So the official word from “sources” justifying the Ibanez signing is that it’s all about defense:
“The Yankees, in part, favored Ibanez over other free agents, like Johnny Damon, because they think he can play defense. With Ibanez’ numbers similar against right-handed pitching as other free agents the added element gave Ibanez the tie-breaker.”
Fine. Damon was never a great fielder, and if everything else is equal, the Yankees should try to grab the most versatile player. While I understand this logic, it seems a little facetious to me: we are talking about a lefty DH, and while it would be nice if he could play the field on occasion, it’s certainly not a necessity. In short: it doesn’t seem like a convincing reason to rule in favor of Ibanez (especially because he’s a mediocre-to-bad fielder himself—he had a ghastly -16 Defensive Runs Saved last year in LF, and is a career -8). Ironically, going by most of the fielding metrics, Damon had a better defensive season last year than Ibanez—though again, there are a lot of caveats.
I bring all of that up to emphasize my own thought process: really, my thinking went, the Yankees are trying to find a lefty DH who can mash righties. An ability to play defense is a plus, but the player will probably rarely be used in the field, so it shouldn’t force the decision one way or the other—like I said earlier, if everything else is equal, then defense can tilt the scales one direction.
But I don’t think everything is equal: Ibanez has hit righties a bit better than Damon over his career. While Damon’s career splits show that he’s essentially equally good against righties (.353 wOBA, .809 OPS) and lefties (.341 wOBA, .775 OPS), Ibanez crushes righties (.363 wOBA, .855 OPS) and struggles, comparatively, with lefties (.323 wOBA, .744 OPS). Last year, Damon actually struggled with right-handed pitching, managing a .313 wOBA, while beating up on lefties with a .355 wOBA; Ibanez, on the other hand, was pretty catastrophic against lefties (.254 wOBA), but solidly better than Damon against righties (.322 wOBA).
Look, neither of these guys is going to light the world on fire, let’s be clear about that. These are not superstar numbers, and nobody is expecting them to produce superstar (or even star) numbers. However, the Yankees are looking for their lefty DH to do one thing, and one thing only: mash right handed pitching. The other stuff is pretty much just gravy. And with that in mind, I don’t think that choosing Ibanez was the worst decision in the world, despite the fact that I do genuinely miss watching Damon play in New York.
So here, without further ado, is my list of Five Spring Training Storylines I’m Already Tired Of Talking About:
5) Is Mariano Rivera’s age finally going to catch up with him? No.
4) Nick Swisher’s contract.
3) Anything involving Brian Cashman’s personal life.
2) A-Rod’s insane experimental medical procedures.
1) Weight. CC’s weight. Hughes’ weight. Pineda’s weight. This is one of the most talked-about and least interesting topics at the beginning of every season.