Wednesday, October 27, 2010
I recognize that we’re all still very depressed from last Saturday’s events. While we may have considered the fact that we could lose to the Giants, I don’t think any of use actually thought that we would. However, after Cody Ross homeruns, Ryan Howard strikeouts and f’in Juan Uribe, our team is no longer playing baseball this year. That fact, sadly, isn’t going to change.
With that, it’s important we look back on the Phillies season we just witnessed with fond memories. After all, they did win 97 games this year (count the five they won in the postseason and they won 102 games). Only the Giants can end up with more total victories (and they have to win the WS to do that). The Phillies swept a postseason series for the first time in their history. Roy Halladay threw a perfect game then a no-hitter in his first playoff start. Placido Polanco made an easy transition to third and played most of the season with a bone-chippy arm. Cole Hamels rebounded big time and put together his best season. Roy Oswalt is now a Phillie. Ryan Madson had another dominate year in the 8th inning. There was a lot to be happy about this year.
But it wasn't all roses. Chase Utley went cold in mid-May, got hurt and was never really the same. Ryan Howard didn’t even hit 35 HR (something a guy with his power really should never NOT do). Raul Ibanez was barely relevant until July. Jimmy Rollins was hurt most of the season. Joe Blanton sucked for two months. Still though, they won 97 games.
Overall the season was a great one, if ultimately unfulfilling. But to kill some time until spring training, while giving you some analysis, I’m here to break it down for you, player by player.
First up (yes, this was done randomly by finger point)…is Raul Ibanez.
It doesn’t take a very perceptive person to see that Raul Ibanez’s year was not as good as his 2009 season. We all know how good Ibanez was through mid-June of last year, he was putting up MVP-type numbers that helped carry the team through their usual first-half malaise. After his injury he never returned to the form of April and May, but that was fine. The team made the World Series anyway and his 13 RBIs in 15 October games helped to alleviate the growing worry that he really was too old. 2010 was going to be big for him (big in proving he wasn't too old).
This year couldn’t have started worse for Ibanez. At the all-star break he had only 7 HR and was batting only .243. In the second half he was a little better, hitting 9 more HR while raising his average up to .275. While you might look at his average and say ‘hey he hit .272 last year’ and think this year wasn’t that bad, it really was. Ibanez was able to keep his OBP high thanks to a career high 10.7% walk rate, but he still only clocked in at .349 (up from .347 last year). That, however, was paired with a steep drop in power, with only a .169 ISO as compared to .280 from 2009 (when he hit his career high 34 HR). When a guy is in your order to help drive in runs, power helps. Ibanez, simply, didn’t have enough for a corner outfielder whose defense is so poor (a -6.9 UZR).
If you look at FanGraph’s pitch type values for Ibanez you can see that he struggled mightily against fastballs this year. A pitch he historically kills, he simply couldn’t generate any results from this year. Now, this could be a one-year anomaly, or it could point to an overall drop in bat speed (which is to be expected from a 38-year old). A major league batter sees fastballs more than any other pitch type, so if he can’t handle them that will make a rebound season next year very difficult for him to produce. It won’t be hard for pitchers to see can’t catch up to the pitch and he’ll continue to see a steady diet of inside fastball and sliders away. Bad news.
Thankfully, Ibanez has just one year remaining on his contract. Although he makes a pretty penny ($12.1M next year) you can still live with that if he produces 1.8 WAR again. He’s probably a $6M player (in value) so the Phillies are only losing $6M on his deal (which isn’t terrible when compared to the $11M value discrepancy in the Howard’s contract, but that's for another time). Ultimately, if the Phillies continue to bat him 7th, he won’t hurt them too much. He doesn’t hit well on the road, and can’t walk against lefties (4:1 K:BB ratio) so if the Phillies platoon him with a RH bat with some pop next year the production from left field should be fine.
Or, he could rebound and hit 30+ HR again. I'm hoping for that.
Joe Blanton up next.