Ibanez gets a fresh start on Friday

Poll: The Long Man
Pettitte prepping for possible minor league outing on Thursday
Raul, going deep. (AP Photo)

In his spring training debut, against his former team, Raul Ibanez laced a double in a 1 for 3 performance. Over the next three weeks he’d pick up just one more hit. Considering his age and his 2011 numbers, his slow spring caused plenty of concern for Yankees fans. It’s just spring training, sure, but doesn’t it mean more when a 40-year-old player looks his age? If his bat is slow now, won’t it continue to be slow during the regular season?

In other words, there were plenty of out-loud questions about Ibanez’s ability to help the Yankees in 2012. As with Andruw Jones last year, he has drawn comparisons to Randy Winn, whose time with the Yankees in 2010 didn’t last even two months. While an early exit for Ibanez is still within the realm of possibility, it’s still only speculation at this point. There’s still time for Ibanez to round into form and help the Yankees this season.

For starters, Ibanez’s numbers this spring aren’t his worst in recent memory. In 2010 he hit .130/.266/.241 in 54 spring training at-bats, amounting to a paltry .506 OPS. This year he’s at .167/.211/.370, which is slightly better at .581. His strikeout totals are nearly identical, 13 in 2010 and 12 this year. The only difference is that he hasn’t walked this year. Maybe that’s cause for concern, or maybe it’s him being a little too anxious to belt a base hit. In any case, he went on to produce a .275/.349/.444 line in 2010, including .277/.366/.455 against right-handed pitching. While those aren’t stellar numbers, a repeat would be quite welcome all considered.

Since that horrible start to the spring, Ibanez has rebounded a bit. Following his 2 for 37 slump he’s gone 7 for 17 with a double and three home runs, plus a walk. He also had a fourth homer taken away by Jason Heyward. That streak should at least table the argument of whether he’s finished as a major leaguer. It won’t completely remove it, of course, just as his early spring slump didn’t prove it. But it’s at least a bright sign after a mostly dismal start to the spring.

We can look to the past, as well, to see other players who performed poorly in the spring, only to bounce back for a quality regular season. In 2010 Marcus Thames looked done, hitting just .135/.192/.269 in 52 spring at-bats. The Yankees signed him to a non-guaranteed contract, yet they still chose to bring him north. He rewarded them by hitting .288/.350/.491 in 237 PA. Brett Gardner hit .200/.286/.273 that spring, but hit .277/.383/.379 in the regular season. Last season Andruw Jones turned in a miserable spring, hitting .182/.265/.318. Even worse, he started off the season slowly. Yet he came back and provided excellent production in the second half.

The exceptions don’t prove that Ibanez will bounce back and produce big from the DH spot in 2012. What they illustrate is that spring numbers can deceive. Some players just take a while to get started. Some streak and slump to a greater degree than others, and their slow springs are just poorly timed slumps. For all we know, Ibanez might really be done as a major leaguer. But it’s not his spring training that will prove it. He’ll get his chances during the season, and considering how the Jones situation played out chances are the Yankees will give Ibanez an extended look. It might not work out, but we’ve seen too many veterans perform well after poor springs that he certainly deserves the shot.

Poll: The Long Man
Pettitte prepping for possible minor league outing on Thursday
  • Plank

    I stared at that picture for way too long. He really is an odd looking dude.

    • Slugger27

      whats up with his belt buckle?

      • MannyGeee

        Ed Hardy is making baseball uni accessories now?

    • Monterowasdinero

      Gandhi is MaHOTma right now. Dude is raking.

  • gageagainstthemachine

    Thought he looked beyond done most of the spring. Here’s to him hopefully proving us all wrong with a great season. Go Raul!

  • Fin

    At least he has shown life at the end of ST, which is all I was hoping for. I really didnt want to go into the season with a DH that .056 for the entire ST. AT least he should have some confidence now, and his timing seems to be better. While I still dont expect big things out of him, at least he has shown he may not be a corpse just yet.

    • Mike HC

      I always like guys like Ruben Sierra, Cecil Fielder and Thames who is a dangerous power hitter that could hit one out at any time. Even if the batting average isn’t there, I think Ibanez is going to be a nice bench, power hitting option.

  • Gonzo

    Would you believe that Raul’s tOPS+ against RHP’s last year in 400+ PA’s is better than Johnny Damon has done against RHP’s since 2008?

    I’m hoping for some Thames-like BABIP luck for Raul.

    • RetroRob

      Ibanez will be helpful if he can still hit righties like he did last year. Not great, but helpful, and probably still less than what the much-maligned Posada provided last year from the leftside.

      The issue with Ibanez is one of versatility at bat, or lack of to be specific. While it’s nice to think of him only facing right-handed pitchers, the fact is is he is going to be forced to face lefties, and he going to suck, and some of these ABs are going to occur at important times in the game. Opposing managers will bring in their LOOGY’s to face Ibanez and unlike what we used to see with Matsui and Damon, Ibanez will crumble. He will be a near automatic out, yet Girardi will not always be able to pull him at the sign of a first lefty based on other decisions he’s already made, or plans to make later. That’s why left-handed hitters who can hold their own against decent lefty pitchers are very valuable because they have a better chance of hitting most teams’ LOOGY’s hard. My fear is Ibanez will leave the Yankees exposed to LOOGY’s and a righthanded relievers with good velocity, or velo as all the cool kids say nowadays. A number of these ABs will be happening at critical times, no matter what Cashman or Girardi believe. Mapping out a team on paper is one thing; it all changes once the games start.

      • handtius

        that’s what jones is for. to face the lefties…they’ll take out ibanez and hit jones. what makes you think they’ll leave ibanez in to face the lefty?

    • Jerkface

      Who cares what his tOPS+ is? DO you even know what that number means? Its his OPS+ for that split as related to his overall line. It just means almost all of his value last year was against RHP. His sOPS+ was 100, which means he is league average as a lefty vs righties.

      tOPS+, get outta here.

      • Gonzo

        I like your style. BTW, I do know what tOPS+ is. What about my post made you think I was making a definitive statement?

        • Jerkface

          That you tried to use tOPS+ and compare it to Johnny Damon, you dumbass.

          • Gonzo

            What was I comparing? Tell me. From my post, quote it and tell me what you think I meant and what I actually meant.

            • Ted Nelson

              It seems pretty clear you were misusing tOPS

              • Gonzo

                Regardless of what he, or you, think I was using, and how, he was kinda rude about it. Please don’t be rude about this too Ted.

  • Mister Delaware

    I’d still put the over under at June 1st.

    • handtius

      i think he’ll be with the team through the end of october, unless they pick up ethier.

  • vin

    He’s gotta be better than Posada was last year, no?

    • http://thegreedypinstripes.com Bryan V

      Way to raise the bar. LOL

      But yes, I believe that the Yankee lineup is better than last year, and that right there is one reason. Just about anything > 2011 Posada (minus is performance in the ALDS, of course).

      • Slugger27

        how is it better than last year? its the exact same except everyones a year older and theres no montero waiting

        • Havok9120

          Probably better DH platoon, ARod is in better shape and will hopefully be healthy, Teix has committed to stop his pure-pull hitting (with some pretty good results in ST), we know Martin’s limits, and what he does when rested (which we can no plan to do), Swish will probably never be as totally ineffective to the level he was early last season.

          There may be one or two more, but how’s that?

          • Slugger27

            other than the DH platoon, i dont see a very strong argument there. i expect ibanez/jones to outproduce jorge at DH, that ill agree with.

            we heard about arod being in shape/healthy last year, then he wasnt. tex can commit all he wants not to pull the ball, but i wanna see it first. and its not like he wasnt aware of this problem last year while it was happening, yet he couldnt do anything about it. i have no reason to believe martins workload will be any different this year than it was last year. re swisher: slumps happen during the course of the year, his happened to be at the beginning. his numbers were exactly what we’d expect them to be and have been throughout his career: 122 wRC+, 358 wOBA.

            that covers everything i think.

            • Havok9120

              You expect ARod to keep setting records for least games played and Teix to be a .250 hitter? As for Martin, Girardi has said that he noticed Martin wearing down. I doubt he intends to ignore that since he’s realized it. Even with Swish that was his worst year with the Yanks (which, at this point, I’m really holding seperate from the rest of his career).

              I get that they’re a year older, but I see no reason for everyone not named Cano and Granderson to turn in career-worst performances in important statistics. Tex changing his batting profile to pre-2010 alone would be an enormous boon.

              • Slugger27

                why would i expect arod to be healthier in his age 37 season than his age 35 and age 36 season? last march, we heard he was in great shape, feeling good physically, then his knees go out on him. i dont know what will happen in 2012, but i wouldn’t count on more than 500 PA out of him. hopefully he puts up better power numbers than last year, but i dont know how or why id count on it.

                and yes, i do expect tex to be a 250/260 hitter. just cuz he wants to not be such a pull hitter doesnt mean he wont be.

                i expect slight regression from jeter and granderson… swisher/cano/gardner/martin to all stay relatively the same… slight upgrades from tex/arod and maybe DH. all in all pretty much the same production at the end of the year, because i know inevitably some guys will pleasantly surprise me and some will really disappoint me.

                every time you say something like “you really expect tex to be a .250 hitter?” i could come back and say “you really expect grandy to hit 41 homers and OPS 916?” … it works both ways.

                • handtius

                  one of you is a glass half full, the other is the opposite. guess which is which?

                  • Slugger27

                    im not a half empty guy. i just think itll be the same as it was. its the exact same team with the same players except for DH, and i dont expect a big change either way going from posada to ibanez.

                    some players will exceed expectation, others will have disappointing seasons, same as every year (again, other than 09). the end result will be similar runs/rate stats, if anything going down slightly due to everyone being a year older.

                  • Havok9120

                    This. And you know what? That’s quite fine with me. I’ll happily leave him to it.

          • Plank

            ARod is in better shape and will hopefully be healthy

            Rewind to a year ago:

            With all the question marks in the rotation, thank goodness we have Arod who looks great and is raking. Hopefully he can stay healthy this year.


            90% of Yankees fans

        • Steve (different one)

          “no Montero waiting” isn’t relevant in comparing this year to last year.

          • Slugger27

            how is it not? there was C and DH insurance if there had been an injury. he came up and made a big impact in september. whats our backup if ibanez doesnt work out? call boras and see if damon is still working out? depth counts.

            • Steve (different one)

              Because we aren’t comparing to “what could have happened last year”. We are comparing to what actually happened. And aside from a handful of sept ABs, Jesus was in aaa last year.

              For the record, I happen to agree with you, I dont think the 2012 Yankees will score as many runs as the 2011 Yankees. But the fact that Montero was waiting did not really impact the 2011 run total.

    • Gonzo

      He can play OF in a pinch whereas Jorge was stuck at DH. However, Jorge had a tOPS+ of 128 and an OPS of .814 against RHP’s last year in 300+ AB’s. I’m not sure Raul could eclipse that. I hope so, but I would probably bet against him if I had to wager.

    • Havok9120

      The platoon will be better than Posada. Whether or not Ibanez can beat Posada against RHP is a much tougher question.

    • RetroRob

      No, actually he will probably be worse than Posada last year.

  • Jerkface

    Why is tOPS+ a thing here? Its purely relative to the individual players performance. If you OPS .700 vs lefties and .600 overall, then your tOPA+ vs lefties will be great, but your other OPS+ will be shit because who cares about tOPS+ its worthless.

    • Gonzo

      You live up to your screen name well. Is it really a “thing” here. No one is spouting it as gospel. You might want to rethink your stance that it’s a “thing” here. I could have used any stat, walks, avg, slg, etc… Who cares? Oh, that’s right you do.

      • Jerkface

        Nice joke, 2001 when I made this username up called, they want their joke back.

        I didn’t realize you were the only one using tOPS+, so I apologize for calling it a thing. I should just be calling you an idiot.

        tOPS+, lmao.

        • Gonzo

          Very funny. Comparing players using a stat you don’t like, so you naturally assume that I use it in a way you don’t like. You’re funny.

          What else am I thinking big guy?

  • CS Yankee

    A couple of thoughts (or questions) on Raul…
    1) Was the ST poor stats due to his new mechanics that he worked on with Long so he could get to the ball quicker and needing some time to learn it (muscle memory)?

    2) Did he ditch Long’s suggestions and get back to what he knows?

    To me, if its #1, he has a better chance to stick around for another productive stretch. If its #2 (ala Jeter), it just might be a dead cat bounce or an Ortiz hot/cold twilight thing.

    • Havok9120

      They never seemed to be working on serious mechanical adjustments. It just seemed like his timing was badly off from the winter. I’m expecting more or less what he did last year adjusted for age and randomness.

  • pistol pete

    I’d use Nunez as dh in days he’s not subbing in for Arod, Jeter, or Cano. I know he’s not a typical dh but do you really think he won’t be more prouctive than the aging Ibanez. Plus he can run and not clog up the base paths for those hititng behind him. He had a live bat last year when he was used consistantly and had a great spring. On days Nunez plays the field there are a number of rotating dh’s that will be more productive than Ibanez. Nunez has a higher ceiling at this point in his career while Ibanez’s ceiling is falling and it’s just a matter of time how much more it falls. Let’s get younger and don’t waste a 25 man roster spot on a 40 year old dinasaur with a very very low ceiling.

  • Rich in NJ

    …he certainly deserves the shot.

    I’m not sure why this is other than he has a contract. If he was an aging veteran who has given the Yankees many contributions over the years, sure. But he’s just a hired gun, albeit a cheap one, looking to extend his career.