Raul Ibanez' Age-42 Contract

If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman


I took a walk around the world
To ease my troubled mind
I left my body lying somewhere
In the sands of time
But I watched the world float
To the dark side of the moon

I feel there is nothing I can do, yeah

I watched the world float
To the dark side of the moon
After all I knew it had to be
Something to do with you
I really don’t mind what happens now and then
As long as you’ll be my friend at the end


This one is in the free area at Bill James Online, the last 30 days' worth of Hey Bills:


Supposing Raul Ibanez finished the season, hitting about the way he is now -- .250/.300/.550, or even anywhere in that vicinity. The Red Sox needed an outfielder and asked you for a projection for Raul for 2014. How would you approach such a problem, since there is so little precedent? How do you organize your thinking?
Asked by: jemanji
Answered: 7/13/2013
Aging accelerates as players age, but one assumes the same principles apply.    There is a normal relationship between what a player does ages 33-35 and what he will do at 36.   There is a normal relationship between what a player does at 34-36 and what he does at 37.   Being a year or two older than normal doesn't destroy the normal relationships.  

That input comes as a pleasant surprise.  There are two basic paradigms here, each one of which has several variations:

  1. At age 40+ you can't hit, and if somebody does, you treat it as a fluke.
  2. You plot the age-arc curve normally, more or less, no matter what age a player is.

The thing that makes you lean towards (1) above is that --- > Rauullll physically looks 100.00% as quick as he did at age 41. ... some sabermetricians will not care about that, but do you think the Seattle Mariners' decision-making process includes their scouts' assessments of batspeed?


So When Do We Start the Schuss

After age 36, 37, you plot the age-arc decline down fairly steeply.  But Raul's age-arc plot hasn't even started down!  His OPS+ right now is 147; his previous high was 132, the World Series year with Philadelphia.

We remember having this conversation with James, back when Nolan Ryan was 40, 41, 42.  James would point out exactly that:  "Everybody is skiing down a slope.  Ryan has not started down yet."  Of course, Ryan was still a great pitcher at 42-44, still a star at 45.


If That's Selling Out, Gimme a Pen

Raul has reinvented himself at age 41; his EYE ratio used to be 0.50 and now it's 0.30.  His ISO used to be 170-200; now it's 300.  As Gordon noticed several weeks ago, Ibanez has a strong understanding of what he can do and what he can't.  He has evidently decided that what he can do, is stalk his pitch and do damage to it.  He has apparently chosen to move into a Gorman Thomas mode -- guess curve, get curve, and then when you get it, put an extra biscuit into the swing.  

Chad Young, who followed on Gordon's insight, called this "selling out for power."  For SURE a hitter can choose to dial up the PWR tool at the expense of the HIT tool, and vice versa.

But the 0.30 EYE does not imply, in his case, that his batspeed is down.  His EYE was 0.31 two years ago, with the Phillies, and you would have thought that was it.  But last year, his EYE bounced back up to 0.52 with the Yankees.

More compelling than the up-and-down EYE lately, is Rauuulll's splits this year vs left hand pitchers.  Do you have any idea what Rauuull's SLG is against lefties?  It's .603.  It is precisely in the LH-vs-LH (not RH-vs RH as much) that you see batspeed the most ... 


Dr's Prognosis

Raul is year to year, obviously.  But if he has a strong second half, then in 2014 he is worth more than the $2.75M he made this year.

Assuming that he doesn't hit the end of the line here in 2H 2013, then --- > in my book he's an ideal #25 roster player for 2014.  After which point he'd probably wind up batting fourth again...


Dr D



Wound up looking at it, after this was up :- ) ... nice to see we're all on the same sheet of music as usual ...

Have all y'all been liking Grant's Shout Box digest?


Thanks for calling attention to the reality that there was a shout box digest, Doc. I didn't see it on the page until you made me look around intently for it. Those tabs at the top are the smallest visual features on the page so I rarely notice they're there.

Now that I know this is available, though, I'll make use of it when I want to go back and view a conversation or refer to an older conversation. Thanks for the klat team's efforts!

As for Rauuuuuuuul, statistically speaking, there are really only two things that have changed about Ibanez' game. His K rate is up a bit (and his BB rate is down a bit)...and that is partially because they're pitching around him more and, given the make-up of the team, he has been unwilling to let them get away with that (we wants to do damage because someone in the line-up has to do it and only he, Seager and Morales have proven they can consistently). The pitch-around trend has halted since he moved to the three-hole, however, and as a result, his batting average is now climbing (because he's getting more to hit).

And the second thing that's changed...his flyball rate. He used to be more of a topspin hitter...lots of grounders and line drives. Now you can tell he's trying to hit everything in the air. Note:

Career GB/FB: 1.12

Last three seasons: 1.32, 1.06, 0.82

Career HR/FB, 13.6% (the normal rate for a topspin hitter), this season: 27.6% (probably unsustainably high, but it is normal to expect an increase when you're hitting more flyballs by choice)

His ISO probably won't be .300 when the dust settles...and the choice to be a cripple hitter means his BA probably won't stay >.250 (more Ks and less speed and more flyballs in play...all of which lower BA or BABIP, one or the other)...but you could still be looking at a 42 year old who hits .230/.290/.450, which would have its uses.


I hadn't noticed it either, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Shout Box Digest. What an amazingly quick response to the suggestion! Thanks are due to you AND Grant!


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