Ibanez Trying to End Offensive Slump

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?

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  1. Western Dave

    May 03, 2011 07:40 AM

    I know this seems obvious, but if he’s swinging at pitches out of the strikezone at higher rates than in the past, it would seem to indicate a vision problem not a stance problem. When was his last full eye exam?

  2. bje79

    May 03, 2011 07:53 AM

    I kept reading that Ibanez is a notoriously streaky hitter which got me thinking, has Ibanez had months this bad before? (Granted a calendar month is an arbitrary time frame)

    Turns out, he has had an awful month each of the previous 4 seasons:

    2007(July) – .184/.241/.263
    2008(May) – .218/.307/.366
    2009(Aug) – .193/.276/.318
    2010(June) – .229/.292/.375

    I guess the only one from that list that is as bad at his 2011 April(.161/.247/.218), is July of 2007.

    (Note: if you pull the one month out of each of those seasons, his OPS for each year would be: .902, .868, .964, .818)

    It would be interesting to see what his strikeout rate, ground ball rate, and ISO were during those months, unfortunately I didn’t have the time to look up that information.

    So, is this just another month long slump for Ibanez, or is he actually done? (I’m leaning towards done).

  3. Jesse

    May 03, 2011 08:19 AM

    I’d like to see him get a solid 3 or 4 game “benching” – maybe not even use him as a PH if we can help it.
    Two purposes:
    One, to let him get his head back in the game like Manuel used to do with Burrell or even Rollins if I recall. Obviously we’re a better team with the best Ibanez he can be out there.
    Two, to give Mayberry (and not Mayberry and Gload) an extended look at big league pitches of both dexterities. This is necessary with both the Ibanez and Brown situations. If Mayberry plays fantastic (or adequate, say 275/333/425) he should continue to play. If Brown is playing too well to not bring up, it’s going to be at the expense of Mayberry, which is not fair to the man if he’s outplaying Ibanez. The 11 million is a sunk cost, so it doesn’t matter if the Phils play him.

  4. dave

    May 03, 2011 09:30 AM

    Saberist: His ISO is .055. No wonder John Mayberry Jr. and his .313/.405/.469 slash line is in the lineup tonight.

    Non-Saberist: Is that “I’m less inspiring than the pitcher black-hole” still batting in the 6-hole tonight?

  5. Jesse

    May 03, 2011 09:55 AM

    I took dave’s comment to mean literally “tonight” and got excited and went to check. Line-ups not up yet and I figured he meant it in the abstract.

    Side-note: Brian Schneider is the Phillies’ third-best AccuScore projected hitter on the ESPN preview. HR 11.5%, Hit .8 and RBI .4. BRIAN SCHNEIDER. I should think Polanco, Victorino, and Rollins should take serious umbrage there…

  6. Hugh Mulcahy

    May 03, 2011 10:15 AM

    Those are great shots for comparison. It looks like his hips are coming open too early. One of the things that Ibanez has done way too often this year is to K on a check swing. It seems to my unprofessional eyes that he’s trying to start his swing earlier to keep from being overmatched on hard stuff and, that his overall swing and pitch recognition are suffering as a result.

  7. Hunterfan

    May 03, 2011 11:44 AM

    How is Ibanez’s knowledge of the strikezone getting worse? (That is, he is striking out now a lot more than he walks, and is swiniging at a lot more balls out of the zone.) Isn’t that one of the things you supposedly get better at as you age? Taking walks?

    Has his eyesight been tested recently? I’m kinda serious.

    Whatever, it seems bizarre.

  8. Mratfink

    May 03, 2011 11:45 AM

    Focusing on contact wouldn’t help. I read elsewhere another problem he is having is that he is making weaker contact than he has in the past. So basically he is swinging and missing more and then when he does make contact he makes bad contact. That combo more than anything seems to suggest he is done

  9. Tim

    May 03, 2011 12:54 PM

    I want to believe that he still has some life left in him, and that it’s just one of his patented slumps. But I think he’s done. I’d love for him to prove me wrong though, since (a) This team could use some offense and (b) by all accounts he’s one of the best guys in the game off the field.

  10. Kyle loves PS3s

    May 03, 2011 05:23 PM

    Raul Ibanez has 233 home runs and 980 RBIs. Those are some great numbers, but he’ll probably get 5 more home runs and 20 RBIs to get to the point where he should retire because he started to do bad again. His streak could go on for days, so I say if his streak gets to 50, he should retire. (BTW: that fact I made up at the top would make his RBI count 1000.

    Charlie Manuel: You can stay on the team until you get one more hit.

    Raul Ibanez: So I can stay on the team for the rest of the season?

  11. Kyle loves PS3s

    May 03, 2011 05:28 PM

    I bet Charlie Manuel isn’t that generous.


    May 03, 2011 06:18 PM

    As much as I appreciate all the effort that Raul is making to try and break his slump, I too am starting to think that he may in fact just be done. During last years slump he was at least drawing a lot of walks to still contribute something to the lineup, but this year he’s drawing fewer walks to go along with his lack of hits and typically terrible outfield defense.

    Unless he starts hitting again soon, he needs to be benched for at least a little while…since it’s been getting to the point where he’s actively hurting the teams chances of winning on both offense and defense.

  13. Jay

    May 03, 2011 09:53 PM

    2 doubles in your face.

  14. Hunterfan

    May 04, 2011 06:10 AM

    It’s encouraging Ibanez got two doubles last night. However, Hernandez may be the slowest non-knuckleball pitcher in MLB. Coincidence?


    May 04, 2011 08:26 AM

    I would be interested to hear how flukey those 2 hits were, and i’m certainly not sold on Raul being ‘back’ yet. At least one of those hits looked fairly flukey to me, but I haven’t looked at anything to confirm this yet.

  16. Richard

    May 04, 2011 08:30 AM

    the second double absolutely should have been caught, but it’s worth noting it was hit very high and fairly deep, which is a sign that he got good wood on it (still should have been caught though)

  17. Richard

    May 04, 2011 09:29 AM

    btw, Bill, I’m surprised your outfield poll doesn’t include a “Brown as everyday RF” option

  18. Phil11

    May 04, 2011 10:18 AM

    Yeah personally I would put Brown in Right and put Francisco in Left and let them get 2/3 to 3/4 of the games. That is if Brown is being productive and Ibanez isn’t on some kind of mega tear.

  19. Scott G

    May 04, 2011 11:14 AM

    Francisco’s platoon split isn’t dramatic enough to warrant a platoon. Ibanez could use a platoon with Mayberry. I don’t know WHAT I’d propose if Brown comes back. Maybe platoon Brown and Mayberry and sit Ibanez. He’ll make his salary either way, and if the other two can out produce him, isn’t that the bottom line?

  20. Matt

    May 04, 2011 11:25 AM

    I think platooning Ibanez/Mayberry at this point is the best option. No Brown platoon. Either start him or keep him in Triple A, I feel like whatever production you would get out of Brown in a platoon scenario isn’t enough to justify the decreased playing time that would potentially stall his development. I also have my doubts that Brown against right handed pitching would be any better than Francisco currently is, or that he’d even be significantly better than an Ibanez/Mayberry platoon, for that matter.

  21. Geoff

    May 04, 2011 12:23 PM

    He’s a certifiable genius. Didn’t look at the byline until now. 🙂 But the article stuck with me, lo these many months.

    Honestly, once you back it with the data, it’s pretty clear he’s toast.

  22. Jay

    May 04, 2011 09:34 PM

    Slump over. I’m calling a .900+ OPS for May

  23. Win

    May 05, 2011 01:08 AM

    I’m not leaning towards completely done, because his stats are so bad that I can’t see anyone falling off that far that fast. Of course his stats now kind of support me, but I think he is trade bait along with Blanton for a team that needs respectable starters while their farm system develops.

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