George Kissell, the career minor league manager, coach, scout and instructor, who once roomed with Babe Ruth, knew a thing or two about the game of baseball. So when Kissell, who passed away at the age of 88 in 2008 remarked, “Placido Polanco has the best knowledge of the strike zone that any hitter I’ve ever seen,” it certainly raised some eyebrows.
Placido, the Phillies third-baseman and occasional second-baseman since 2010, is perhaps the one Phillies superstar who consistently flies under the radar. In Polly’s initial season in Philadelphia, Placido managed an impressive .298 batting average, despite being hampered by a sore left elbow for nearly the entire campaign. Polanco was hit by a pitch early in the season and never fully recovered. The injury actually required surgery during the off-season and the early results indicate that Polanco has once more established himself as one of the game’s elite hitters.
The 35-year old infielder, who hails from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, has had a distinguished career, both as a hitter and fielder. Polly’s defense, which is sometimes overlooked because of a lack of flair, actually earned him two Gold Gloves during his stint with the Detroit Tigers.
The Gold Gloves feat, accomplished in 2007 and 2009, are even more impressive when you consider that Polly did not commit an error in 2007! On top of that, Polanco set a major league record by playing in 144 consecutive games at second- base without an error. The streak actually lasted 149 games as Placido also broke Luis Castillo’s mark of handling 647 chances without a miscue.
However, it is Polanco’s hitting that sets him apart from his counterparts. Placido, who established a Phillies record by accumulating 41 hits by the end of April this year, owned a .354 batting average through Friday.
Polly’s high water mark was .341 for Detroit in 2007. Placido currently is a career .304 hitter and is the second toughest hitter to strike out in all of baseball. During his illustrious career, Polanco has struck out only once in 14.04 at bats, trailing only Juan Pierre of the White Sox. Placido was so outstanding with the Tigers that he was voted as the MVP of the 2006 American League Championship Series.
Placido Enrique Polanco was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 19th round of the 1994 major league draft. During his time with the Cardinal organization, he befriended St. Louis great, Albert Pujols, a fellow Dominican, and Pujols is godfather to Placido’s son, Ismael. Placido and his wife, Lily, also have a daughter, Aide Rose.
As popular a player as existed during his time with the Detroit Tigers, Placido became an American citizen during a ceremony at Comerica Park on July 9, 2008. In addition to his other accomplishments, Polly won a Silver Slugger Award for his great offensive year at second-base in 2007. Placido was voted to start the All-Star game, his first such honor in 2007.
Polanco began the 2011 season with 1836 hits, so if he remains healthy, he is surely going to surpass the 2000 hit mark at some point during the season. Incredibly, Polly has pounded out more four- hit games during the last eight seasons than anyone in the big leagues and that includes Ichiro Suzuki! Polanco played in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, representing the Dominican Republic. Placido, because of his great bat control, was rated as the best hit and run artist in all of baseball by Baseball America. At 5’10” and 190 pounds, Polly is not a physically intimidating player, but is as feared by opposing pitchers as the best clutch hitter on the Phillies.
Placido is actually in his second stint with the Phillies. He was originally acquired from St. Louis on July 29, 2002, along with Mike Timlin and Bud Smith for Scott Rolen, Doug Nickle and cash. Polly, at the time was obtained to play second-base in order to make room for David Bell to play third. The Phillies later sent Polly to Detroit in 2005, where he became a star, for Ugueth Urbina and Ramon Martinez.
Polanco was signed as a free agent by Philadelphia on December 3,, 2009 and signed a three year $18 million dollar contract, taking him through 2012. Polanco remains not only as one of the most consistent if not unheralded players in baseball, but certainly one of the biggest bargains. His line drive hits and nearly flawless glove work are almost taken for granted by many.