Quick snipe

DMZ · May 12, 2009 at 9:57 am · Filed Under Mariners 

We get asked about Ibanez a lot. Here’s a terrible article about his early time in Philly.

“Raul’s a winner,” Werth said of Ibañez, whose Mariner teams averaged only 72 wins per game.

That’s a lot of wins/game. That’s the kind of overperformance clubhouse chemistry advocates claim.

Anyway, it’s a fine example of after the fact justification. Hey, he’s up in UZR? Let’s go reason hunting

One of the knocks on Ibañez was his defense, but he has had a renaissance on Philadelphia’s south side. Using the ultimate zone rating, a measure of how many runs a player saves or costs his team defensively, Ibañez cost the Mariners nearly 34 runs the last two seasons. This season, however, he has saved nearly six runs for the Phillies, which ranks third among all major league outfielders, trailing only Jay Bruce and Mike Cameron. Ibañez has only average speed, but Victorino praises how observant his teammate is to tendencies and how well he uses the scouting reports. Ibañez’s cerebral approach to fielding includes noting the cut of the grass to predict which way a ball is likely to skip.

Why didn’t any of those things help him in previous seasons? No clue! How did he manage to be so, so bad for so long and then suddenly a defensive whiz? Pony power! Was he injured or something and hiding — no, not Raul! Never.

When you look at defense, look at the long term. Three seasons if you can get it. And two seasons of absolute suck followed by thirty games of relative performance still mean you should consider him a crappy defender, certainly until some reason why his abilities changed is advanced.

And yes, I’m tired of the “why did you let go of Ibanez (or Bloomquist)????” questions.

Comments

35 Responses to “Quick snipe”

  1. Tek Jansen on May 12th, 2009 10:03 am

    Let’s see, if the M’s averaged 72 wins per game last year, then they won 11,664 games, which blows the 2001 M’s out of the water. Of course, the article does not mention how many losses per game the M’s managed.

  2. kinbote on May 12th, 2009 10:03 am

    Ibañez’s cerebral approach to fielding includes noting the cut of the grass to predict which way a ball is likely to skip.

    My god, this man is a genius!

  3. Tek Jansen on May 12th, 2009 10:09 am

    Ibanez’s approach also includes not blindfolding himself and putting his glove on his non-throwing hand.

  4. rigelwilson on May 12th, 2009 10:13 am

    Let’s also consider the dimensions of the field in which he’s playing now. Playing LF where the fence is 329/374/360 from LF to LC is much different than 331/388/375. That 14-15 feet in the LC gap leaves a lot more space for a weak defender to get exposed.

  5. Paul B on May 12th, 2009 10:16 am

    Ibañez has only average speed

    Average for… ex-catchers?

  6. Philly M's fan on May 12th, 2009 10:21 am

    In Ibanez’ defense he has played the ball off of the wall very well here in Philly. Plus, he is hitting the hell out of the ball right now so that might be overshadowing his defense. Burrell played there last year and he wasn’t exactly Jr in his prime so he looks good in comparison. I havent heard one Phillies fan say anything about Raul yet, but like DMZ said it is early. He has been a Great pickup so far for the Phils.

  7. shemberry on May 12th, 2009 10:26 am

    Why did the M’s get rid of Ibanez and Bloomquist?

    Because they plan on winning.

  8. bakomariner on May 12th, 2009 10:28 am

    That article was brutal…I had to stop reading it, and I can read what Street writes all the way through…that’s saying something…

  9. DMZ on May 12th, 2009 10:28 am

    He played a lot of balls off the wall in Safeco too. Balls skipped past him, dribble by him, line drives hit directly over his glove. Good times.

  10. dw on May 12th, 2009 10:40 am

    I have a friend in Philly who’s done nothing but rave about Ibanez’ defense. “But the man had concrete overshoes in Seattle! There’s no way he could be a good defensive LF just by going to Philly!”

    “Well, we did have Pat Burrell last year.”

    Oh, right. Pat Burrell.

    Burrell’s 2008 RF/9: 1.61
    Ibanez’ 2008 RF/9: 2.09

    Yeah, Burrell was only -4 in UZR/150 last year, but he was -10 and -17 in the two previous years. And even with the adjustments for the size of outfield, it’s possible that the measures are undervaluing Ibanez and overvaluing Burrell.

    In other words, the Phils are running a crappy LF out there every day, but he’s better than the abysmal LF they were running out there last year. Ibanez is going to look like a solid fielder compared to Burrell.

  11. eponymous coward on May 12th, 2009 10:43 am

    Plus who can forget his lawn darts?

  12. NBarnes on May 12th, 2009 11:22 am

    Also, you’re paying $10 a year for Ibanez’s age 37, 38, and 39 seasons. If you get good half a year out of him, that’s great, but does anybody really think that that contract will be seen as a good idea in 2011?

  13. galaxieboi on May 12th, 2009 11:37 am

    If you get good half a year out of him, that’s great, but does anybody really think that that contract will be seen as a good idea in 2011?

    The rest of the NL East?

  14. John D. on May 12th, 2009 11:51 am

    Why did the M’s get rid of Ibanez and Bloomquist?

    BTW, with both of them gone, who is the Mariner’s
    # 3(emergency) catcher?

  15. joser on May 12th, 2009 11:57 am

    Let’s also consider the dimensions of the field in which he’s playing now. Playing LF where the fence is 329/374/360 from LF to LC is much different than 331/388/375. That 14-15 feet in the LC gap leaves a lot more space for a weak defender to get exposed.

    Exactly. I suspect if Raul had spent the last few years in Citzens Bank and then moved to Safeco, we’d all be wondering what happened to his supposedly “good” defence.

    As I wrote in a comment on a similar thread over at Fangraphs:

    From watching Ibanez at Safeco the past few years, my impression was that he had decent speed when he got going but his reads of the ball off the bat were poor. In particular, he was ok at judging its lateral movement (left and right) but terrible at estimating its arc, which meant he was slow going back or coming in on the ball — and also meant his routes were “Family Circus” style excursions where he’d move over smartly and then wander forward and back to get under it rather than running straight to where it was headed. His limitations going in or back on the ball meant that he almost never caught one at the wall — it would go over his head and bounce on the warning track — and he was notorious for doing feet-first sliding traps of balls that bounced just in front of him (meaning they fell for hits rather than getting caught for outs, and sometimes they got past him for extra bases). In a park with less depth in left field (Citizen’s Bank has a 369 ft left power alley, vs 390 ft in Safeco), his particular limitations may be masked quite a bit.

    I’m increasingly convinced that UZR doesn’t take park effects into account sufficiently. I know they say it is park-adjusted, but that doesn’t seem to allow for it to translate a player’s rating in one park to an accurate prediction in another. Fenway’s left fielders offer another example of this: Manny went from a strongly negative UZR in Boston to a seemingly-better rating in LA; meanwhile Bay went from a mildly negative left fielder in Pittsburgh to a strongly negative one in Boston.

    If a park is small, or quirkless, enough that a fielder can cover it competently, we don’t really know the limits to his fielding ability because he doesn’t run into them very often. Thus we don’t know how much worse he’ll be in a bigger or quirkier outfield. Conversely, a fielder who is overmatched by his park might look fine in a smaller or easier-to-field outfield.

  16. joser on May 12th, 2009 12:05 pm

    Also, let’s not forget Raul has hidden injuries in the past, to the detriment of his offense (and the team… though maybe he made up for it in chemistry?) Perhaps he’s been nursing an injury that affected his fielding all this time, and it was something that $31.5M in the offseason could fix. ;)

  17. joeyinslc on May 12th, 2009 12:20 pm

    Ibañez’s cerebral approach to fielding includes noting the cut of the grass to predict which way a ball is likely to skip.

    My guess is he never received the proper grass cut reports from the Safeco grounds crew

  18. diderot on May 12th, 2009 12:21 pm

    To me, the most unpleasant part of this article was the very end, where Werth noted that the Dodgers had just flat out given up on him and Victorino.
    I didn’t mind at all seeing Raul depart…but why do I fear reading this same kind of story someday about Clement and Wlad?

  19. joser on May 12th, 2009 12:41 pm

    but why do I fear reading this same kind of story someday about Clement and Wlad?

    I don’t know about Wlad, but there’s a pretty good chance with Clement. Though it’s quite possible a “change in scenery” (and quite probably position) is the only solution — he’ll succeed elsewhere in a way he never could here (at least at this point).

    Then again, he might get traded and the next time we hear about him he’s going to culinary school or something.

  20. msb on May 12th, 2009 1:05 pm

    speaking of which, wonder if Ryan graduated?

    FWIW, Raul is off to “a scorching start”

  21. Paul B on May 12th, 2009 1:24 pm

    He has been a Great pickup so far for the Phils.

    Check back in a year or so.

  22. bakomariner on May 12th, 2009 1:30 pm

    Sports are very “what have you done for me lately.” I’m glad Philly fans are having their moments with Raul now…

  23. DizzleChizzle on May 12th, 2009 1:31 pm

    Ibañez has only average speed, but Victorino praises how observant his teammate is to tendencies and how well he uses the scouting reports. Ibañez’s cerebral approach to fielding includes noting the cut of the grass to predict which way a ball is likely to skip.

    I guess when you have a lack of range and your accustomed to taking bad routes to flyballs you would have to develop a special skill like this. Good for Ibanez. At least he knows he has a fabulous golf game waiting for him after he retires.

  24. pgreyy on May 12th, 2009 2:44 pm

    I’m happy Raul is doing well in Philadelphia.

    However frustrated I was that we kept trotting him out to LF when he would have helped the M’s more as a DH, I generally liked the guy. (He’s still my wife’s favorite player…she’s not much of a USSM fan, as you might imagine.)

    …that doesn’t mean I wish we had him now.

    I like the moves we’ve made in our outfield, I think Z’s got the right approach…and if you were going to have a “fan favorite” in the DH role, I think we’re all happier with a smiling Junior than a grumbling Rau(uuuu)l.

    Would the 2K9 Mariners be better with Ibañez? I don’t think so.

    So, Raul in Philly is a win-win!

  25. diderot on May 12th, 2009 3:29 pm

    Would the 2K9 Mariners be better with Ibañez?

    As a DH? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean we were wrong to let him leave. Our DH problem is that Clement should be getting those ABs.

  26. ppl on May 12th, 2009 3:58 pm

    I hope Raul gets a Championship ring and hits good enough to get a Gold Glove. He was the only BB era mutli-year free agent sign that actually produced consistently. And if he had stayed on as a DH or 1B it would have been good, if for no other reason, that the M’s so far have failed to find an adequate replacement for his left-handed production. But to say this current outfield has been a giant leap forward defensively would be an understatement. Ballparks ofcourse, do matter, there a lot guys who are OK at other parks, who couldn’t cut it here. Hats off to Raul, but I am not impressed, I don’t think there is anyone who watches Chavez not get to a ball and says “Hey, Raul would have gotten that.”

  27. NBarnes on May 12th, 2009 4:11 pm

    Would the 2K9 Mariners be better with Ibañez?

    Instead of who on the roster? Better if he replaced Griffey, yes. But Griffey is costing us way, way, way less than Ibanez is costing the Phillies. Since no player exists in a cost-free vacuum, I’m comfortable in a strong assertion that Griffey at his price is far more valuable than Ibanez at his price.

    That said, the marginal wins over marginal cost is quite possibly negative in both cases, but less so for Griffey.

  28. Kazinski on May 12th, 2009 4:19 pm

    Raul would be a much better choice as DH than Jr., at least so far, performance wise. But not at 10m a year for 3 years, thank you. I’m glad Philly is happy with him. And I shudder to think how bad much more appalling the M’s offense would have been the last 3 years without him.

    Raul is not one of my ex-wives so I don’t feel any need to run him down.

  29. joser on May 12th, 2009 4:25 pm

    hits good enough to get a Gold Glove.

    This phrasing always amuses me. It’s both so right and so, so wrong…

  30. dchappelle on May 12th, 2009 4:26 pm

    You know, in defense of Ibanez, who I still think is terrible in the field. 2007 UZR does look like the outlier for him.

    In 888 games in LF (2002-09), he has an average UZR/150 of -4.2. So maybe he’s a -5 to -10ish fielder now?

    I mean he’s not even in the same universe as Griffey, Burrell, Dunn bad.

  31. Breadbaker on May 12th, 2009 4:56 pm

    My guess is he never received the proper grass cut reports from the Safeco grounds crew

    I blame Ichiro. He selfishly kept the grass cut reports to himself and had them printed only in Japanese.

    I guess when you have a lack of range and your accustomed to taking bad routes to flyballs you would have to develop a special skill like this.

    Bill James had a great article on Lonnie Smith (who made Raul look like Roberto Clemente in the field). The gist of it was that if you fell down and then kicked the ball around on every play, after awhile you’d be really good at predicting what would happen when you fell down and kicked the ball around.

    I suppose the baseball code is such that no one (not, say, Gutz, who being on Cleveland last year would have had this information) is going to admit that the book on Raul was, simply, take the extra base whenever it’s not hit right at him. But no one who watched the M’s last year can possibly doubt that.

  32. Kazinski on May 12th, 2009 5:02 pm

    He selfishly kept the grass cut reports to himself and had them printed only in Japanese.

    I think where Ichiro was at fault is he never told Raul that when you catch the ball on the fly the cut grass report is irrelevant.

  33. Gomez on May 13th, 2009 12:01 am

    Raul’s positive UZR in 2009 may be small sample size noise, but could the shallow porch in his home park be a factor? As rigelwilson said:

    Let’s also consider the dimensions of the field in which he’s playing now. Playing LF where the fence is 329/374/360 from LF to LC is much different than 331/388/375. That 14-15 feet in the LC gap leaves a lot more space for a weak defender to get exposed.

    The bigger of an area you have to patrol, the less likely you get underneath a flyball and the more likely it will either drop or you will mistime the ball and it’ll get past you… as it did for Raul many times in his Mariner tenure.

    If he’s playing with a shorter porch, he can also play closer to the infield dirt. A smaller LF improves the percentage of the field that he can cover on foot while the ball is in the air, improving the likelihood that he converts an out on flyballs and decreasing the likelihood that he reacts some of the comedic defensive failures we endured during his Mariner years.

  34. Jeff Nye on May 13th, 2009 1:54 am

    A smaller left field to cover is certainly helping Ibanez’s early season UZR, but most of it is SSS.

    The part about the grass patterns was pretty hilarious though.

  35. joser on May 13th, 2009 8:58 am

    You know, in defense of Ibanez, who I still think is terrible in the field. 2007 UZR does look like the outlier for him.

    That was the year he was hiding his injury (before eventually missing some games) so it could be it hurt his defense as much as it hurt his offense. But that’s really not a point in his favor.

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