If you’ve been paying attention to Phillies Nation during this wild offseason, you’ll notice the Top 25 moments of the year put together to celebrate the fantastic season the Phillies had in 2009. One of the players you’ll see a good amount of is Raul Ibanez.
In Year One of the Rauuuuuuul Experiment, the man became a cult hero amongst the masses here in Philly. His first half of the ’09 season was MVP-caliber, bringing along a no-nonsense approach to the game – something that had been lacking from Pat Burrell’s arsenal. Left field was now in better hands defensively and offensively, and Phillies fans felt good about that.
Raul finished the first half with 22 home runs, 60 RBI, and a fan base that couldn’t get enough. He flourished so quickly that he was voted as an All-Star starter for Charlie Manuel’s NL squad, garnering over four million votes. Ibanez was recognized not just here in our area, but worldwide for his contributions on the field.
Push past the midsummer classic, and you’ll find a different Raul. His second half numbers paled in comparison as he went from an Albert Pujols-level back to being a mere mortal. Injuries ravaged his season from mid-June to mid-July, while sapping his power and stunting his hand-eye coordination at the plate. His second half: .232, 12, 33, in 64 games. The rock-solid 37-year old had become just another 37-year old by seasons end.
The playoffs were more the same for Raul, as he failed to prove he was past the injuries, primed for a World Series run. Instead, he put up a .239/2/13 line in 24 games, and suddenly the mighty had fallen.
Overall, when you look at the surface numbers, Raul Ibanez had as good a season as anyone could have imagined before coming over from Seattle. His .899 OPS lent stability to a strikeout-heavy lineup (although Raul did K 119 times). His .552 slugging percentage ranked 8th best in the NL.
However, the Raul that reared his ugly head by the mid-way point was the one who battled like a champ through leg problems and suffered through a tumultuous second half. When he could play, he gave solid defense and willed himself through. But it was not enough as the Phillies superman had been felled by a kryptonite of sorts during the long, hot summer.
The man is still revered here for what he did early on, plus, it’s not like he’s going anywhere. Raul is still the Phillies left fielder and they will look to him once again in 2010 for veteran leadership and a keen eye in the batters box. As for ’09, it was the ultimate game of high-low for Raul, but one that Phillies fans will remember for many years.
2009 numbers: .272 avg., 34 HR, 93 RBI, .899 OPS, 119 K, 56 BB
Grade: 7.8/10 – Raul gets a 10 for his first half performance and about a five for his horrid second half. All in all, a fantastic season for Ibanez, although it was broken apart by some injuries.