I was wrong. I was so very wrong. I want to apologize for my mistake.
When word started to spread that the Phillies had acquired Raul Ibanez I read all the on-line debates that started on message boards everywhere. Many fans were not happy with the signing of Ibanez, and the subsequent departure of fan-favorite Pat Burrell that the signing signaled. Some said that the lineup was too lefty heavy now.
Others said that Pat Burrell was a better left fielder than Ibanez. Fans argued that Pat was slow, but so was Raul. Many also argued that Raul would never match Pat’s power numbers.
My take on this? During the offseason I argued that it was a good signing and would give the Phillies lineup a slight upgrade and a little more consistency.
And I was wrong.
It was not a good signing. It was a fantastic signing! Ibanez has far exceeded my expectations.
All the complaints that fans had in the offseason have faded away.
The lineup is not too lefty heavy. Phillie faithful were worried that Charlie Manuel would bat Utley, Howard, and Ibanez one right after the other. This would give opposing teams the chance to match up lefties easily against the heart of the lineup in the late innings. Manuel only made that mistake in the opening series of the season.
Since then most games have seen Werth batting fifth and Ibanez hitting sixth. Ibanez has also batted third on days Utley had off.
I almost laughed out loud when I heard people trying to argue the merits of Pat Burrell in left field versus Raul Ibanez. They were quick to point out Pat’s fielding percentage of .991 in 2008. Raul sported a .984 fielding percentage last season.
Just comparing the fielding percentage was a case of finding a statistic that superficially supports your argument. When you look closer at the fielding statistics you will also notice that Ibanez had 302 put outs compared to Burrell’s 204 in 2008. That points out two things.
First, Ibanez was in the field more than Burrell.
Burrell was consistently pulled out of games in the late innings in favor of a better defensive player. Second, did the Mariners just have a lot more balls hit to left field than the Phillies or was Ibanez simply getting to more balls than Burrell? I would say the latter.
This thought has played out already early in the year. Time and time again we have seen Ibanez make some great plays in the field and get to balls that we could only have dreamt of Burrell reaching.
While it’s true that Pat didn’t make many errors in the field, with his concrete-embedded feet he also didn’t get to many balls outside of a 15-foot radius from his position.
As far as on the basebaths, Ibanez earns the check here, too. Burrell had zero stolen bases in ‘05, ‘06, ‘07, and ‘08. Ibanez has four already this year. Stolen bases do not tell the whole story. Ibanez is by no means a speedster on the base paths.
However, there is one thing he does really well that will never show up in a boxscore. He can go from first to third on a single. Burrell’s only hope of making it from first to third was during a home-run trot.
One place that Burrell enthusiasts thought for sure they had the argument in the bag was in the power department. Burrell hit 33 home-runs in 2007 and 30 in 2008. Ibanez had only ever topped 30 one time in his career. That came back in 2006.
Ibanez never had the opportunity to play in a home-run friendly field like Citizen’s Bank Park. He has hit 13 out of the park already this season. Eight of those have come at home. It seems likely that he will equal Pat’s 30 from last season and maybe even surpass that number.
He is also batting .357, has a .425 on base percentage, and has a ridiculous .714 slugging percentage.
The numbers don’t say it all though. This season Ibanez has been the clutch hitter the Phillies were missing in some of their long offensive droughts last season. As I watch the Phillies this year, there is nobody on the team I would rather see coming to the plate with runners on base in the late innings than Raul Ibanez.
Not only that, but when the Phillies are behind, he consistently seems to get on base late in games when the Phillies most need base runners. He just seems to always come through when the Phillies need him the most.
None of us fans wanted to see Pat Burrell leave Philadelphia. He will always have a special place with fans for all the time he spent here and for being a part of the magical 2008 World Series Champions.
However, the performance of Raul Ibanez on the field is making the slight pain many fans felt when Burrell was let go fade away a little more with each passing game.