When the Phillies made it official that Pat Burrell would not return to Philadelphia, there was a huge void to fill in left field—both in the clubhouse and the stands as well.
Enter Raul Ibanez.
The Phillies signed Ibanez to a three-year deal this past winter to replace a fan-favorite—who by the way, the Phillies had plenty of chances to resign.
Not only did Ibanez have to replace Burrell, but he needed to replace his numbers as well.
With Burrell out of the lineup, the Phils lost a 30 home run, 100 RBI-guy and the only big threat in the lineup that was a natural right-handed at-bat. With Ibanez, the Phillies were getting a 20-25 home run, 100-RBI guy from the left side of the plate.
The fans were confused, angered and, frankly, not surprised with the move. Why did the Phillies add another lefty in a left-handed dominant lineup? Why did they let Pat get away? What are they thinking?
Ibanez was advertised as the same bat with a better average, better fielder and three years older.
When you looked at his numbers over his career, you saw that he got better as he got older. In the first four full seasons in the majors, Ibanez wasn't anything special.
In his fifth full season, he drove in 100 runs for the first time when he was a Kansas City Royal. Over the next five seasons, Ibanez drove in on average 115 runs per year. While averaging 26 homers, with his career high being 33 hit in 2006.
So when you looked at the numbers, you knew the Phillies were getting a pretty good player.
Except one thing was missing. He wasn't Pat Burrell.
As every fan does, it easy to compare the two guys at similar positions. From first sight, you see Burrell produced more runs and homers on average. In eight seasons with the Phillies, Burrell averaged 31 home runs—his career high is 37 hit in 2002—and 103 RBIs.
The biggest difference between the two: batting average.
Ibanez had a significantly higher average that Burrell.
So that was a positive in Ibanez's favor.
Burrell's low average and high strikeout numbers always were the negatives to his play, and of course, his fielding. However his high strikeouts and low average weren't stressed as much as Ryan Howard's numbers are now.
The fans always gave Burrell the benefit of the doubt because he always came up with a big hit when he needed it and his constant Met-killing. Burrell is second behind Chipper Jones for most career home runs against the Mets.
However, ask any Phillies fan, and they won't lie. They never expected what Ibanez has done in the first 20 games with the Phillies.
Ibanez has made the city of Brotherly Love forget about Pat Burrell—the guy who received the biggest ovation at the ring ceremony—and has started writing his own legacy in Philadelphia.
Through 20 games this year, Ibanez has seven home runs, 17 RBIs, 20 runs, 11 walks, 3 stolen bases and leads the team with a .359 batting average.
He assisted in the Phillies epic comeback victory against the Atlanta Braves, had a walk-off solo home run against the San Diego Padres and the moment of the season thus far, Ibanez had the go-ahead grand slam against the Washington Nationals.
In 20 games, he already has some home runs and hits that Phillies fans will look back at when the season is over and say, "Remember that Ibanez homer?"
Not only has he filled the void with his bat, but he has done more than a swell job in left field as well. He has proven the city wrong about the perception that he isn't a good defensive player.
He has made some great grabs in the field, thrown out a runner or two at home and has given manager Charlie Manuel the chance to keep him in the game after the seventh inning.
If you want to compare through 20 games how Ibanez and Burrell have done, then you'll find out that Ibanez has been white-hot, while Burrell is off to another slow start.
Let's take a look at Burrell's stats through 20 games with the Rays:
1 HR, 9 RBI, 15 SO, 14 BB, .268 AVG.
The numbers say that Ibanez has been the better signing, but it’s too early to really compare the two players. At the end of the season and where the two teams are, that's when we'll know who got the better deal.
I can't remember the last Phillie to win over the city in such a short period of time than Ibanez.
Certainly, “Raauuullll” has been a big difference maker for the Phillies in the first 20 games of the season.
The only question can he hit like this for the rest of the season?
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!