Archive for November, 2007


Raul’s Defense Still Sucks

November 17, 2007

I want to take this opportunity to respond to something I’ve been seeing around the Mariners’ blogosphere. There seems to be this idea that, despite the observations of fans and numerous empirical evidence, Raul Ibanez plays okay defense in left field.

For instance, at the popular Mariners message board Sportspot, there is an argument going on right now about the merits of Ibanez’s defense (“I think his defense in LF is incredibly underrated” – Beastie Boys).

At Detect-O-Vision, SabrMatt, while conceding that Ibanez contributes fewer wins defensively than an average LFer, contends that he is still above average at the position because “a completely marginal left fielder (that is, the left fielder on a .250 W% outfield) is worth 1.6 wins fewer than an average left fielder.” (Huh?)

Of course, in the same thread someone goes on to argue that the reason most fans don’t care for Raul’s defense is because they irrationally follow the gospel of Dave Cameron and Jeff Sullivan. Meanwhile Detecto, who has never attended a USSMariner function, insists that bloggers swoon in Bill Bavasi’s presence and insinuates that the Mariners’ organization has more information about defense than UZR or PMR could ever hope to.


Look, to so much as posit the idea that Raul plays even average defense is absurd.

Every major defensive metric has pegged him as having been responsible for anywhere between 10 and 30 runs that otherwise wouldn’t have scored had the team had an average defensive LFer.

During the season, Mike Hargrove regularly substituted the considerably faster Jason Ellison in for Raul late in games, when Grover had concluded that Raul’s bat would no longer be needed. This is because Ellison represented a major defensive upgrade over Raul.

Fans at Lookout Landing would routinely insist that “Jones would have caught that” during live game threads whenever Ibanez would fail to reach a ball. Go back and find one of those moments on one of the game threads, then look up that particular game’s footage online, and see for yourself. It’s true.

Additionally, DOV claims that Ibanez is defensively below average compared to “glove-only” players, but not to offense-first outfielders. DOV argues that sure, UZR says that Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, and Hideki Matsui are better defensively than Raul, but that’s only because they don’t have to play in the spacious Safeco Field. If they did, then they’d put up numbers similar to, if not worse than, Raul’s!

Again – seriously? Does anyone honestly believe that Raul Ibanez is reaching balls in left field that Soriano, Josh Willingham, or Geoff Jenkins would have let drop? These players are faster and (except for maybe Jenkins) healthier than Raul has been in a very long time. It’s ridiculous.

As is the notion that Raul is anything better than a poor left fielder.