Change-UpSeptember 12, 2007
Pat the Bat
By Patrick Sullivan

This happens all the time. Fans and media members spend time bemoaning some player that does not suit their fancy for one reason or another, only to have that player come on strong to carry their team to glory. Then the individual who had been killing the player will talk of how the player has come out of nowhere when, in reality, the player had been quite good all along, just under-appreciated.

The guy Phillies fans and media alike love to hate is causing many of them quite a dilemma these days. A sub-.500 team as late as July 7, Philadelphia now finds themselves 2.5 games out of a wildcard slot. There is no individual more responsible for this late season surge than Pat Burrell. He has been the best hitter in baseball since the All-Star Break and better yet, has been getting it done in one clutch situation after another. The haters may just have to come around.

Pat Burrell can't field and can't run and I will concede that if he could do those things he would be a much better baseball player. If Magglio Ordonez could don the tools of ignorance once a week and spell Pudge Rodriguez instead of Mike Rabelo, that would help the Tigers a whole lot and make Mags a much more valuable player. He cannot of course, because he has limitations as a player. Just like Ryan Howard, just like Johan Santana, just like Burrell and every other athlete. Pat Burrell hits very well and this makes him a very good player. Focusing on what he cannot do while ignoring what he does quite well does Burrell a real disservice.

Burrell has been a good player for quite some time now. He is a career .259/.367/.484 hitter, good for a 119 OPS+. Since 2005, here is how he has been performing at the plate.

       PA   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS+
2005   669 .281  .389  .504   125
2006   567 .258  .388  .502   124
2007   522 .266  .406  .525   137

Pretty good, huh? Pat Burrell still can't field, still can't run and still strikes out all the time. He is also Philadelphia's only hope for reaching the post-season. He's hitting .332/.447/674 since the All-Star Break and fans seem to be coming around, as evidenced by the palpable excitement at Citizens Bank Park that can be sensed everytime he grabs a bat these days.

I imagine even Bill Conlin and Mike Schmidt and Jack McCaffery and Pat Gillick might soon be coming around.


What's absolutely crazy is that it's taken until just about now for Philadelphia fans to stop calling Burrell a bum. His last two seasons were pretty good and he still received an incredible amount of criticism by the media and fans alike. Last year, the Phillies were sitting Burrell in favor of Jeff Conine! Even the management in Philadelphia doesn't recognize how good Burrell is.

I can think of absolutely no one in the Philadelphia media that defended Burrell or gave him any praise until this year - and this year he hasn't been that much better than in the past! In fact, even with his numbers this year, there are STILL fans and media members who decry Burrell for being streaky and unreliable.

The treatment Burrell has received in Philadelphia is absolutely agonizing for understands the production he's been giving. This guy would be the best hitter on a lot of teams. It's a tribute to Burrell's character that he's been able to withstand the incredible amount of crap that's been flung in his direction from everyone around him and still go out there everyday and play like he has.

As a Mets fan, I was hoping against hope that Philly fans would boo Pat right out of town.

The anti-Burrell frenzy derives from the myth about clutch hitters and chokers. Because he does strike out a lot and some columnists and talk radio half-wits could identify a number of times he failed to drive in a run he was labeled and a target was put on his back for the fans to aim at. Naturally, every failure to deliver simply validated the preconceptions.

i don't really have an opinion of burrell one way or the other, but his clutch stats should be noted.... I dont have first/second half splits available, but take a look

(bottom right corner for those who don't know)

Speaking of the limitations of management in player evaluation, Gillick is, after all, the man who convinced an entire country that Joe Carter was a great baseball player.

This year Burrell has cut down some on his strikeouts (at least it appears that way; I haven't checked his 2007 stats against previous years. He is also drawing a lot more walks this season, having recently gone over the 100 BB mark. I think he's third in the NL behind Bonds and Todd Helton.

You could replace "Adam Dunn" for "Pat Burrell" in this post, and it would read the same. Dunn is just as underappreciated in Cincinnati, despite doing things no other Red has ever done.

Wow I wrote a very similar blog on this subject about a week ago. Heres the link if anyone is interested.