The Raul Ibanez Problem


(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Two years ago, I wrote this post tearing into Marcus Thames for his poor Spring Training as well as the Yankees for counting on him as their primary lefty masher heading into the season. He looked old and slow in camp, then went on to exceed every expectation during the regular season by producing a .365 wOBA in 237 plate appearances, which was far more playing time than he was supposed to receive. Thames had history on his side and the Yankees stuck with him despite the ugly Spring Training numbers, and their patience was rewarded.

A similar scenario is playing out this spring with Raul Ibanez, who has been awful with the bat (a single, a double, and two walks in 33 plate appearances) and is showing signs of being toast. There are obvious differences between he and the 2010 version of Thames, specifically age (39 vs. 33), handedness (left vs. right), role (DH vs. OF), and price ($1.1M vs. minor league deal), but otherwise things are pretty similar. History says Ibanez will hit right-handed pitchers in the long run, but the short-term has been ugly and uninspiring. It’s real easy to envision the guy carrying this performance over into the regular season and becoming a bit of a problem for the Yankees.

I haven’t watched many of Ibanez’s at-bats this spring only because I usually don’t pay much attention to any hitters in March. I’m a pitching guy so I watch the arms but don’t focus on the bats. I’ve seen a few people say that Ibanez hasn’t hit anything hard all month and I’m inclined to believe them only because I haven’t been paying attention. It’s a bad sign if true, but at the same time I still have a hard time putting stock into any Spring Training performance. We’ve seen too many guys hit the snot out of the ball in March and go back into hibernation during the regular season, and vice versa.

I can’t imagine many of us had high expectations for Ibanez when the signing was announced, but that would have been true regardless of who they brought in to DH. All of the quality bat-only guys were off the market by the time Jesus Montero was traded away, so the Yankees were stuck picking from a group of old, declining players. True Yankee™ Johnny Damon wasn’t guaranteed to perform any better even though he probably made a little more sense. If they have to cut Ibanez at some point, they’ll do it. Simple as that. He’ll get some time to prove himself, and if he doesn’t they’ll find someone else. The Yankees survived a below average DH situation last year, and they have more than enough firepower to do it again.

Categories : Spring Training


  1. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    Quick summary of Ibanez’ at-bats…..Weak pop-up to the left side.

  2. Ed in SF says:

    Any word on when Branyan might be healthy? Could be that we land on the right answer for the wrong reasons.

  3. Juke Early says:

    First—NYY have to stop signing guys who always smack longballs v. them. That kind of lucky lightning ended when Reggie left.

    Second—stop signing old guys. Raul Ibanez is probably 45, not just 40. If Raul Ibanez is actually his name. . ..

  4. Ryan says:

    Very nice Mike!

  5. Ryan says:

    Very nice Mike.

  6. Cris Pengiucci says:

    I’d almost want to have Posada back for another season as the LH DH than Ibanez (almost. He can’t play OF.).

    • Rich in NJ says:

      Take out the almost, and I agree.

    • Mike HC says:

      Jorge will pull a Pettitte and be back next year maybe. You never know. You see it with Randy Moss too. I think athletes these days and into the future are going to have the ability to play pro well into their 40′s, and “retiring” for a year to just take a break from the relentless pressure, and then come back the next year might become more and more common.

      • Cris Pengiucci says:

        I think the Pettitte situation is just a bit different. I really think this has to do with it being Mo’s last season (even though he hasn’t annoucned that yet). Unless Mo returns, I don’t think Pettitte will be back in ’13, even if he’s productive this season.

        In genereal, I agree with you. With current training techniques and nutritional knoweledge, I can believe that more and more elite athletes will be able to play and produce at a high level into their 40′s.

  7. Monterowasdinero says:

    Gandhi is done!

    Sign Damon as DH and play him against lefties too. Play Andruw in left against lefties and rotate Gardy and Grandy in CF. They can use the rest.

    Another scenario would be to bring Gardy or Grandy as a defensive replacement for Andruw or a pinch runner or a pinch hitter in the late innings.

    Or just tell Andy to call Jorge.

  8. steve s says:

    I agree that spring training results are mostly to be ignored. What I’d like to know, though, is what is Kevin Long’s private evaluation of Ibanez? If Long thinks he is toast then what good does it do to carry on the charade. Sign another DH now and get them ready as soon as you can.

    • Needed Pitching says:

      “Sign another DH now”

      except the ideal fit would be somebody who hits righties very well, none of the available options likely will fill that need. If Ibanez doesn’t work out, I think it would be better to make do with their internal options (mainly more AB’s for Jones and Nunez, as well as Dickerson if/when Ibanez is released). They can then save any money they’d use to sign another DH now to help fund a more legit option if one becomes available at the deadline.

      • steve s says:

        Alternatively maybe it’s time to trade some one of the surplus starters for a bat. Also how hard would it be to pry Abreu from the Angels? If AJ had said yes he would have been our DH already.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          Not sure Abreu is any better than Ibanez, but he is about $8 million more expensive.

          • Needed Pitching says:

            I’d definitely take Abreu over Ibanez, but I would think the contract makes it a no go. He’s definitely not 8M better than any options the Yankees currently have.

            • Ted Nelson says:

              He’s one year younger and his recent history isn’t so much better that it’s obvious he’ll be better going forward: wOBA 2009 .367 vs. .379, 2010 .348 vs. .341, 2011 .325 vs. .306 (also about a 20 point difference against RHP last season). Abreu can’t field worth a crap anymore, either. For what it’s worth in the context of the article about Ibanez’ ST start, Abreu has been just as awful this spring.

              So, while you might prefer one I don’t think it’s objectively obvious who is better for 2012. I’d give Abreu a slight edge based on 2011, but I wouldn’t say he’s definitely better because of one season.

              • Needed Pitching says:

                Ibanez is closer to 2 years older (not that it makes much difference) and Abreu’s spring training, while bad, has still been better than Ibanez

                What seals the deal for me is the role is primarily DH vs. RHP. Abreu has been better vs. RHP than Ibanez in each of the past 4 years.
                Ibanez OPS last 4 years – .824,.859,.822,.747, Abeu: .833,.865, .856, .766
                Ibanez wRC+ – 117,119,116,101 Abreu – 123,129,135,113

                Sure it possible Ibanez could be better this year – anything is possible, but given the nature of the role and their recent performance, Abreu seem much likelier to be better than Ibanez as LH DH.

                • Ted Nelson says:

                  I don’t think it’s that anything is possible, I think it’s that it’s too close to say with much certainty who will be better in 2012

                  • Needed Pitching says:

                    can’t say anything with absolute certainty, but all evidence points to Abreu being better for the role than Ibanez (even if only slightly)

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      You’re the one focusing exclusively on that role. It’s their main role, but not their entire role.

                      Even in that role I don’t think 12 points in wRC+ or 19 points in OPS last season is at all indicative that “all evidence” points to Abreu being better. And at this point in their careers what they did 3 or 4 years ago may no longer be relevant, though obviously we have to consider more than one data point.

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      So, again, I don’t think it’s that anything is possible. I think it’s really just too close to call who will be a more valuable player in 2012. If I had to bet I’d probably take Abreu too, but that doesn’t mean I have much confidence in that prediction. I don’t. You can’t say anything with absolute certainty, but you can say some things with more certainty than others.

                    • Needed Pitching says:

                      I say all evidence because the only evidence is all in Abreu’s favor. The role is LH DH. I’m sure they will occasionally face a LHP, but barring injury, this will be very limited.
                      Ibanez hasn’t outperformed Abreu vs. RHP in any of the last 4 years. There is no evidence anywhere that would suggest that would change. Sure it might change, but all evidence points to Abreu being better.

                      If your choosing players for a role on the team, it seems to me it would make sense to choose based on who is better in the role you most expect them to play, not based on a role they might possibly play. (And really I’m not sure Ibanez would be better in any peripheral roles anyways)

                    • Needed Pitching says:

                      and based on the evidence, one thing you could say with more certainty than others is that Abreu is likely to be better as LH DH than Ibanez

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      It’s really, really unlikely that either guy just faces RHP. If a team brings in a LHRP in the 5th or 6th inning, are you going to take the guy out of the game? Are you going to pinch-run every time he gets on? Whether he means it or not, Cashman cited playing OF (even terribly) as a way Ibanez brings value.

                      I think you can weight it towards RHP more than normal (which is already like 70%), but I don’t think you can only consider that one aspect of the game.

                      And I also said that I don’t think 4 years ago is relevant for guys at that stage of their careers. If you do, fine.

        • Needed Pitching says:

          I don’t think the Yankees would add payroll (or at least not much) to get Abreu. If the Angels were willing to eat a lot of his contract, Abreau might make sense.
          Or maybe ninja Cash can pull off a trade for a long term RF and move Swish to DH.

          I’m not really optimistic about either scenario though.

          • I am not the droids you're looking for... says:

            Well if we dealt Freddy G and his $4.5mm or whatever then at the margin Abreu is more like a $3.5mm pickup and begins to make a lot more sense and of course eases the congestion in the rotation.

            • Needed Pitching says:

              not sure Abreu is even worth 3.5M more than the current options. I think he’d be an upgrade, but a marginal one.
              In that scenario, I’d prefer the Yankees save the money for a potential mid-season pickup that would be a bigger upgrade.

            • Ted Nelson says:

              I believe Abreu makes $5 million more than Garcia. And there’s also a decent chance you could dump Garcia’s salary in a trade, making it a $9 mill swing still.

              What’s the problem with “rotation congestion” at this point?

  9. boomer says:

    give me andre eithier at the deadline

  10. Dicka24 says:

    The guy was done before the Yankees signed him. I read that if they release him prior to a certain date, they only have to pay a portion of his $1.1 million salary. I say release him. He sucks.

  11. Urban says:

    One positive is there is no additional investment in Ibanez than money. With Posada last year there was an emotional investment. No way they were going to cut him becasue of a slow start, and good thing too, as he eventually did provide production from the left side.

    The problem the Yankees have here now is there are few options, which is why Ibanez is going north. I’m quite confident, though, that Cashman is looking for other options. He sees what we see.

    • DM says:

      There’s somewhat of a difference between 1.1mil and 13.1mil. And cutting Posada was on the table — esp after that stunt he pulled when he took himself out of a game b/c Girardi dared to bat him 9th. I don’t gather Ibanez would be the type to do that.

      Hip Hip Jorge? Thx for punking out of a game against AL East rival Red Sox. Who knows you might’ve helped the team win — even if you were batting 9th? We’ll never know.

      • Urban says:

        Yeah, whatever.

      • Slugger27 says:

        And cutting Posada was on the table

        couldnt disagree more

        • DM says:

          Well, you’ll have to take it up with those — who were much closer to the situation than us — that said the same.

        • Manny's BanWagon says:

          I agree.

          Hell would have froze over before the Yankees would have cut Posada last year.

          • DM says:

            Some might’ve said the same if you ever suggested that Posada might ask out of a game against the Red Sox b/c he was penciled in the 9th hole. You don’t bail on your team, and make up an excuse to cover it. You can get mad — but go out and get 3 hits. Then maybe you won’t bat 9th the next time. If he wasn’t Jorge Posada, he would’ve been suspended.

            And Kay said that they seriously discussed dumping him — and he’s a Posada friend and supporter. He needed to start getting some hits – and he did. That’s what saved him for the balance of the year.

            • Manny's BanWagon says:

              Posada made a huge mistake, no doubt, but to cut a borderline HOFer and a sure fire future monument park member in the middle of the season is a move I don’t think Cashman would ever make.

              A fine or few game suspension was certainly warranted but an outright release would have been excessive and in my opinion, Posada had earned a mulligan with all his years of service.

              • Mike Axisa says:

                Not only do I think Cashman would be willing to cut Posada or any legacy Yankee at midseason, I think he’d actually enjoy it.

                • DM says:

                  I wouldn’t go that far — but Cashman knows these guys in a way fans never will. What some here think is a great guy b/c he’s their baseball hero, Cashman knows as a diva-like prick who needs $13.1 mil rather than $13 so he can call himself the highest paid catcher — or else he’ll sign with the Mets. You figure he might block the plate once in a while for that extra .1mil — or at least remember what inning it is — or how many outs there are as he tries to advance from 2nd to 3rd on a ground ball to short but gets thrown out by 5 ft.

                  • Needed Pitching says:

                    sooooo …. not in the Jorge Posada fanclub then, eh?

                    • DM says:

                      He was a better player than I thought he would become, definitely an overachiever — but never a good game caller (Torre and veteran starters really helped to hide that over the years). He had some good seasons throwing out runners prior to his shoulder injury; and he hit well for a catcher. But he never lived up to that contract (Cashman didn’t want to go over 2 yrs; he was right — but Posada used the Mets and his miracle batting average from the year before as leverage).

                      I didn’t like the whole “hard-nosed”, “clubhouse enforcer” stuff coming from a guy who was afraid to block the plate and routinely blundered on the bases b/c his head wasn’t in the game. Posada getting that big hit in that big game is classic Jorge — but unfortunately him thinking it was the 9th inning is also classic Jorge. And bailing out of that Red Sox game goes against everything he supposedly represents. At the time I remember everyone thinking that he wasn’t in the game b/c he was announcing his retirement — like he was going out like a man b/c he wasn’t performing. Nope — Posada just had a hissy fit. Hip Hip Jorge!

                      When I was 12 I thought these guys were cool — now I root for the uniform and what’s done between the lines. I don’t elevate their status beyond that.

                    • Ted Nelson says:

                      It’s hilarious that you follow up a comment about how fans don’t know these guys personally with a rant about a guy you don’t know’s personality.

                • Manny's BanWagon says:

                  Doubt it.

                  Cashman wouldn’t even take AJ Burnett out of the rotation when he was an abomination for the last 2 years because it would have made him look bad. He’d never have the balls to eviscerate an all time great Yankee over one unfortunate incident.

              • DM says:

                That’s fair. I agree, and “mulligan” is the perfect way to put it. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t discussed or debated. You’re trying to win. If he’s an automatic out that’s gonna throw tantrums if he doesn’t play, where do you go from there? They needed to reach the Sept 1 roster expansion for that not to matter. And you’re thinking it’s just Cashman; Posada could’ve forced their hand as well — “play me or let me go” — which was also whispered about back then.

  12. LiterallyFigurative says:

    How about giving Dickerson a chance to be the Lefty component of the platoon? Chris Dickerson can play RF, let Swisher DH those days, or play LF, have Gardner play CF and Granderson get the half day.

    By all accounts, Dickerson can hit RHP. His speed and defense would be an upgrade.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      I certainly hope the Yankee brain trust is keeping him in mind should Ibanez not go north or doesn’t produce once he does. Unless there’s someone clearly better (not sure Damon is that option), he may provide the best value, at least in the short term.

      • Havok9120 says:

        He’s definitely the best value I think, depending what Damon wants (I’m also not sure Damon would be more than marginally better than Dickerson).

        If Ibanez craps out after a month or so, sign me up for trying out Dickerson. I’ll also watch what the Giambino does against RHP in the next few months.

        • Cris Pengiucci says:

          He’s been a bench player the last couple of seasons out here in CO. The role seems to suit him at this stage of his career. Not sure how he’d do as the LH platoon portion of the DH role, where he’d be getting quite a bit more playing time. Probably worth a discussion with the Rockies, though, if he seems to do well with the stick again. Still has some pop in the bat.

        • Manny's BanWagon says:

          I agree.

          If Ibanez sucks, I’d give Dickerson a chance next and then start exploring the trade market for guys like Giambi, Travis Hafner and best of all, Andre Ethier.

    • Needed Pitching says:

      I think he’d be worth a try if Ibanez flops, but I wouldn’t count on much offense, even vs. RHP. He only managed a .718 OPS vs. RHP for Scranton last year. Most of his rep. vs. RHP came from being great in a SSS with the Reds in 2008, and about average in a bigger sample in 2009. He’s been horrible vs. RHP the past 2 years for the Yankees (though obviously extremely small sample size.)

  13. YankeesJunkie says:

    Ibanez’s numbers against lefties was actually league average last year against righties and still his worst year by far at 102 compared to 116 was his second lowest I believe. For a million dollars he is not a bad option for someone that might either sink or get a little resurgence and give the Yanks a solid lefty DH. However the Yanks are in nice situation where even if they do release him they will have to rotate Jeter and A-Rod a couple times a week at DH anyway so there is a tiny possibility that this ends up being a bad move past May.

  14. Mike, think they’ll hang on to Branyan despite the back issue, and if so, does he have to be called up by a certain date or else he can opt out of his minor league deal? Not that he’s guaranteed to outperform Ibanez, but having a proven masher as depth can’t hurt.

  15. Robinson Tilapia says:

    I believe no animals were harmed during “The Randy Winn Problem” and, if this were to be a redux of that, it’d go about the same. Still not worth losing sleep over.

  16. Tyrone Sharpton says:

    Walter/Dimitri Young. Do it Cashman

  17. j says:

    Call me crazy but I’m optimistic. He’s been working with Rudy Jaramillo this past winter, who is one of the best batting coaches out there. And we got him on Kevin Long’s recommendation, as Long is the guy who coached him during his breakout with KC. I don’t know about you but I trust Kevin Long. I really don’t care how he has looked or what his stats are in ST – I think he’ll be ready to roll come April and even have a bit of a resurgence. 25-30 HR isn’t out of the question IMO.

    • YankeesJunkie says:

      He won’t get that many at bats to hit that many homers. With Jeter and A-Rod also eating up ABs Ibanez at best will probably only get 250-300 ABs.

    • Havok9120 says:

      You’re crazy.

      Not really, but you asked me to. And plenty of people here would like to, I’m sure.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I appreciate someone coming to his defense but, in my own personal version of reality, Ibanez performs somewhere in between “corpse” and “25-30 HR.”

    • Mike HC says:

      I think you are bit over optimistic just because he may need an injury to get the opportunity to hit 25-30 dingers, but I agree with your point. His swing looked good to me and I think he could easily get into a nice rhythm during the year.

    • Urban says:

      I have faith in Kevin Long, but I don’t have faith that Kevin Long can raise the dead. If Ibanez is cooked, then no batting coach can save him.

      It’s possible Ibanez is simply having a bad spring and enough of the skills are still there. I hope so, but I don’t know how far into the season they’re going to go with him. As I noted above, they are not going to give him the same considerations they gave Posada, so he better come out of the gate strong.

  18. The Ghost of Prospects Past says:

    FHOFRI!!!! He’s going to be dominant

  19. Mike HC says:

    I haven’t seen all of his at bats, but from the couple I saw, he looked nice and built up, and like he can still hit a little bit. He just needs to be a solid lefty bat off the bench and occasional fill in outfielder. His performance should not be judged based on the ability he had earlier in his career. He looks like a solid bench option to me.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      A guy can still be in shape enough to wipe his ass with both of us at the gym or on the track, but still have lost enough bat speed to not be an effective major leaguer.

      Still, yes, I think some defense of the damn guy is nice for a change.

      • Mike HC says:

        ha … I’m not “defending” him. I saw him play in a couple of games and I thought his swing still looked good to me for the major league level. I could easily be wrong, time will tell.

  20. Mike HC says:

    I remember people here claiming that Andruw Jones was just waiting to get cut and they were even saying that well into the season.

    • jsbrendog says:

      what about that guy that said they should cut andruw cause he smiles when he strikes out ergo he doesnt give a shit about baseball and is lazy. that guy was nuts

    • Robinson Tilapia says:


    • Ted Nelson says:

      Anecdotally I agree that we can’t rule Ibanez out at this point, but Andruw Jones not being done at 34 coming off a really strong if limited season is only so relevant to whether or not Ibanez is done at 40 coming off a season where he fell off a cliff to below replacement level. Someone could just as easily use Randy Winn as an anecdotal example as Jones.

      • Needed Pitching says:

        below replacement level as an everyday OF doesn’t mean below replacement level as a platoon DH. Hitting vs. RHP is the one thing he actually did on a league average basis last year, and its the primary thing he’s being asked to do this year.

        Otherwise I agree though, Jones/Ibanez isn’t really an apt comparison.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          The drop from league average in a small sample to below replacement at 40 is almost nothing.

          • Needed Pitching says:

            I’m not predicting what he’ll do this year. Just pointing out that the primary thing he will be asked to do this year is the one thing he was semi-good at last year. It’s entirely possible he’ll be below replacement even limited to his strength as platoon DH.

            • Ted Nelson says:

              I guess my point is that being league average at one “strength” isn’t really much to write home about, though, if you’re below replacement in every other facet of the game. With someone like Jones or Thames (neither is really a good example since Jones’ defense is still pretty passable and Thames hit RHP better than LHP in 2010… maybe a healthy Branyan would be a better example), he’s so far above average at the one thing he’s good at that he can carry a below replacement performance even in all other areas of the game. If Ibanez is league average or even slightly above against RHP and below replacement against LHP, running, and fielding… he’s probably going to be below replacement overall.

              If you’ve got a specialist, it’s nice when he’s at least good at his specialty rather than average.

      • Mike HC says:

        The comparison was only in relation to the fact Axisa alluded to what people are saying about him. It was not meant to be a comparison for Ibanez’s future performance.

  21. NYYROC says:

    The NYY have no problem bringing in pitchers to create the 7 man for 5 spots competition. Both Cashman and Girardi have said that competition is a good thing and guys need to step up. Maybe they could drop some hints that the LH DH spot isn’t sewn up and that Dickerson is an option. Something for Ibanez to think about.

  22. mustang says:

    NO, NO, NO. He is blocking all of the young power bats in minors and the Yankees have no idea what their doing they are totally slowing the down the development of the 2077 team.

  23. pistol pete says:

    Ibanez is done, fried, toast, and has been a waste of money. I can’t believe the Yanks didn’t do their homework and see just how far this guy had fallen. If Cashman had read the Philly fan blogs he would have seen their fans screaming about his lack of bat speed and inability to catch up to the fastball. He played in a very good lineup, in a hitter friendly park and stunk. What the heck did Cashman think another year of age was going to do to Ibanez, make him better? Please. Raul’s a nice high character guy that unfortunately is done. Don’t waste the at bats, cut bait now and dh by committee until something better comes up.

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