Raul Ibanez: Pat Burrell in Disguise?

Posted by Corey Seidman, Fri, September 18, 2009 09:00 AM | Comments: 35
Analysis, Posts, Statistical Analysis

When GM Ruben Amaro signed Raul Ibanez to replace Pat Burrell in left field, he believed he would be getting a similar offensive player with slightly better skills in the field and on the basepaths. When the move was made, my brother and I were confused, as Ibanez’ defensive and baserunning stats were almost identical to Burrell’s over the previous three seasons, he was older than Burrell, he would make the middle of the lineup left-handed heavy, and the cost of his contract was similar to what Burrell was originally expecting.

Granted, my brother and I each shared a certain affinity (ok, bias) for Burrell that never wavered through all of his struggles, but we were looking at things objectively on paper – a place in which sports are never played.

My dad saw things different.

He thought Ibanez would take the Phillies offense to another level and be MUCH better defensively. And similarly to his strange 2008 prophecies that Shane Victorino would be the most consistent Phillie after the All-Star break and Carlos Ruiz would have a huge postseason — two predictions to which he created the slogan, “A little fella shall lead them,” dad was right. Maybe we should have learned to trust him. After all, this was the same man who informed us that “Ryan Howard will hit a game-changing homer off of Andy Sonnanstine in the fifth inning of Game Four of the World Series” before the Phillies even knew they would play the Rays! (All things considered, papa was wrong. Howard’s eventual three-run homer off Sonnanstine came in the fourth.)

In April and May, Ibanez proved all of his doubters, including yours truly, very, very wrong. He hit .332 with 17 homers and 46 RBI in 187 at-bats. His production was unreal, unexpected, and unfortunately, unsustainable. Ibanez suffered a sore groin, followed by an awful slump that dropped his average from .316 on July 19, to .272 on September 5, a dramatic dip that is nearly impossible to achieve that late in the season.

Just when talk of Charlie Manuel benching Ibanez for a few games a la Jimmy Rollins grew louder, Ibanez turned it around. All he needed to get back on track was a few games in the hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park and a few more against the Nationals, a team that he has hit .433/.513/.896 against, adding up to a ridiculous 1.408 OPS, with 8 HR and 21 RBI in 17 games.

So here we are, 145 games into a season full of extreme highs and lows for our free-agent signing, and Ibanez’ offensive totals are roughly what we all imagined they would be. A .280/.350/.567 line with 31 homers and 86 RBI. That line is eerily similar to Pat Burrell’s one year ago to this day, which was .250/.366/.504 with 31 homers and 79 RBI. Both had 127 hits, both had 31 doubles, both had 3 triples. Burrell’s batting average was significantly lower, but all of his walks added up to a higher on-base percentage than Ibanez.

At first glance, I thought to myself, “Wow, Ibanez is having the same exact season as Burrell did last year.” But then I quickly realized that Burrell compiled those totals in 148 games, while Ibanez has only been a part of 116. And had Ibanez not missed a month due to injury and an even longer amount of actually productive time due to the side effects of that injury, his offensive numbers would be far superior to Burrell’s as of September 17.

The place where Burrell’s 2008 and Ibanez’ 2009 differ the most, however, is in the field. Amaro admitted to Tom McCarthy and Chris Wheeler while in the booth earlier this season that Ibanez has been a very pleasant surprise defensively, playing much better than anyone in the organization anticipated.

So while Ibanez (22.5) and Burrell (22.4) have similar numbers in “offensive runs above the average major-leaguer,” Ibanez has been worth 4.3 runs above average defensively, while Burrell was worth -4.3 runs in the field for the Phils last year. This means that if Burrell had re-signed and played the same defense for the Phillies this season, he would have cost them almost 9 runs more than Ibanez.

This also means that Burrell cost them over four runs more than an average defensive left-fielder last season. Plus, the 22.5 to 22.4 edge Ibanez has on Burrell offensively will only grow larger as the season continues.

In addition, Ibanez has a 16.9 RAR, or Runs Above Replacement. This means that Ibanez has been worth 16.9 more runs than a replacement-level player like Jeremy Hermida, which I would have to imagine makes the Marlins wonder if Hermida is even worth keeping, since a replacement player (think Andy Tracy or Mike Cervenak) would be much cheaper.

When you add up a players offensive runs above average, defensive runs above average, and RAR, then subtract their positional factor (left-field is an easier position than shortstop, for example), you have calculated their WAR, which stands for Wins Above Replacement. In Ibanez’ case, he has been worth 3.8 more wins than a replacement-level player, meaning that if Hermida were patrolling left-field, the Phillies would be about four games worse than they are. Last year, Burrell was worth 3.2 wins all season.

All of these numbers show that Ibanez has been slightly better than Burrell offensively and SIGNIFICANTLY better than him defensively. I’m sure most of you already know that, but the actual quantification of it is very interesting, especially since it shows such a huge difference between the two players in the field.

Ibanez’s play in left has made Ruben Amaro look like a genius, and, after all Amaro has done this year, it’s hard to not associate that word with the Phillies rookie GM. The Phils signed Ibanez to a 3 year/$30M deal, and according to Fangraphs.com’s salary scale, Ibanez’ performance in 2009 alone makes him worth $17.2M per year on the free agent market.

In contrast, Burrell signed a 2 year/$16M deal with the Rays, and his performance would be worth only $300,000 if he were to enter free agency next year. Ouch.

Next time my dad says something, maybe I’ll listen.

Avatar of Corey Seidman

About Corey Seidman

Corey Seidman has written 210 articles on Phillies Nation.

Corey is Analysis Editor for Phillies Nation and also writes for CSNPhilly.com.

  • Posts: 0 joedad

    Amaro = Rookie of the Year

  • Posts: 0 Ed R.

    I agree joedad however I wonder if Amaro will get a serious look as GM of the Year. I think Brian Cashman and John Mozeliak(Cardinals) both probably have a better chance of winning the award. Both of them made good signings and trades that took teams who last year missed the playoffs to teams that are going to the playoffs this year and look mighty dangerous. Amaro did inherit a WFC team. It also wouldn’t shock me if Jon Daniels(Rangers) won as GM of the Year.

  • Posts: 0 Holly

    I didn’t notice if this report took into consideration that Burrell was replaced (my estimate) 90% of the time last year in the later innings. This would decrease his production number.

  • Posts: 0 phils_ftw

    So what does your dad say about a WFC repeat this year?

  • Posts: 0 Duffie_D

    Beyond the comparison between Burrell’s 2008 season and Ibanez’s 2009 season, we should compare Burrell’s current season to Ibanez’s.

    This year Burrell is batting .228/.326/.385 with 14 HR and 62 RBI in 111 games. Way down from his career average. Did Ruben know something we didn’t? Burrell is playing like the older of the two outfielders.

  • Posts: 0 Brooks

    Amazing statistics we conjure up. All of the numbers added together, the pluses and the minus’ and we probably all agree – because the numbers don’t lie – Rauuuull! Huge factor in the Phillies success especially early on.
    Amaro should get recognition as the exec of the year.

    Any suggestions yet for manager of the year in the NL? To the Phillies fans I would think Chahlie would be the lead contender. Specifically what has been done with our pitching staff has been quite amazing. The closer has fallen apart, Chahlie has placed more emphasis on the starters getting more innings and it has been the key to the Phils success lately.

    Once again the numbers do not lie. For the first few months of the season, weren’t every one of our starters ERA over 5, most over 6 and giving up hrs on a record breaking pace.

    In April alone, the Phils starters gave up 28 hrs in 20 games. The first game where a starter did not give up a hr was in game 16 – Meyers gave up a whopping 8 hrs in 5 starts, Blanton 6 hrs in 4 starts, both Hamels and Moyer gave up 4 hrs in 4 starts and Chopper gave up 4 in 3 starts.

    Compare this months stats. In 17 games, the Phils starters have given up the long ball only 12 times. Project that number over the course of a year (I know.. worth nothing) and you would see a remarkable difference – 114 (Aprils projection would have been off the charts – 227 hrs continued on that pace). Most notable is Cole who has not given up a dinger in the month of September.

    I don’t know, more innings pitched by the starters, better results all around. I have been a proponent of having a solid BP going into the post season. These types of performances by the starters has resurrected my hopes for another WS ring in Philadelphia (even though we still do not have a solid plan for closing games or more than 1 legit bench player).

  • Posts: 0 Jay Holtz

    I’m in no way supporting a Burrell over Ibanez debate. I mean, come on. We haven’t had to trade in a player to pinch-run for Rauuuul all season, have we? He’s a much more intelligent fielder, and, aside from the past month and a half…he gets on base a lot more.

    What I like about him is all of his flair. The guy’s been jarring about calls that are incorrect and putting a fight in that absolutely transfers to the rest of the team. You can’t deny the intangibles. But, let’s hope he can get hot into the playoffs.

    Aside from the WS, Burrell played pretty well in the postseason. Between the NLCS and NLDS, he put up 3 dingers, had a solid average and on base percentage. Remember? That, and a solid contract year almost made people bend over backwards to bring the guy back. Obviously, he knew his days were short though; otherwise, he wouldn’t have been riding with the clydesdales in front of the parade.

    Let’s see what Ibanez does down the stretch. He’s been the guy to get excited about for us this year…along with plenty of others – JA, and great bats from Feliz and Victorino. Give him some love for the playoffs.

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Rauuuuul is the superior player, no doubt about it.

    However people expected him to be really “consistent” (unlike Pat the Bat and his horrible slumps). And they were all deeply dissapointed when Rauuul was slumping after the all-star break. The stats show that Rauuuul is a “consistent” player when you compare year to year overall numbers, but he is NOT “consistent” when you compare his month to month production…. he has big slumps, and these aren’t unique to this season.

    People confused the two.

  • Posts: 0 Gavin

    I dont need a formula to calculate that Brad Lidge’s WAR is -11.

  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    I wonder how conditioning plays into all of this? Raul seems 5 years younger than Burrell, so how does that happen.

    At one time, Burrell had all of the physical tools but simply wore down. Is that because his off season routine was all about partying and being a playboy and not caring about baseball until it was necessary?

    Raul looks like he takes this game pretty seriously, and at times during his tenure here, Burrell looked to be on a different planet. I think Amaro realized this and made the switch.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Raul’s “big slump” was due in large part to his injury…

    All players get streaky .. that is part of baseball… only Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer consistenyl get 17 hits a game

    Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Werth, Ibanez, Feliz, Ruiz … have all been streaky this year, because that is part of baseball

    Burrell’s overall numbers year to year weren’t that good for what he wanted $$$ … and how little he played (7 innings a game).. and his streaks were longer than most other players .. he would be red hot for a month and then cold for three months

    Ibanez is without a doubt the better player

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Don M…I was going to write the same basic thing before I read your post…..that Ibanez’s slump was due mostly to his injury….which took longer to comeback from than just his stint on the DL. And….yeah…..SLUMPS ARE PART OF BASEBALL.

    Don’t get me wrong…I loved Pat when he was here and really appreciated all he did for this franchise…..for many years….not just the WFC of 2008. And I was all for resigning him….at a reasonable price. BUT…..he’s gone and Ibanez is here and LIFE IS GOOD.


    Championship teams need to tweak a roster. Raul was the perfect move even if he was only as good a PTB. He has the hunger for a ring, he is a smart player and a great teamate. Well worth the money, just ask the loser Mets organization. :)

  • Posts: 0 Duffie_D

    I don’t really think its fair to say that Burrell wasn’t well conditioned enough, or that in general he didn’t work hard. By all accounts I have read Burrell was considered one of the hardest working guys on the team, we just didn’t always see it. I also don’t think that Ibanez is necessarily a smarter fielder than Burrell, I just think he’s marginally more fleet of foot. Burrell was a pretty smart fielder, his problem was that he was a statue out there.

  • Posts: 0 Bruce

    As some one here posted this theory for Ibanez’s slump..”.. Ibanez’s slump was due mostly to his injury…”, let’s be fair about this season for Burrell. He too was injured and out for a lengthy period on the DL. His stay on the DL could contribute to his problems in regaining the necessary rhythm and timing needed for hitting.

    Keep in mind, Burrell will still be playing five years from now while Ibanez is a wealthy retiree at age 42 playing golf and being a grandfather. (chuckles)

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Except for maybe Base-on-Balls … I can’t think of a single aspect of his game that Burrell is/was better than Ibanez ..

    Pat did some great things here.. and was the clubhouse leader of the team that PHINALLY won us a championship .. he’ll go down as a hero in Philadelphia sports lure .. but he couldn’t contribute ON THE FIELD the ways that Ibanez can..

    Great pickup by Ruben Amaro…

  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    DUffie, I just have a hard time believing that Burrell went the extra mile in the offseason. I always like Pat, dont get me wrong, but when you have foot or leg problems, you have to go that extra mile to make sure your as quick as can be. Maybe im wrong here.

    Raul is a physical specimen and really seems to go that extra mile. Maybe Amaro saw that. Anyway, it’s moot now because everyone is enjoying the production from Raul, even if it isnt as even keeled as we’d like.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I dont think Burrell will have a job in the majors after next season …

  • Posts: 0 karen

    Burrell was a great Philly…but that isnt translating much into another team. I would have liked Burrell to have stayed but Raul is great too…its just a different element to the team that adds a bit of something new

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Speaking of Raul’s defensive contributions…..how about that catch last night at the fence, near the line?? I somehow don’t see Pat Burrell making that play.

  • Posts: 0 George

    Pat, have you ever had serious foot problems? If you had, you’d know that no matter what kind of conditioning you try, sometimes there’s nothing you can do to improve. Without decent feet, you can’t run, you can’t plant your feet to take a good swing, you can’t push off to throw. I always saw Pat Burrell as a serious player, not a playboy, and a smart defender who many times used positioning to compensate for lack of speed. He also played the wall very well. As Duffie_D put it, Ibanez just has marginally better foot speed.

    Also, how well conditioned is a man who suffers a serious groin injury half way through the season? Sometimes injuries just happen, whether a man’s in shape or not. You can’t blame Raul for his groin any more than you should blame Burrell for his feet.

    I’m not saying here that I think Burrell is the better player. I am simply saying, give the man a break. Give him a break for his injury-ridden season, too. He may help the Rays tremendously next year.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Can anyone name players in MLB slower than Pat Burrell … Howard, THome, etc are WAY faster than him .. and Raul Ibanez isn’t anywhere near as slow as Burrell was ..

    Again, I’m not trying to knock Burrell.. but the more people talk him up, the more reality needs to set in and show that he’s a below-average hitter for contract, below-average defender, below-average baserunner, below-average arm.. but he does hit for power .

    so he’s got ONE of the FIVE tools..

  • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

    Avatar of Corey Seidman

    To Pat and everyone else talking about Burrell’s conditioning:

    I can’t give a specific reason why Burrell looks like the older player, or if slow starts were due to his nightlife, etc…but what I can say is that Burrell ENTERED the league with old-man skills (slow, bad fielder, hits for power, good eye.)

    When you enter the league in your early, mid-20′s already possessing those old-man skills, you naturally deteriorate faster. I could give you a list of dozens of major leaguers with these “old-man skills” whose careers took a downward spiral FAST once their health started deteriorating. Maybe that is what happened to Burrell.

    And if it did, let’s all be very glad his contract was up just in time.

  • Posts: 0 ChuckS

    Raul has been better then I expected this year. I too though the signing was going to cause the phillies harm. My biggest worry was that all the lefties were going to be easy to contain. Aside from Ryan the lefties have been consistent. But there is one thing Pat has one huge advantage—Elvis.

    Raul go get yourself a bulldog already.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    I wonder if Prince Fielder is slower than Burrell…..he a pretty hefty fella. BUT…..HE hits for MORE power than Burrell…..AND if I’m an infielder covering second on a double play and Fielder is barrelling towards me…..I’m MORE intimidated by him than I am Pat.

    Trying to think of others that are as slow or slower….not too many come to mind.

  • Posts: 0 joedad

    The clincher for me last was when the Phils won the World Series and Burrell avoided the pile and jumped away from whomever was running towards him. I felt it was either because he was hurt or wanted to avoid injury. Either way, it was an old man thing to do.

    I don’t know who votes for GM of the year or even if it exists. Amaro should be in the conversation but they did not have a serious challenge within the division all year and had all of the major pieces return from last year. He was also able to release some high paid players (Jenkins and Eaton) that other, smaller market teams cannot afford to do. However it is impressive that the team did not melt down the year after being WFC like others have done.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    The guy in charge of the Rockies this year should get some credit.. Cards GM… and the Rangers GM too

  • Posts: 0 ryan

    Raul is a much better all around baseball player than Pat Burrell. Pat is a one tool player with a huge hole in his big long swing. He is one of the slowest players in the game, can’t play defense and runs the bases like my grandma. Raul hits for average, plays much better D, more clutch, more heady, can consistently hit balls in the gap the other way, hits way more singles, more homeruns even. There is no way you can compare the two.

  • Posts: 0 George

    I’m not sure who’s the slowest now, but I do know that Wes Covington was the slowest man I’ve ever seen. He made Pat Burrell look like Speedy Gonzalez. Other people could walk faster than he could run. I saw him hit one off the right center field wall at Dodger Stadium once, the kind of thing that would be a double for anyone else, and possibly a triple for someone as fast as Victorino. The Dodgers’ right fielder, though, almost threw out Covington at first base.

  • Posts: 0 Bruce

    A few select “Burrell Bashers” from past years will continue their tired carping when given the chance as in comparing him with Ibanez on this thread. That’s expected.

    Since there is a comparison made between the two here, I thought I searched their records for 2008.

    Burrell Ibanez
    OBP 0.367 OBP 0.358
    SLG 0.507 SLG 0.479
    HR 33 HR 23
    RBI 86 RBI 110
    Career OBP 0.367 0.346
    Career SLG 0.485 0.472
    Career HR/162 31 21
    Career RBI/162 103 93
    2008 OBP v. lefties 0.406 0.368
    2008 SLG v. lefties 0.545 0.497
    2008 OBP v. righties 0.351 0.353
    2008 SLG v. righties 0.492 0.470
    Career OBP v. lefties 0.410 0.322
    Career SLG v. lefties 0.540 0.411
    Career OBP v. righties 0.352 0.355
    Career SLG v. righties 0.467 0.494

    Burrell .991 (2 errors in 216 chances); 12 Assists
    Ibanez .984 (5 errors in 316 chances); 9 assists

    Overall, one can see Burrell having the edge especially in OBP and SLG. We know Burrell has a strong and accurate arm and can make catches in the OF (that he can get to). We know Burrell is a very patient hitter with a good eye and a reason for his 100 plus walks and a high OBP. We know he is fundamentally sound and intelligent and makes up for his lack of speed with instinctive ability as both baserunner and fielder.
    We know he has those intangible qualities that are most desirable as a clubhouse leader. We know that once Burrell is fully healthy he will duplicate his career offensive averages for Tempa Bay next year. And he will be doing it long after Ibanez retires from baseball.

  • Posts: 0 Gregger

    Raul seems like a definite upgrade but let us not forget Burrell’s last at-bat as a phillie. Biggest moment of his life and one of mine too. Always love the man for that hit and his time here so I cannot bring myself to insult him.

  • Posts: 0 Dave

    Funny how B.A. doesn’t make it into your comparison, Bruce. And there are a couple reasons why Burrell had a high walk rate, one of which was that he was almost no threat on the basepaths.
    Don’t want to bash Burrell, but let’s keep that in mind for the Ibanez-Burrell comparison

  • Posts: 0 cxl72

    I went back and forth with your brother on fangraphs (and about everyone else there) defending the Phillies, the process and Raul as a FA. He’s been a great pickup and heaven-sent. btw, Eric is missed on Fangraphs, take care.

  • Posts: 0 I Think...

    In reality, Ibanez played a huge part in our early season games. Remember, most of his numbers were compiled early on. So Ibanez is actually worth a lot more than the #s you provided can actually tell. Had this #s been spread as thin as Burrells, who knows how much of an impact they really had?

    Plus, had Ibanez not have been hurt, who know’s where his #s might be…His slump was a direct result of his DL stint. That is where you can truly see the difference. It is obvious that Raul’s injury really plagued him physically and mentally for several months, yet he was still able to produce what Pat did, and the season isn’t over yet.

  • Posts: 0 Randy Seidman

    hey phils_ftw – hate to break the bad news to ya, but our beloved phils will not get past round one this year, and will only win the game hamels starts – well at least we dont live in chicago and have to root for the cubbies

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