Yankees Pursue Ibanez, But What About Damon?

In recent weeks, the Yankees have made it clear that they’re interested in adding one more bat to help them fill their DH spot. This hitter would ideally be a left-handed hitter who could platoon with Andruw Jones and provide the Yankees with a valuable bat off the bench.

It just so happens that there are a number of left-handed hitters still left on the market: Raul Ibanez, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui. The Yankees have reportedly been considering all three, and as of last night, they appear to be leaning toward Ibanez:

Are the Yankees right to prefer Ibanez to Damon or Matsui? Judging from the their regressed splits, it’s a toss-up.

Projected wOBA vs. RHP
Johnny Damon 0.339
Raul Ibanez 0.342
Hideki Matsui 0.331

I calculated these splits using an Excel calculator that uses the methodology spelled out in The Book, and it takes into account the player’s career L/R splits and their projected wOBA going forward. In this case, I took each player’s projected 2012 wOBA from their FanGraphs page.* The results are about what you’d expect; Damon and Ibanez project as similar against righties, while Matsui is a less attractive option.

In the Damon vs. Ibanez debate, it’s worth remembering that Damon is two years younger than Ibanez and has a more well-rounded skill-set. He has more speed, more defensive value, and he walks more and strike out less often. He was more productive at the plate than Ibanez last season, and he’s been roughly comparable to (or better than) Ibanez at the plate for the past four years. And if it’s power you want, Damon had the extra same number of extra base hits as Ibanez last season, despite playing home games in a park that suppresses left-handed power considerably.

But if you’re looking solely for someone who can mash righties — which the Yankees seems to be doing — Ibanez is likely the way to go. Damon has a small career platoon split, displaying the ability to hit both hands well, while Ibanez has mashed righties to the tune of a .363 wOBA. Ibanez also had good success against righties last season (.358 wOBA); meanwhile, Damon oddly posted reverse splits and struggled against them (.313 wOBA).

Even if that was a small sample fluke — which it likely was — Ibanez still seems like the correct target when looking for a righty masher. Just as long as the Yankees don’t plan on him doing anything else.

*To clarify even further, I used the Bill James projections for Damon (.332 wOBA) and Ibanez (.328 wOBA), and used the RotoChamps projection for Matsui (.327 wOBA). I normally like to maintain internal consistency, but in this case, I couldn’t bring myself to use the Bill James projection for Matsui since it had him being better than both Damon and Ibanez.




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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.

22 Responses to “Yankees Pursue Ibanez, But What About Damon?”

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  1. Josh A says:

    “To clarify even further, I used the Bill James projections for Damon (.332 wOBA) and Ibanez (.328 wOBA), and used the RotoChamps projection for Matsui (.327 wOBA). I normally like to maintain internal consistency, but in this case, I couldn’t bring myself to use the Bill James projection for Matsui since it had him being better than both Damon and Ibanez.”

    Isn’t that kind of like using two players’ rWAR and one players’ fWAR and then comparing how valuable they are?

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  2. jda says:

    Just use the ZiPS projections and manually calculate wOBA. Damon looks a fair bit better than either Matsui or Ibanez. Ibanez is also the most damaging to place in an actual outfield corner. Then again, the difference between the three projections is probably a lot less than the difference between the 25th percentile performance and 75th percentile performance for any one of the three.

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  3. This Guy says:

    Could just be a matter of money at this point, especially if the Yankees have to pay extra luxury tax on top of the salary difference.

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  4. Ben says:

    The other factors to consider are price and each player’s willingness to take a on a lesser role. At this point in Ibanez’s career, he’s unlikely to find work outside of being a part time DH or PH at a minimum salary. According to MLBtraderumors.com, Damon wants 5 million and a full-time role at least on par with the one he had with TB last season. And this request is not unreasonable, given that even in his declining years, he still produced a 1.5 WAR.

    So while all else being equal the Yankees would be better off with Damon, because of his greater versatility, I’m not sure Damon will sign with the Yankees given that he’s unlikely to ever take the field or even be a full-time DH

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    • JimNYC says:

      ^THIS. Damon still has it in his head that he can become the all time leader in consecutive seasons with at least 140 games played (currently at 16 and counting, tied with Hank Aaron and Pete Rose for most all-time), which just isn’t going to happen as a platoon DH with the Yankees.

      The Yankees aren’t particularly concerned with defensive value for their fifth outfielder. Their starting outfield is already arguably the best in the game defensively — depending on how much you buy into Granderson’s fielding numbers from last year — so late inning defensive replacements add basically no value.

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  5. Preston says:

    This is a complete toss up. Ibanez seemingly fits the mold of a part time DH, but at his age he might contribute nothing. Damon is an unconventional DH and wasn’t particularly good last year (but still better than Ibanez) he is probably the safest bet not to completely flop. Matsui might have been a victim of the Coliseum and might benefit from returning to a comfortable environment in NYC. I think the Yankees would be right to let the players willingness to accept a smaller role and salary demands decide. Because if this are your best options at this point the best bet is to save some salary to acquire someone else at the trade dead-line.

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  6. shthar says:

    What about Jordan Parraz or Damon Sublett? Or a platoon of the two?

    You can always go sign Dorian Grey if they don’t hit.

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  7. Doug says:

    Yanks just signed Bill Hall. Wonder if that takes them out of this market.

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    • Scooby says:

      No, it doesn’t. Hall was signed to minor league deal with an April 4th opt-out if he’s not added to the 40-man roster. They’re still in play for Eric Chavez along with the three mentioned above.

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  8. Neuter Your Dogma says:

    Matt Stairs out of retirement!

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  9. Jason says:

    “*To clarify even further, I used the Bill James projections for Damon (.332 wOBA) and Ibanez (.328 wOBA), and used the RotoChamps projection for Matsui (.327 wOBA). I normally like to maintain internal consistency, but in this case, I couldn’t bring myself to use the Bill James projection for Matsui since it had him being better than both Damon and Ibanez.”

    At least you are honest and admitted to your deceit. But what is the point of using the numbers at all if you are just going to use them to shop for numbers that fit your preconceived conclusion?

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    • Keystone Heavy says:

      *To clarify even further, I used the clutch stat we have on here for JJ Hardy (.25) and Andrus (.17) and I used my brother in-law Steve’s 1-10 ultimate clutch scale for Jeter (9.7). I normally like to maintain internal consistency, but in this case, I couldn’t bring myself to use the Clutch rating for Jeter because we all know he is right up the wth Joe Montana and Michael Jordan as an all-time clutch athlete, and it just didn’t support this

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  10. wilt says:

    I dream of the day when I read a fangraphs article without a glaring grammatical error. That being said, good piece.

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  11. Keystone Heavy says:

    I’m sure Billy Beane would go on a Godzilla-esque rampage through Oakland if he read that free agents are willing to sign with the Yankees on a discount.

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  12. Wally says:

    Why don’t the Yankees make a small trade for Jason Giambi?

    He is a former Yankee and can hit lefties better than any of those guys.

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  13. Lance W says:

    “The results are about what you’d expect; Damon and Ibanez project as similar against righties, while Matsui is a less attractive option. … *To clarify even further, I used the Bill James projections for Damon (.332 wOBA) and Ibanez (.328 wOBA), and used the RotoChamps projection for Matsui (.327 wOBA). I normally like to maintain internal consistency, but in this case, I couldn’t bring myself to use the Bill James projection for Matsui since it had him being better than both Damon and Ibanez.”

    Wait, so… you *made* the results about what we would/you did expect? Or did I miss something? (I very easily could have.)

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  14. JMorrow says:

    Ibanez had a .322 wOBA against RHPs last season, not .358. The .358 was his wOBA at home.

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