When the Phillies signed Raul Ibanez, many were unsure how he would fill the shoes of a fan favorite, Pat Burrell. So far, there have been no complaints; just chants of “Rauuuuuuul!”
Traveling back a year ago, Burrell batted .326 with eight home runs and 21 runs batted in. He struck out 18 times, but had a 1.135 on-base plus slugging percentage in April of 2008. Not too many people thought you could get much hotter than Burrell.
So far this season, Ibanez batted .359 with 7 home runs, and 17 RBI. His on base percentage is .433 and he slugged .718, giving him a 1.151 OPS. He has come up clutch with a walk off home run and a late-inning grand slam. The numbers are close, but Ibanez is off to a better start than Burrell was last season.
In 2009, Burrell is batting .254 with with just one home run and eight runs batted in. His on base percentage is .370, but he is slugging a low .343, totaling a .714 OPS. He has struck out 14 times compared to Ibanez’s 10.
There were question marks surrounding Ibanez’s base running and defense, but so far he has been superb in the field and on the base paths. He isn’t the greatest defender, but he has made some spectacular catches and his arm is stronger than originally thought to be. He isn’t a track star, but he hustles, and is a better running option than Burrell.
Because of the upgrade in speed and defense, the Phillies do not have substitute him for a defensive replacement or pinch runner. An extra bat in the lineup in the later innings has proved to be a difference as the Phillies are among leaders in all of baseball in runs scored after the seventh inning.
If Ibanez can continue to be the consistent hitter that he is, he is going to put up very good numbers. Ibanez played at Safeco Field last season, a pitcher’s park. Moving to a hitter friendly park will only benefit him. Burrell, on the other hand, moved from a hitter’s park that fitted him well.
As long as he continues to produce, the “Rauuuuuuul!” cheers will live on.