Friday, January 27, 2012

Still looking for a DH

"I'm still available!"

I just read this from
The Yankees have interest in Raul Ibanez, Kevin Kernan of the New York Post reports. Ibanez has drawn interest from a number of clubs, including the Mets and Tigers, in recent weeks. We heard ten days ago that ACES had contacted the Yankees about Ibanez, but this is the first concrete indication that the interest is mutual.

Ibanez posted a .245/.289/.419 line with 20 home runs in 575 plate appearances as the Phillies' everyday left fielder last year. The 39-year-old could provide the Yankees with an option at designated hitter or in the corner outfield positions. He owns a .286/.351/.488 line against right-handed pitching in 16 MLB seasons.’s Buster Olney suggested earlier today that Ibanez would be a good fit in the Bronx.
To start with I wondered what his contract demands were. I mean, if it was anything like Carlos Pena, where he signed with the Rays for $7.25 million, then forget it. The Yankees just don't have the payroll for a deal like that, as they've said a few times that the cap on DH spending this season is like $2 million. But I couldn't find anything concrete on Raul, which is really no surprise. There is the fact he's coming off a 3 year deal worth $31.5 million, but he's coming off a poor season, and will turn 40 in June. So it's possible he'd take a cheap deal to play in the town he was born.

The age may stand out, but over the last three seasons he's averaged 144 games a season. I looked into his recent injury history, and outside of having surgery in 2009 for a sports hernia, he's been pretty healthy. However, Raul hit .245/.289/.419 last season, which was his worst offensive season since 2000, when he played in only 92 games for Seattle. His 2011 numbers may stand out against what he did in 2010 and for years before that, but when you're talking about a 40 year old guy teams are hesitant to pay for a rebound. Which may work in favor for the Yankees.

Over Ibanez's career he's hit .286/.351/.488 against right-handed pitchers, which makes him sound like a great DH-platoon guy to put with Andruw Jones. But Raul only hit .256/.307/.440 against LHPs last season. What happened?

After looking at his stats two things stuck out. One, his BABIP dropped from .311 in 2010 to only .268 in 2011 (career BABIP of .303). Although small fluctuations are expected, I found that most of the difference can be attributed to his Line Drive percentage dropping from 21% in 2010 to 16% in 2011 (career LD% of 20%). I tend to think he can raise that LD% a bit, to help his BABIP improve, thus moving his batting average up to around .275 against RHPs.

Second, and a way he can improve upon that abysmal OBP of .303 he hit against RHPs last season, is he needs to get back to taking more walks. Raul Ibanez has averaged a walk in 8.5% of plate appearances, and in 2010 that BB% was at 10.7%. However, in 2011, that rate dropped to an extremely low 5.7%. So to put it simply, if Raul can start taking walks like he's done his entire career, then his OBP should return to more than acceptable levels.

In conclusion, if Raul is willing to take a part-time DH spot (starting against RHPs, who outnumber LHPs, meaning he'll see a decent amount of at bats), as well as a 1 year deal worth $2 million, then I say go for it.

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