Pat Burrell is quietly becoming the savior of the Phillies second half, but don't look for the fans to give him much credit in the near future. Burrell is the most universally loathed outfielder this side of J.D. Boo to Phils fandom. It's due to his accepting a gargantuan long-term contract that the Phils dangled before him as a youngster. He's Philly's version of A-Rod.
And yet Burrell, aside from an abysmal 2003 season, has been a consistently above average left fielder. He has a career OPS that is 18% better than the park-adjusted league average. He's no Hall of Famer, but he is a valuable player. Look at his most similar batters and you get a picture of what type of player he is: Glenn Davis, Cliff Johnson, Glenallen Hill. Those guys may not have been superstars but they had long productive careers (well, Davis's career fell apart pretty fast).
This season he started off as one of the worst regulars in baseball and for a time lost his starting left field job. His first half ratios are almost as bad as 2003: .215 BA/.378 OBP/.408 SLUG/.786 OPS.
I would never have expected this team with its dysfunctional staff to be able to stay in the playoff hunt after losing the best second baseman in the game (Chase Utley) for a good portion of the second half. But Burrell took over where Utley left off. His home runs went from .048 per at-bat in the first half to .070 per at-bat in the second, which would rank behind just behind Barry Bonds (.094) and Adam Dunn (.082) among starting left fielders. His second half ratios are just about the best among starting left fielders: .368/.483/.658/1.141.
Here is a comparison based on OPS between the best starting left fielders (min. 300 plate appearances) and Burrell's second half projected to match his 2007 at-bats total:
PLAYER (300 TPA Min)
Burrell--2nd half (proj)
Burrell's projected second half would rank number among starting left fielders for batting average, slugging, and OPS; second in on-base and walks; third in home runs per at-bats; and fourth in home runs and RBI. His second half has been so good, his overall stats even with the horrible first half Are among the best at his position (third in OPS).
To get an idea of how bad his first half was, if we project it out to his entire season, he would rank seventh worst in OPS (.786), fourth worst in slugging (.408), dead last in batting average (.215), ninth worst in home runs (15), and seventh worst in RBI (51) among starting outfielders (though his OBP, .378, would be fourth best). Here is his projected first half compared to the worst left field OPS's:
PLAYER (300 TPA Min)
Burrell--1st half (proj)
The oddest thing is that Burrell has never been a second half player. His career OPS in the second half is slightly better than in the first but not by that much (.867 to .832), but his best month based on career OPS is May (.941).
Keep in mind also that September is his second worst month by career OPS (.827). So expect Burrell to start staring at those called third strikes right around the time that Utley returns to the lineup, which will go a long towards keeping the Phils from making the postseason in typical Phils fashion again this year.