Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How about Raul?

Is he looking at the ball? That could be the problem.

Earlier I mentioned that Ken Davidoff tweeted about representatives for Vladimir Guerrero and Raul Ibanez contacting the Yankees. I went on to discuss Vlad, coming to the conclusion that if the money is right then bringing Guerrero in would be a good thing. Now it's time to look at Mr. Ibanez.

Raul saw a significant drop in numbers last season, compared to 2010. In 2010 his triple-slash was .275/.349/.444, and the following season it dropped to .245/.289/.419. Even before 2009 he was able to maintain a good to great batting average, along with a nice OBP, so what we saw last year out of him was most definitely not the norm. And on the surface you'd expect to see his numbers rebound. But I can't leave it at that... right?

I like to look at a player's ratios first when looking for differences. To start, Raul's HR% actually went up a bit from 2.5% to 3.5%, so I'm not sure he's lost any power which would attribute to the drop in SLG. That doesn't really surprise me, but what did surprise me was that Ibanez's XBH% didn't really change either, as it went from 9.1% to 9.0%. So he hit more HR, and hit just as many extra base hits (per plate appearance, of course). So where did that 25 point drop come from? The only thing I could see a big enough difference in, to account for those lost 25 points, came from his drop in triples. He had 5 triples in 2010, and only 1 last season. But honestly I don't think that could make that big a difference. Although I could be wrong about that. I have to move on to get my head to stop spinning.

Raul's OBP dropped 60 points. Where did those points go? This wasn't so hard to figure out, as the first thing I checked... walk percentage... told quite a story. In 2010 Ibanez walked in 10.7% of his plate appearances, while in 2011 that went down to 5.7%. Now, that 10.7% was a career high, but in the previous 5 seasons (2005-2009) his average walk percentage was over 9%, so it's clear that last seasons' 5.7% was definitely not the norm. So I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt here, and say that he'd be able to raise that OBP to respectable levels again.

What about the batting average? We certainly don't want to pay a guy to come in and hit .245, so can we expect something better out of him there too? I think so. To start with he put a few more balls into play than he did the year before, as his IP% (Balls in-play percentage) went up from 70% to 72%. And FYI, that percentage has been pretty regular his entire career, so I see no reason to expect that to drop much... if any. I believe the true story here lies in Raul's Line Drive percentage, that dropped from 21% in 2010 (right around his career average of 20%) to 16% in 2011. To put it bluntly, he just wasn't hitting the ball as hard. Which led to career low BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .268, which is far lower than his career BABIP of .303... which is right in line with the average player's BABIP. So I would expect his batting average to come back up to a fairly good level as well.

The only question I have with Ibanez, which is not a small one mind you, is that he'll turn 40 in June. He's been pretty healthy his entire career, and last season he missed only 4 games due to a sore groin. But it's hard enough to be accepting of a guy in his upper 30s, so seeing "40" next to a player's age is not comforting.

Ibanez is also coming off of a 3 year contract of $31.5 million ($10.5m AAV), and even though he was below average last season, I'm not sure he'd accept a contract for 1 year at around $2 million. So like with Vlad, this entire post could be pointless.


After looking at the latest two options for the DH position, Guerrero and Ibanez, I'm still thinking that the Yankees are better off with Andruw Jones against left-handed pitchers, while they give guys like Jorge Vazquez a shot against right-handers. Not that Jorge is ideal, but the options at $2 million a year aren't that much better... or they aren't better at all.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)