Don’t Count Raul Out Yet

Imagine showing up to work every morning and having your performance appraisal plastered all over the walls in every hallway and as you walk to your cubical you overhear people in the other departments whispering about the contents of the evaluation.

It seems pretty farfetched that something like that would ever happen at your job, right?

Now imagine being Raul Ibanez and every time you walk to the plate you see your less than stellar figures splashed all over the ballpark.

Sure he’s not the only player in baseball to have to see his stats every single time his name in mentioned either at the ballpark or otherwise but when you think about it in terms of your run of the mill office job, it can, for lack of better terms, really suck to have yourself shoved down your own throat at every turn.

That being said, let’s talk about Raul’s numbers and why I disagree that it’s time to start thinking about benching him just four games into the 2010 season.

When Raul Ibanez signed on with the Phillies for the 2009 season he (literally) came out swinging.  In the first half of the year before making his first every appearance at the All-Star Game at the tender age of 37 Ibanez had 22 home runs, 60 RBIs, a .309 batting average and slugging percentage of .649.  Not to get too sabermetricky on you but his OPS was an impressive 1.015 heading into the mid-summer classic, as well.  In plain English, his hits were frequent and effective.  During this time the Phillies record was 48-38 (and don’t forget about the 5-game win streak they had going into the break).

Immediately after the All-Star break Ibanez was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a groin injury that he never quite seemed to bounce back from.  In the second half of the season Raul hit 12 home runs, had 33 RBIs and was hitting just .232 with a slugging percentage of .448. Like everything else, his OPS also took a noticeable tumble to .774.  During this stretch the Phillies actually enjoyed a slightly better record at 45-31 and, in case anyone forgot, played all the way up until the 11th hour missing the last game of the 2009 by just four runs.

So what does any of this have to do with anything Raul is doing (or not doing) in 2010?

Raul had a rough spring training. He started the 2010 season off going just 1-11 with a .091 batting average.  If you’ve bought into the hype you’ve probably called for him to take a seat for a game or maybe even take a trip to Lehigh Valley to get himself back on track.  If you think there is even a chance of either of those things happening, though, I have two words for you: Charlie Manuel.  If Hamels was never sent down to AAA to get a handle on his emotions last year and the organization continues to give Moyer just one more chance to live out his dreams, Raul is going to keep on playing until someone comes up with a REALLY good reason for him not to.

Let’s all keep something in mind – it is only the FOURTH game of the season.  And tonight Raul went 3 for 4 with 3 RBIs and a walk pretty much shutting EVERYONE up.  Is his streak of bad luck over? Or is this actually the real Raul Ibanez and Philadelphia just picked him up right when he got?

Let’s review:

Lifetime, Raul has averaged 23 home runs and 95 RBIs per 162 games played.  His BA averages .284, slugging percentage averages .479, and OPS is .825.  When you look at his 2009 numbers combined he actually had a pretty – I’ll say it again – AVERAGE year all things considered: 34 HRs (which was rare for him, I’ll admit), .272 BA, .552 SLG and .899 OPS.  Clearly his slugging percentage and OPS were beefed up a bit above average because of the number of home runs he hit but his batting average really wasn’t all that far off.  Even his walks were right on par (55 in 2009 with a 162 game average of 54).  The reason Raul’s abilities stood out so much and why we have tee-shirts printed up with “RAUUUUL” on the back is because he had such an imbalanced split.

Believe it or not, lifetime Raul has a pretty even split both before and after the All-Star Game.  Pre-ASG Raul is batting .282, after he is .287 and his slugging percentage and OPS follow suit.  Even from 2006-2008 when his stats took an upswing after the break it was very slight. Would we all be saying the same thing about Ibanez and his struggles had he not had two very distinct streaks in 2009? If he showed up in Philly doing the same thing he had been doing all along in Seattle and Kansas City the fans probably would not have even blinked an eye at him and saw him as just another left fielder. 

Because he came out of the gates with such a fury the city took notice of him and when he stopped performing like a superstar they noticed him even more. Unfortunately he’s taking a little longer than the rest of the bunch to warm up again in 2010 and that’s leaving a lot of people skeptical.

Obviously it’s frustrating to go to work every day (or every at bat) and stare at sub-par stats that are yours and yours alone – all those zeros can become very intimidating very fast.  Working in the sales industry I can tell you it’s easy to let bad numbers affect you but once you’re in a groove it’s pretty easy to ride high on a good streak, too.  I’ve had days (months, years) that just weren’t going my way and no matter how bad you want to sell to that next customer there is something in that desperation that prevents you from doing what you need to do.  Once you snap out of it though be it just through a stroke of incredible luck or you figure out what you were doing all along (which is usually just a matter of overanalyzing and trying too hard) it can turn everything around.

I’m hoping that tonight’s game against the Astros is enough to turn Raul around so that he can put the past behind him and focus on the task at hand.  He has one mission – to not be “the hole” in the Phillies lineup (which, frankly, there really isn’t).  Today alone raised his batting average to .267 and we’ll know tomorrow night if he’s really on his way to stabilizing himself for the long run.  The Phillies are obviously capable of moving on without him should they choose with Mayberry in the wings and Domonic Brown on deck after that, but for now Charlie will stand by him faithfully, as he always stands by his players, until he is left with no other options.


2 Responses

  1. I wont lie, Raul is one of my favorites. It’s only game four and I refuse to believe that I wont yell RaaaaaUUUUllllll at my TV a couple hundred times this season.

  2. I completely agree with your assessment. When steroid allegations were floated last season, I read an column on either ESPN or SI from a writer that covered the Mariners for a number of years. He broke down Ibanez’s previous season to show that he always goes on a 50 game tear at some point; he just never started the season that way before. He will be streaky and the Phillies knew that before they signed him. I think we were spoiled with an early taste of his high point last season.

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