameron closed with this ironic observation about the teammates:
But because he specializes in the skills that the market doesn’t generally value as highly, Victorino is in the second year of a 3 year, $22 million contract, while Howard is just one year away from his five year, $125 million extension kicking in. Or, to put it another way, Howard will make about as much money in 2012 as the Phillies will have paid Victorino from 2006 to 2012 combined.
At about $30 million per season for the pair, the Phillies are actually getting a pretty decent return on their investment from the pair — it’s just the allocation between the two that is way off kilter. Hopefully, when the two teammates go out to dinner, Howard picks up the check for his superior and underpaid teammate.
The Phillies start a three-game series against the Cardinals this evening at Busch Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. CDT.