Raul Ibanez has had a fantastic start to 2009. So far he has been inarguably better than Pat Burrell was last year with both the bat and with the glove. The table below shows Ibanez’s putouts and assists for the season, along with the numbers he would post if he continues to record them at that rate for the entire season and for the 1198 1/3 innings that Burrell played in left last season. It also shows Burrell’s numbers in left from ’08, the total numbers for all PHI left-fielders last year and the numbers for the ’08 left fielders that weren’t Burrell:
|All PHI LF ’08||1449.7||260||13||5||.179|
So if Ibanez were to continue to make plays at the rate he has so far for 2009, and played as many innings this year as Burrell did last year, he would record 57 more putouts while making three fewer assists and two less errors.
The difference between Ibanez’s putouts per inning and Burrell’s is about .047. So Ibanez is creating about 1/20th more of an out every inning than Burrell. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but fifty-seven putouts over less than a year does. Ibanez has been catching balls at a rate that betters Burrell’s numbers from ’08 and is better than the putout rate for Phillies’ leftfielders overall last year. His putout rate is not as good as the non-Burrell Phillies who manned left last season — that group, which played 251 1/3 innings, includes Taguchi, Werth, Bruntlett, Bohn and Dobbs.
In 2008, Phillies left fielders, led by Burrell, made fewer plays per nine innings than the NL average. Baseball-Reference tracks the stats, and in 2008 the league average for range factor per nine innings was 1.91. Led by Burrell, the Phillies’ was 1.69. In 2009, the Phillies are getting more plays per nine innings from their left fielders (only Ibanez to this point) than the league average. The league average for range factor per nine innings in 1.92 and the mark for the Phillies is 2.01.
Finally, like Burrell, Ibanez is primarily in left field for the purposes of his bat. Unlike Burrell, Ibanez gets to play the whole game, which is a huge advantage for the Phillies. Burrell played just under 83% of the innings in left field last year and was regularly pulled for defensive purposes. That’s a lot of at-bats for Eric Bruntlett as a corner outfielder, which isn’t really what you’re looking for. Ibanez has played every inning in left so far this year for the Phils.