While many baseball fans have been focusing on Andre Ethier‘s current 28-game hitting streak, Phillies fans have been bemoaning the current 34 at-bat hitless streak, spanning 11 games, of Raul Ibanez. He turns 39 years old in June and many — including myself — think he is simply done. Others point out that he is a notoriously streaky hitter, assuming that he will snap out of it sooner rather than later. Whatever the case, Ibanez is trying his hardest to once again contribute to the Phillies’ offense. He spent extra time in the batting cage yesterday, an off-day, attempting to work out the kinks.
Still, Ibanez is running out of rope not only with fans but with those in power within the Phillies organization. Recently, Charlie Manuel has opted to use John Mayberry, Jr. in lieu of Ibanez when an opposing left-handed starter takes the bump.
There’s even ample evidence that Ibanez’s recent struggles aren’t just a slump. He’s struck out in 30 percent of his 101 plate appearances, his ISO is currently more than three times lower than his career average (.055 to .190), and he is hitting 12 percent fewer balls on the ground compared to his career average (55 percent to 43 percent). Through 25 games last year, Ibanez was in a slump but had a strikeout-to-walk ratio at nearly one-to-one; this year, the ratio is three-to-one. Yes, Ibanez seems to have been a bit BABIP-unlucky, but given the amount of weak contact he has made overall, his .206 BABIP isn’t all that unrealistic.
Along with taking some extra cuts in the batting cage, Ibanez has been tinkering with his stance throughout the season, trying to find something that feels comfortable. The following animated .gif files illustrate the changes he has made at various points throughout the season.
Friday, April 1, 2011 vs. Houston Astros
Friday, April 15, 2011 vs. Florida Marlins
Friday, April 29, 2011 vs. New York Mets
In the first image from April 1, Ibanez has his traditional stance, which is fairly open. He is standing in the back of the batter’s box, his front foot nearly on the line closest to first base.
In the second image from April 15, Ibanez has a slightly less-open stance with the bat close to his shoulders, even tapping his left shoulder as a timing mechanism. He is considerably closer to home plate.
In the third image from April 29, Ibanez returned back to his old stance. He does not, however, go into his stance as the pitcher is winding up, as he does in the first one. He is not as close to the plate he was against the Marlins.
Obviously, nothing has worked thus far. Ibanez is running out of time, but it is clear that he is putting in the time and effort to try and turn things around for himself and for his team. For ESPN Insider, Eric Seidman points out that Ibanez is going out of the strike zone far too often, explaining the high strikeout numbers. Perhaps it’s best to request Ibanez focus on simply making contact, rather than hitting for power?