Raul Ibanez the #7 defender in the NL

  We hear the Phillies are going to the playoffs, and that Raauuuuuul had something to do with it.   Good on yer, Ibby.


Besides Rauuuul's .275/.350/.550 hitting line, Fangraphs has Raul as adding +6.4 runs (almost one win) to the pot with that very fine left fielder's glove of his.

Indeed, UZR/150 had Raul as being a PLUS-PLUS defender in left field -- one of baseball's very best defenders.  (See below.) 

UZR/150 had Raul as earning +7.3 runs per 150 games, +6.4 runs in the games he actually did play, and approximately $4M profit in salary terms.  Fangraphs therefore pegged him at over $18,000,000 in deserved salary in this year alone. 

Sometimes the GM's aren't as dumb as we think :- )


Raul's UZR/150 the last six years:

+7.3 - 2009

-10.4 - 2008

-23.3 - 2007

-5.4 - 2006

+5.0 - 2005

+8.8 - 2004

If this were an IQ test, what number's coming next?


Go to Fangraphs, sort by qualified NL left fielders, and you will find that Raul is +13 runs better defensively than the #2 left fielder in the league, that being Carlos Lee.

I am sure that this makes Raul Ibanez the #1 position-adjusted fielder in the National League for 2009.   If some other player is 13 runs better than #2 in his league, let me know.

The other six qualified LF's in the NL -- Lee, Anderson, Headley, Braun, Soriano, and Coghlan -- were all measured by UZR to cost their teams from -6 to -14 runs.   I don't necessarily buy that either, but as you can see, GM's value offense in left field.


Sort all National League fielders and you'll see that Raul Ibanez is #7, all positions.

If UZR be anywhere close to on track, then Raul Ibanez is an obvious Gold Glove winner for 2009.   There are 3 CF's and 1 RF with higher UZR's, but Raul is so far ahead of the mashing LF's that he's up for a Barry Bonds category GG.


Matty properly cautions us to be aware of injuries causing fluctuation, but that hasn't been the case with Raul.

One guess is that a player gets much slower as he gets injured.  But I'm guessing that we don't have to fear arguments that Raul Ibanez just got real fast, am I right?  :- )


Raul himself told us what goes on.  Positioning is what is going on. That and other circumstances beyond the player's control.

You could line Franklin Gutierrez up outside the foul line in LF, and the stats would make him look slow.  The coaches, and the pitcher-catcher battery and its communication, have a lot to do with those stats.

When pressed, Raul Ibanez stated that it was the Mariners' fault that he was running terrible stats.  Considering his UZR/150 went up by 15 runs the moment he changed teams, he's got some evidence to that effect.


So what's Raul's UZR/150 going to be next year?   Anything from -20 to +10, I guess.   Depending on his circumstances.


Raul's lifetime SLG is now .480 in 1500 games.  Playing in the Kingdome, Jay Buhner had a .494 SLG in 1500 games.


Dr D


Sandy - Raleigh's picture

This is why I pay less and less attention to individual defensive metrics.  Phillies, AS A TEAM, ended up basically right at league average defensively.  If Ibanez was uber-stupdendous, then who was it that uber-stunk?  Another problem is that LF is perhaps the most oft position for cycling through auditioners.
In the NL for 2009, Fangraphs only ranks 7 NL LFs, (which includes Chase Headley with only 112 games and 963 innings.  In fairness to Raul, despite spending a couple weeks on the DL, he'll still finish 3rd in the NL in LF innings.  In the NL, his competition?
Braun, Carlos Lee, Chris Coghlan, Garret Anderson, Soriano and Headley.  In the AL, only 5 guys appear on the LF list: DeJesus, Crawford, Rivera, Damon and Bay.  Who does the NL put in LF?  Braun, Lee, Dunn, Ibanez, Soriano ... the strong tendency is to go for power over defense. 
But, really the thing to realize about Raul, (who had the best season of his career), is that the concern was the YEARS on the contract, and the ever-increasing threat of injury and age issues.  Well, he had a 2-week DL stint.  And his .900 season was split:  1015 OPS in the first half and ... (wait for it) ... .784 OPS in the second.  His second half line was: .236/.328/.456/.784 -- with 12-HRs and 33-RBI.  His first half was .309/.367/.649 with 22/60.  Games started were dead even at this point -- 64 each half. 
In truth, Seattle would've killed for a .784 OPS out of its LF slot, but the ultimate call on whether the Phillies made a good call will come in 2011, when they could be spending 8 figures for what Griffey gave Seattle this year for a fraction. 

CA's picture

Sandy, not taking issue with your points specifically but I believe that Doc is needling some of the conventional wisdom in the Seattle Blogosphere.  I have spent years defending Raul against the onslaught of negative analysis that I believed had more to do with CYA about age decline "laws" that never showed up in his stat line.  In reality, he probably was the best bargain in baseball from 2004 to present, has never declined with the bat, and is the poster child for not placing too much emphasis on new stat toys.  If he experiences a Tino Martinez cliff jump next year, perhaps the 6 year old prediction will finally come to pass.  Until then, his production with the bat has outweighed a falsely derived negative with the glove.  Left field defense is simply not as important as hitting.  
As far as his second half slump, (which he has earned the right for it to be labled): I once saw an argument for acquiring JD Drew knowing full well that he is good for maybe 120 games a year because his production for those games plus whatever scrub replaces him still equals a good player.  Not that I agree with that theory, but I believe that valuation systems are season total entities and cannot be parsed in order to reflect poorly on local whipping boys.  We as M's fans got bullied a bit by local opinion makers who had a vested interest in showing Ibanez in a poor light.  
As far a team defense goes, I really think that the M's showed about the max that can be done with one great pitcher, decent relief, and guys who catch the ball.  Good season, would be hard to duplicate what timely hitting we had.  We need some offense, and I look at LF this off season.  


UZR is a flawed statistic at certain positions which are very susceptible to park fctors.  LF, 1B, RF and to a lesser extent CF...Ibanez' high defensive rating in Philly vs. low defensive rating in Seattle has a simple root cause.  Well...two simple root causes, but we'll take them one at a time.
1) Safeco field has a HUGE left center field gap.  The problem with UZR is that it breaks the field into pie wedges based on angles between the foul lines and doesn't account for the increased area that some players must cover compared to others due to park dimensions.  By comparison, Citizen's Bank Park is TINY in left...we're talking about a difference of perhaps 500 square feet of area to cover.  That's a LOT.
2) Ibanez in Seattle wasn't really rated that poorly on defense except for 2007 - a year in which he spent the vast majority of his time playing injured.  Despite your objections on this matter, I still believe losing even half a step on defense can be the difference between being a good fielder and a poor one for certain types of players and that's what happened to Ibanez.  In Philly, when he got hurt, he went on the DL...in Seattle, he played through the pain because Hargrove was moronically attached to guys being "gamers".


Did Ibanez' speed score go from worst-to-first along with his UZR?
He had fewer triples than 2007, and more GIDP's.  He stole 4 bases this year.   Why is this new speed not reflected in his baserunning? 
You're telling me he gained five steps in 2009 -- worst-to-first -- because he got healthy?  Watch a game sometime, bud.  Raul ran very well in 2007-08.


UZR proponents would tell you that the system mostly captures park differences.  Ibanez isn't playing in a uniquely small park, compared to all the -8 to -14 gloves in the league.
But:  assuming that you're correct, and a baseball park gives a player -23 in one year and another baseball park gives him +7 in the next ... well, that's my argument.
UZR isn't an absolute:  it's warped radically by playing conditions.
I agree with Blengino that UZR is a good starting point.  What I argue is that it isn't the ending point for a dogmatic evaluation.


And Sandy, we're saying a lot of the same things there.
Right CA.  If the dogma didn't produce such resonating effects -- with Raul as with Bedard and others -- I probably wouldn't make the effort to frame the opposing view.
Raul was excoriated unmercifully for years, and if that was unfair, then it should be corrected ex post facto.
Will say that in 2009 the situation seems to have improved remarkably.  Much more light, and much less heat, these days.

Taro's picture

You can't use any single defensive statistic with even 80% accuracy IMO.
Theres no way Ibanez is anything but awful, but UZR has a tendency to be very unreliable on a year to year basis. You need a sample of 3 years minimum and even then you  need to cross reference it with the other D stats out there in addition to using your eyes.

glmuskie's picture

That an 'awful' defender could be rated as elite by one of the most advanced defensive metrics out there?  Even on a 1-year 'sample'?
If so, then the metrics are less than worthless, they're completely wrong and misleading.
Replace the word 'awful' with 'adequate', say, then I think the Ibanez debate starts reaching some common ground, and something closer to the truth.

glmuskie's picture

Love your dissenting and thoughful posts here. 

CA's picture

And its not just 'one' of the most advanced metrics but one whose results are somehow shoehorned into an equally shaky run value, win value, and phony baloney $20 mil. worth of value by very good, but still young Cf.  
Why is it that the basis for many new stats was to question old school descriptions of events but they are so dogmatically defended and taken for truth when the reality may be far different?  Why can't these metrics be questioned?  And especially when you have steady input data by players ( and guys rarely just fall off a cliff defensively) yet wildly different year to year results?  Why should I take three years worth of inaccurate season numbers and assign relevance to them in aggregate? 
I'll answer my own question:  biggest contract players by a group are plodding, slugging, LF's.  Carlos Lee, Soriano, Ibanez, Bay, Ramirez, Dunn etc.  Mostly or all poor fielders that can be replaced at 70% offensive production with better fielders for peanuts, right? Wrong, that 30% production is the premium for winning at that position.  


I am not telling you Raul gained 5 steps.
A) I'm telling you he may have gain half a step from 2007 to 2008 just from being healthier
B) I'm claiming that a half-step, while not important to saserunning, is very important to defense, especially in the outfield
C) That wasn't the entire explanation either...Going from worst to first was largely a product of moving to a more favorable park for him.


I don't know where you get the impression that I, or anyone else for that matter, would claim that UZR is the end of the discussion.  Nor that UZR proponents ever claim that their metric does anything to capture park factors beyond simply accounting for the average rate at which base hits fall in each park/sector.
My claim is that there are very specific TYPES of players that benefit more or less from a park's impact on defense and that the primary explanation is defensive alignments that suit a particular player's strengths or weaknesses.  Defense is a team sport and no single-player metric like UZR is ever going to capture that.


... it's the proposed connection between (1) a half step, say the difference between a 4.82 forty and a 4.85 forty,  and (2) going from 30 defense to 70 defense
... that frazzed my brain, then.


True...it's boring saying "I agree!" all the time...conflict breeds creativity. :)


As we tried to point out to you regarding Franklin Gutierrez, defense is not about raw speed, though having speed helps...when I say a half-step lost, I don't mean the difference of 3 hundredths of a second in sprinting time...I mean literally as the play unfolds, the player, through a combination of his technical abilities and his physical abilities, is a half step or a full step behind some other version of himself.  That's 5-8 feet if you think about how long an outfielder's stride is when he's running as hard as he can...and that can make a huge difference on the non-routine plays that separate the bad fielders from the good ones.
I'm not sure you have a complete appreciation for the large gap in value over the course of a season between a guy who catches most of the hard plays and a guy who catches not very many of them.  The vast majority of the numerical weight in range factor is on the plays that ALL of the players make...the range...though small, is crucially significant to run prevention and the value differences can be surprisingly large.

Taro's picture

I think Ibanez is somewhere in the -5 to -15 runs range year to year in LF. That makes him well below-average, but short of the Adam Dunn or Manny Ramirez type terribleness.
His UZR is doing something funky this year, but his RZR is poor and his Range Factor is terrible. We don't have the Bill James and PMR data yet but once we get it we should get a better idea.

Add comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.