If the 2009 Phillies were looked at as the Sun (the big, bright thing in the sky), then Raul Ibanez was a solar flare – a super-hot, super-explosive release of energy. He burst onto the scene, hot as could be. He won over the fans, the town, and just like that, was gone.
Not completely gone – his $31.5 million contract and declining numbers were still in tow. For two short months, Raul stole the show and then regressed into a slightly-above average player. In his first two months with the Phillies, Ibanez hit .332 with a 1.029 OPS, 17 home runs, and 46 RBI. It was one of the most impressive eruptions many of had ever witnessed from an incoming player. Greg Jeffries? Whiff. Danny Tartabull? How’s your foot? Even Jim Thome’s Phillies career began rather slowly.
We watched with our own two eyes as an injured Raul slid into averageness as the season grew older. Yet, by the end of 2009 he’d accumulated an outstanding line. Still, he had done much of his damage early on.
This year, it began as ugly. Ibanez started slowly and the nay-sayers called for a quick axe. Rid yourself of a middling batter and fielder and move on. Ruben Amaro and Charlie Manuel would have none of it. Ibanez would finish the month of May with a .247 average, a .752 OPS, three homers, and 21 RBI.
Lately, Ibanez has snapped out of his early season funk and recovered nicely. Two months later and Ibanez is hitting .266 with 10 home runs and a .781 OPS. He’s taken more walks as a way to circumvent his lacking bat. His on-base percentage in the month of July was an exceptional .419. Clearly, Raul made better contact, hitting balls hard to all fields.
This rejuvenation isn’t overly special. Many would agree that Raul is still an average all-around player (he has a 0.5 WAR – ooh! Sabermetrics!) and the Phillies would probably do better for themselves by going in another direction next season, if possible. Still, let’s rally around one of the most consistent players on the team over the past two months.
And now that half the team is in the ER, Ibanez will be called upon to stabilize the top of the order. Since early July, Raul has been a fixture in the 3-hole, with a few cameos in the 2nd, 5th, and 6th spots. He has turned into a table-setter and that will have to continue for this season to be a success. Never thought I’d say that, but hell, it’s the truth.