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« Tim Wakefield Tidbits | Main | Damon Less Patient in Quest for 3,000 Hits? »
Monday
Feb202012

Can Ibanez Lay Off Soft Stuff in Pinstripes?

The Yankees used some of the bucks saved in trading A.J. Burnett to the Bucs, adding Raul Ibanez Monday on a one-year, $1.1 million deal. Ibanez, 39, is expected to take on right-handers as part of a DH platoon with lefty-thrasher Andruw Jones.

Ibanez comes cheaper than Johnny Damon, who is reportedly seeking around $5 million, but he also comes with some of the same questions regarding his suddenly diminishing plate discipline. The former Phillie started lunging at breaking and off-speed stuff from righties last year, and his on-base percentage took a tumble as a result.

Check out Ibanez's chase rate against "soft" pitches -- curveballs, sliders and changeups --  thrown by right-handed pitchers in 2011 compared to 2009 and 2010.  His chase percentage against breaking and off-speed pitches from righties was below the league average in '09 and 10, but it ballooned last year:

Ibanez's chase rate vs. "soft" stuff from right-handed pitching, 2009-11

Pitch Type2009201020113-Yr. MLB Avg. for LHB vs. RHP
Curveball 23 18 32 27
Slider 30 28 39 31
Changeup 33 34 43 35

 

Overall, Ibanez's chase rate against soft stuff from righties spiked from 30% in 2009 and 29% in 2010 to 39% in 2011. The average for lefty hitters versus right-handed pitchers is 32% over the past three seasons.

Ibanez went golfing last year, trying to club pitches near his ankles into the cheap seats. Take a look at his swing rate by pitch location vs. soft stuff from righties in 2009-10, and then 2011:

Ibanez's swing rate by pitch location vs. soft stuff from right-handed pitchers, 2009-10

Ibanez's swing rate by pitch location vs. soft stuff from right-handed pitchers, 2011If Ibanez gets back to his more patient approach and posts an OBP slightly north of .350 against righties like he did in 2009-10 (.353), then the Yankees may cobble together a cheap DH platoon. If he keeps trying to club low pitches from righties and has an OBP barely above .300 like in 2011 (.307), however, there will be a blight in the juggernaut Bronx lineup.

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