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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.

Seriously?

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.

-Katal

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4 comments

  1. Good post Katal. :- )

    One quick clarification … I *do* think that Raul is less effective defensively than the typical MOTO left fielder (much less Godzilla who is a good LF).

    We’re saying no more, and no less, than this: it could easily be that the difference between Raul and an average MOTO left fielder is not very important.

    Cheers!,
    Jeff


  2. Thanks.

    Fair enough. I don’t think Raul is *a lot* worse than your average lug of a LFer, but considering the dimensions of Safeco, his defensive deficiencies are magnified a lot more than they would be in a more neutral park. That’s my primary concern as to why I feel that he needs to play first or DH next season.

    Katal


  3. Raul hustles but his shuffle-speed gives him no range, and assuming a competent glove and a basic understanding of routes to take to the ball, range is most of the battle with OF defense. This is what makes Adam Jones a superior option in LF. Give AJ a couple years in left, maybe not even that, and he’ll probably have all the experiential sense that Raul brings to LF.

    Experience is just not the value item in baseball that it is in other sports.


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