2011 Spring Training

2011 Phillies Offensive Preview, Part 3: Left Field

In the week before Opening Day, we’re looking at each of the five offensive positions that are not known quantities.

Part 1: Intro and First Base
Part 2: Right Field
Part 3: Left Field
Part 4: Shortstop (Saturday morning)
Part 5: Second Base (Saturday afternoon)

Left Field: Raul Ibanez, Opening Day Age: 38
2010: 636 PA, .275/.349/.444, 16 HR, 37 2B
2011 (Bill James-projected): 596 PA, .270/.343/.446, 20 HR

I think the majority of Phillies fans went into the Raul Ibanez experiment with unrealistic expectations for three reasons. First, he was being billed as a like-for-like replacement for longtime Phillies stalwart Pat Burrell in left field. Second, he was being paid like an all-star (three years, $31.5 million; Burrell, who was younger, better, and more right-handed, went to Tampa for 2/3 the contract length and half the total value of the contract). Third, for the first three months or so of his tenure in Philadelphia, Raul was under the mistaken impression that he was Stan Musial. Since then, he’s returned to being what he should have been all along: an aging outfielder who, on offense, is at least average at everything, but great at nothing. His bat speed is dropping with age, as expected, and what he could use more than anything else is a platoon partner–his OPS was nearly 100 points higher against righties than lefties in 2010. Put him and Ben Francisco in a platoon, and you’ve got, very nearly, an all-star corner outfielder. Plus, moving Francisco to left would free up space for Domonic Brown to get….oh, yeah, we’ve covered this. Anyway, a repeat of 2010, give or take a couple dozen points on each of the slash stats, is probably in the cards for Raul. He’s been, more or less, a two-to-three-win player for most of his career, and if he can keep that up, the Phillies should be happy with that.

I won’t gripe about Ibanez’s defense, which is bad, because, as far as I can tell, he’s as good an outfielder as he can be. He’s old, and he was primarily a catcher, first baseman, and DH throughout his youth. He’s got a decent arm, and he catches more or less everything that he gets to.

One last point about the outfield. There is no shortage of teams with designs on contending this season, a lack of starting pitching depth, and a surfeit of outfielders who are better than anyone the Phillies have. So what harm would it do for Ruben to call Brian Cashman and say,”What kind of a prospect would it take to even out a Joe Blanton-for-Nick Swisher or Brett Gardner trade?” Or to call up Texas and ask for David Murphy? Or Jon Jay of the Cardinals? Or maybe, if we’re looking for youth and speed over a power bat, Dexter Fowler of the Rockies? The worst any of those guys can say is no, right?

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