Yankees Add Lefty Power In Ibanez

If the Yankees’ stable of position players was missing one thing, it was a left-handed power bat to come off the bench. Today, the Yankees signed Raul Ibanez to a one-year deal, ostensibly to fill that hole. Ibanez, however, has rapidly felt the effects of aging of late. Can he provide enough of a punch off the bench to help the Yankees in 2012?

Even as Ibanez declined in 2010, his ability to hit right-handed pitching remained, as he posted a .352 wOBA (116 wRC+) in 445 plate appearances. That wasn’t the case in 2011 as his slide continued. Ibanez hit just .245/.289/.413 overall and his performance against righties dropped to a .322 wOBA (101 wRC+). It was the first time since we have recorded splits (back to 2002) that Ibanez posted a sub-115 wRC+ against right-handed pitching.

Still, Ibanez showed he can still take righties deep. Sixteen of his 20 home runs came off of right-handed pitching and he finished with a very solid .440 slugging percentage. The downside was a poor 68 strikeouts against just 30 walks, leading to a tepid .301 on-base percentage in the split.

All of this is probably fine for the Yankees, who only need Ibanez as a left-handed platoon partner for Andruw Jones in the DH slot. If Ibanez ever takes the field it will probably be for emergency purposes only; beyond his horrible -19 UZR last season, his defensive struggles are well documented.

If there ever was a place for Ibanez’s power to be leveraged, it’s the new Yankee Stadium. Philadelphia has never hurt a hitter, and as a lefty Ibanez probably got a touch of help from it in 2011. According to the 2012 Bill James Handbook, Citizen’s Bank Park increased left-handed home runs by nine percent over the past three seasons. That’s all fine and good, but Yankee Stadium is only the best park for power-hitting left-handed batters: the three-year park factor provided by James’s handbook is the highest in the league at an absurd 143 — increasing home runs by 43%. Even in limited action, a repeat of 20 home runs could be possible for the 39-year-old.

Ibanez is not an ideal player by any means, but as long as the Yankees understand his weaknesses and strengths, he should serve as a fine left-handed specialty bat off the bench. And looking at the rest of New York’s stable of position players, that’s about all they need out of him.



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Jon
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Jon

Not sure why they signed Ibanez when they have branyan on a minor league deal. I figure he has a better shot to rebound than Ibanez

Oliver
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Oliver

Agree. At the very least the Yankees could have inked Ibanez to a minor league deal to compete with Branyan. Although Ibanez may have had other major league options out there.

Either way, I think we might be over-estimating Branyan’s ability to rebound from what was a truly awful campaign in 2011. Maybe it was a down year, but more likely at 35, it was the continuation of a decline phase.

JimNYC
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JimNYC

You mean the Russel Branyan who put up a .197/.295/.370 line last year? And who hasn’t played a single game in the outfield in four years? How would that help them fill their fifth outfielder / platoon DH spot, exactly?

Ronin
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Ronin

@JimNYC

Russ Branyan last 600 PA RC+ 111, Raul Ibanez last 600 PA RC+ 106. Branyan is also 3.5 years younger. Neither of them should ever play the outfield again and both are probably done. They are basically the same player yet your post makes it sound as if Ibanez is clearly superior and will be playing OF on a semi-regular basis. This is simply not true. The only area in which Ibanez trumps Branyan is health, however if Branyan is healthy I think he could repeat his 2010 numbers which were better than either of Ibanez’s last two seasons.

Still I dont see how Ibanez’s contract really guarantees him a better shot at the job than Branyan since the Yanks signed Ibanez to chump change that they can easily swallow if they decide Raul is not going to cut it. Personally I doubt either player will see many PAs.

JimNYC
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JimNYC

I think they’re looking at 100 PA’s, tops, from this player, maybe 150.

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