Once the Yankees traded Jesus Montero to the Mariners, they were left to pluck the scrap heap for a platoon DH option. They passed on former Bombers Johnny Damon (60 wRC+ in 135 PA for the Indians) and Hideki Matsui (39 wRC+ in 53 PA for the Rays) in favor of Raul Ibanez, who has produced an essentially league average 99 wRC+ in just shy of 200 PA this year. He and Derek Jeter carried the offense through the first six weeks of the season, but the last six weeks have been a different story for Raul…
First 33 games: .282/.333/.588 with seven homers, seven walks, and eight strikeouts in 93 PA
Last 33 games: .196/.250/.359 with three homers, five walks, and 13 strikeouts in 100 PA
Brought in to be that left-handed platoon DH, Ibanez has started 36 of the team’s 66 games — including 24 of the last 34 — in the outfield because of Brett Gardner’s injury. At age 40, I think it’s fair to wonder if all the unexpected time in the outfield has worn him down a bit. At the same time, we also have to acknowledge that Raul has always been one of the streakiest players in baseball. He could just be in one of those slumps before picking it back up, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Gardner’s continued elbow trouble means Ibanez will see more time in the outfield in the coming weeks. The rest of the offense has come around so his offensive slide hasn’t hurt them in the standings, and this is usually the way things go most of the time anyway. Not everyone in the lineup hits at the same time, different players carry the team at different parts of the season. When you’re like the Yankees and you have a lineup full of strong hitters, the individual slumps don’t hurt as much. Hopefully Ibanez gets back to hitting like he was in April and this little dry spell is nothing more than a blip on the radar.