Raul’s Clean Slate

The Shutdown Bullpen
Could Jeter's successor already be on the Yankees' roster?
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The DH spot figured to be a bit of a lightning rod this season, one way or another. If the Yankees had not traded Jesus Montero, his every at-bat would have been scrutinized and over-analyzed given his status as The Next Great Yankee. I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would have been had gotten off to his .286/.261/.286 start in pinstripes. Instead, we’re left with Raul Ibanez and his age-slowed bat and massive platoon split.

Ibanez, 40 in less than two months, owns two of the three most memorable hits on the young season. He clobbered a three-run homer off Jamie Shields on Opening Day, and two nights ago he won the game with an extra innings double off Pedro Strop. More than one-fifth of the team’s runs have crossed the plate because of his bat. Of course, Ibanez hasn’t hit a lick outside of those two big hits, reaching base in just three of his other 16 plate appearances. One of those three was an intentional walk.

The offense as a whole has been hit or miss, especially with runners on base. Ibanez has bailed them out on two occasions even though that Opening Day homer came in an eventual loss. I’d like to think that he has a knack for the big hit, but I generally don’t buy into that stuff. He’s just had the right swing at the right time as far as I’m concerned. He deserves credit for doing that and for shaking off that brutal showing in Spring Training.

Six games — five for Ibanez — means very little in the grand scheme of things, but it’s nice to see him get off to a decent start. Maybe memorable is a better word, because a DH with a .306 wOBA is hardly a standout performance. Perhaps his first trip into the Bronx and Yankee Stadium will get him going a bit, but for now Ibanez has silenced some of the critics, albeit briefly. As long as they don’t play him in the field anytime soon anymore, there’s no reason for the Yankees to not ride this out a bit and see what he can do in this role.

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The Shutdown Bullpen
Could Jeter's successor already be on the Yankees' roster?
  • Guns of the Navarone

    Perfectly stated.

    His performance as a whole has done nothing to sway my opinion of him one way or another. But at least he’s picked his spots and come up with some big hits, even though I don’t buy into that stuff either. Strop did him a HUGE favor by throwing a changeup right over the plate when it seems very clear (to me anyway) that Ibanez can’t catch up to a good fastball. But keep him hitting against righties and keep him out of the field and maybe the Yankees can squeeze some more big hits out of him.

    • Dummies Playing With Balls (formerly Rainbow Connection)

      He picked his spots? Does that mean he wasn’t trying when he didn’t get hits?
      Please explain in detail how he picked his spots.

      • Guns of the Navarone

        It’s a figure of speech and not to be taken literally. What I mean is that I’m personally happy he got the hits in the spots that he did. Namely, the HR off Shields that gave the Yankees the lead at the time and the GW double off Strop.

      • Ted Nelson

        What’s your issue?

        • Robinson Tilapia

          It was a fair question, but it also already received a fair response from GotN.

          • Ted Nelson

            Part of a pattern of comments that add no value and are generally totally trolling. GotN made it pretty clear that he “doesn’t buy into that stuff” by explicitly stating it.

            • jsbrendog

              if you don’t like it don’t read it. and don’t clog up the comments complaining and whining like you have now for 2 consecutive threads.

              • Robinson Tilapia

                Honestly, both of you, it’s just not worth it.

                • Havok9120

                  This.

  • Don W

    Yankee fans have much more patience for their minor league kids than they do for free agent pickups. Montero would’ve been fine with that start.

    • http://yankeeanalysts.com Matt Imbrogno

      I think you’re overestimating here. If he started like this, I’m sure there’d be people saying they should’ve traded him for pitching when they had the chance.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I don’t believe that.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        A certain segment of Yankee fans don’t have patience for just about anything. Agreed.

      • DM

        I disagree. After the end of last season there would’ve been a lot of excitement and optimism to see him (and with his ST, even more so) this season. Contrast that with the attitude towards Ibanez. Most here disliked the signing before he took a swing in ST while others shrugged their shoulders. I don’t think the impatience thing would’ve kicked in with the home-grown wunderkind quite yet. Maybe at .186 but not at .286.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Revisit that thought during the 3rd inning of a game thread in which the Yankees are losing.

          • DM

            Well if that’s the barometer then no one is immune — and Montero’s ABs wouldn’t be scrutinized any more than all but a select few. I’m sure we’ll see “Swish sucks” or “Tex sucks” or “A-Rod sucks” in those game threads too. Those knee jerk responses aren’t reserved for young players.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              …and there’s a shocking amount of radio callers who echo that same stupidity as well, which probably means there’s a shocking amount of folks walking around in Yankee hats who do actually believe the “garbage time” meme (and my new personal favorite – arrogantly hitting into the shift – God, I love that), as well as other third-inning RAB game thread nonsense.

              There’d be people calling for Montero to be sent down if his offensive performance wasn’t near-leading the team right now. We’d be making fun of them, but they’d be here, there, and everywhere.

        • Ted Nelson

          I don’t think there’s much of a comparison to be made between Ibanez and Montero. If the Yankees signed a legit full-time starter FA and people received it the same way, I’d take your point. Ibanez is a potential platoon guy who may have something left, and that’s how people are taking it.

          The attitude toward Ibanez is because he looked done last year and has largely continued to look that way this season… which is in line with expectations for a 40 year old. Not very many 40 year old hitters in the history of baseball have had anything left.

          Montero might not consistently be amazing, but his future looks very bright.

          • DM

            I was only comparing the two in the context of scrutinizing and having patience with FA pickups versus minor league kids — which is what “Don W” started this with. I don’t think fans would be getting on Montero hitting .286 after a week — after his ST — after his Sept last year. I don’t think there would be an uproar about “should have traded him for pitching” with his current line after 6 games — even in Yankeeland.

  • MannyGeee

    I am OK with Ibanez in moderation. no more glove work (use Jones on those days) and keep an eye on the open market for someone more multi dimensoinal to become availible (looking at you, Dodgers…)

    • http://yankeeanalysts.com Matt Imbrogno

      Andre Ethier is just as bad on defense and has just as bad a platoon split.

      • Teej

        He clearly meant Kemp.

        • Ted Nelson

          Not so sure. Don’t think a new ownership group that overpaid for the team is going to dump one of its two young mega-stars. Either seems a lot more gettable.

      • Ted Nelson

        Either has a platoon split… and actually hits RHP. Last season he had a .381 wOBA against RHP and in 2010 it was .408… Ibanez was at .322 and .352 and is at a point in his career where a downward trajectory is expected.

        I don’t know if he would or wouldn’t be worth the Dodgers asking price, but I would definitely anticipate an upgrade over Ibanez for the season.

  • Steve (different one)

    I think Ibanez has looked better than i expected. The numbers aren’t great, but he seems to be hitting the ball hard with some regularity. In Sunday’s game write-up, his 7th inning drive was called a “fly out”, but IMO he absolutely crushed that ball with nothing to show for it. Anecdotally, this has happened a few times.

    To back up my “gut”, his LD% is 25%, but his BABIP is a paltry .133

    All the usual caveats apply, but it seems to me like he’s been a bit unlucky.

    • Havok9120

      I agree with that. His eye is also pretty good. He’s been taking pitches.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    If he keeps up doing what he’s doing, and is kept away from the field except for dire “We’ve lost Nick Swisher’s right leg during garbage time” emergencies, I’m perfectly fine with his part-time presence. Then again, I always was.

  • mustang

    Wow like 2 days ago Montero was hitting .181 what 3 for 6 in 2 games can do for him.

    BTW he is 0 for 2 today that .261/. 240/. 261.

    Just Wow!

    • mustang

      I’m sorry 0 for 3

      • mustang

        Right on cue!

        too funny