Raul Ibanez Is Gritty

A fluke might not be repeatable, but it is nevertheless something that happened. And something that happened in 2013 was Raul Ibanez was pretty good — which not many people outside of the Ibanez family and maybe Jack Zduriencek thought was likely. It was such an oddity, it generated a post titled, “I’m Old and I’m Swinging For the Fences” which should win some kind of post header award in my opinion.

But using the discriminating calculations of Zach Sanders, Raul Ibanez ranked ahead of the likes of Todd Frazier and Chris Denorfia and within spitting distance of Gerardo Parra and Nate Schierholtz. And if you want to know the epitome of wacky, Ibanez was ranked just behind Giancarlo Stanton in these rankings and Ibanez only had 29 more at bats.

Ibanez’s 2013 season was kind of a confluence of misuse by the Seattle Mariners, a ridiculous demonstration of hitting to your strengths by a player, curious reverse platoon splits, and probably a big old helping of grace. His flyball rate was a career high and his 21% HR/FB rate was second only to his career year in 2009 with the Phillies. For a guy with a career 16.4% strikeout rate, Ibanez just went for broke most at-bats, looking for the moderately attainable porch in right field, resulting in 29 home runs, but also a career high 26% K rate.

All told, Ibanez posted a .242/.306/.487 slash line with 29 home runs and, ahem, just 65 RBI, which says a lot about how many people were on base when he went yard and frankly says a lot about the Seattle Mariners in general (hint, they were bad), but I digress. Fully 27 of those round-trippers were to dead right or right center, not to suggest that’s a particularly bad thing — Safeco field was still among the top third of the toughest parks to hit home runs in for left handed hitters. So bully for Raul.

But looking ahead to the 2014 season and your fantasy baseball team, I’m not sure that Ibanez is deserving of more than a bench slot, if a slot at all. Yes, I know that he notoriously keeps himself in super shape, and I’m all for well defined calves. But Ibanez is so old now that most of our aging curve models don’t even include 42 in the projection. We all know that Ibanez takes great pride in his defense, but most rational organizations are only going to view him as a part-time platoon DH or late inning bench bat when duty calls. Add to that an aging body that is more likely to break down than it ever has been before, and you probably shouldn’t count on much more than 330 plate appearances.

Steamer has him down for a .239/305/.419 line with 12 home runs in 300 at-bats, so they’re seeing his playing time limited and a return to earth for his ISO, much closer to his career rate than the .244 he posted in 2013. This version of Ibanez never sniffs a fantasy roster.

But let’s say you have it on good authority that Ibanez is going to sign with a team committing to him as their DH versus righties, which would afford him about 425 plate appearances. Even if you’re bullish on his situation, he’d have to stay off the trainers table, he’d have to sustain an abnormally high HR/FB rate, and he’d need to start making better contact to see his batting average rise to a usable level. The moons would have to align and he would need a good dose of luck for him to be a fringey fourth outfielder option in most formats.

In sum, hope that you won’t need the services of Raul Ibanez on your fantasy roster in 2014.

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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

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Cut the guy some slack. He sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber (hopefully better for him than it was for Michael Jackson), stays in unreal shape; he looked better last year than during his last tour with the Mariners. You are right in that he Ks and cheats, but he barrels up the ball when he makes contact. He should have had even more than 29 HR, but was given a long “blow” into September (which he didn’t really need, but was used to look at too much of the alternatives in the outfield.)
If he lands with the Yankees as the LH part of a strict platoon, he could definitely come up with similar numbers and if anything his curve was reversing in terms of his speed to 1B etc. It has been a dreary 10 years for Mariner fans, but Raul in 2013 was a real joy to watch, since, as you so aptly noted, they were “real bad.”