Raul Ibanez

Pitchers find no relief from Ibanez

Today’s point is simply that Raul Ibanez is absolutely crushing relief pitching this season. The numbers are silly. In 59 plate appearances against relievers, Ibanez has gone 24-for-51 with seven of his 13 home runs. He is hitting 471/542/961 against relief pitchers, which is a 1.503 OPS.

To the surprise of a whole bunch of people, Ibanez is leading both leagues so far with a 1.139 OPS. So there are a lot of his numbers that stick out.

One thing that hasn’t contributed to his early success is how often he is facing lefties and righties. He is actually facing right-handed pitching less regularly than he has over his career. 109 of his 160 plate appearances this season, about 68.1%, have come against righties. Over his career he’s gotten about 73.6% of his plate appearances against righties. He doesn’t have good career numbers against lefties (270/325/421), but Ibanez hit them hard last year (305/368/497) and is pounding away at them in 2009. His 349/412/721 (1.133 OPS) line against lefties is very similar to his line against righties (361/431/711 (1.143 OPS)).

He is hitting better at Citizens Bank Park than he is away from it. But he’s been great away from it, too.

Home .380 .464 .817 1.281
Away .333 .382 .609 .990

The home numbers are much better, but the numbers away from home are very good as well. Ibanez has a career 288/349/479 line, so his .990 OPS away from Citizens Bank Park is .163 higher than his .827 career mark.

Still, the difference between his home and road splits aren’t as dramatic as the difference between what he’s doing against starting and relief pitching. Here are Ibanez’s career OPS numbers against the starting pitcher for the first, second and third or more times he has faced him in a game and what he has done against relief pitchers:

SP1 .820
SP2 .841
SP3+ .866
RP .799

As you would expect, over his career he gets better against the starting pitcher the more he has faced him in the game. And then his numbers against relief pitchers take a dive, worse than his career .827 OPS overall.

This season it has been almost exactly the opposite:

SP1 1.071
SP2 .873
SP3+ .829
RP 1.503

Not a whole lot of data there, he has faced the opposing starting pitcher for the first time in the game 36 times this year, for example, but, in addition to the fact that he has hammered relief pitching the numbers against starting pitching are flipped. By OPS, he has been better the first time he faced them and worse after that.

Cairo will go to the minors. The Phillies signed Paul Bako.

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All that plus you never have to throw stuff at your TV cause the Phillies just used Bruntlett to pinch-run for him in the sixth inning of a tie game

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:

Ibanez, 2009 268.0 58 2 0 .216
Ibanez w/PB
1198.3 259 9 0 .216
Ibanez season
1447.2 313 11 0 .216
Burrell, 2008 1198.3 202 12 2 .169
All PHI LF ’08 1449.7 260 13 5 .179
Non-Burrell PHI
LF ’08
251.3 58 1 3 .231

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.

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