Tag Archives: Andruw Jones

The Jones/Ibanez Situation

No less than a week ago, I wrote about Andruw Jones’ declining bat speed. It appears that all that extra play in the outfield had an adverse effect on his bat. His counterpart, Raul Ibanez has been equally terrible. The Yankees essentially forced their aging designated hitters onto the field to cover for Brett Gardner, and hoped these players wouldn’t tire out. The plan didn’t work.

"How do we keep getting at bats?"

Since the All Star break, Jones is hitting just .139/.252/.228 in 119 plate appearances, with just 2 homeruns. Then there is Raul Ibanez, who’s hit .194/.291/.347 in his second half. Over the last month, with 260 plate appearances, they’ve combined for just 10 hits, a 22% K rate, had just 2 extra base hits, and haven’t hit a single homerun.

Before we overreact and demand a releases, I think we have to appreciate what both players did before the allstar break. They combined for 22 homeruns, and did a great job of covering the offensive production that the team lost with Brett Gardner’s injury. With that said, these two hitters don’t deserve a single important at bat until they show some sort of life. The problem is, they’ve consistently been handed some of the most important at bats.

One major contribution to the current trouble with runners in scoring position is what the bench has done pinch hitting. Whenever there is some sort of platoon advantage in an important spot, Joe Girardi doesn’t hesitate to use Jones or Ibanez. In these games, he’s pulled Eric Chavez, Chris Dickerson, Steve Pearce, and Casey McGehee in favor of his two slumping designated hitters. Not only does it take the bat out of capable hitters for the simple purpose of a platoon advantage, but it also severely weakens the defense.

If Jones and Ibanez ever regain their hitting ability, they could have a huge impact in the playoffs, assuming they even make the playoff roster. Releasing them now would totally forfeit this possibility, but giving them more at bats in high leverage situations hurts this team. Perhaps the best option is to rest them at the moment and find playtime in blowouts. There is a bench full of eager young players that want to show off their bat while slumping veterans hurt this team in huge situations. I don’t have many issues with how Girardi manages, but this isn’t the time to try and fix slumping players, these games have serious playoff repercussions.

My Melky Mesa Theory

Can we get this kid some swings in a different set of pinstripes? Courtesy of Paul Hasdall

(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

There wasn’t much reaction to the Yankees calling up Melky Mesa on Monday.  With Mark Teixeira expected to miss 2 weeks and there being plenty of position player depth on the active roster, the move looked like nothing more than adding a warm insurance bench body to cover for the loss of Teix and rewarding an upper-level prospect with a long MiL history for a job well done in Double- and Triple-A this season.  That’s pretty much how the move has played out so far, with Mesa staying glued to the bench over the past 2 games despite there being instances where his skill set could have helped, but I think there might be something more to this move.

Stick with me on this, because this theory is admittedly out of left field (or right).  It also operates under the assumption that the Yankees will make the postseason, an assumption that has become decidedly more gross since the Yankees started to morph into a baseball version of a beat up military platoon.  But it does make a little bit of sense, at least to me, if you consider it with an open mind.  Methinks that the Mesa promotion is more than just filling the bench during September, and it is actually the Yankees sneaky giving him the chance to audition for Andruw Jones‘ postseason roster spot.

Think about it.  What does Jones bring to the table?  Power, the ability to mash left-handed pitching, and some good outfield defense.  At least that’s what he’s supposed to bring to the table, but for the better part of this season and the overwhelming majority of the 2nd half he hasn’t brought any of that.  Jones has 13 HR on the season, but has hit only 2 since the pre-ASB series in Bahhston and 1 since August 16th.  His walks are down (9.9%), he’s got a sub-.500 OPS since the start of August, and he’s seemingly lost his ability to hit lefties (.302 wOBA in 179 PA).  And as for that defense, I think we all know that Jones is a shell of his former outfield self.  His Gold Glove days seem like ancient history, he’s damn near a liability at this point when it comes to covering ground quickly, and only the eye test is needed to confirm that.

Looking at Mesa’s season, there’s plenty of overlap between what he’s done and what Jones isn’t doing that makes him a good fit as a replacement for Jones.  Mesa clubbed 25 HR in the Minors this year, and hit for more power in Triple-A than he did in Double-A (.294 ISO in 133 PA).  Like Jones, he had a reverse platoon split against lefties, hitting just .202/.256/.357 in 84 AB against LHP in Trenton, but Mesa picked it up with a .250/.276/.750 slash against LHP in Triple-A with 4 HR.  Admittedly that was in a very small sample size, and it’d be ludicrous to expect Mesa to replicate that at the Major League level, but it’s not out of the question to think he could do better than Jones’ .209/.291/.411 clip.  Defensively Mesa is a center fielder by trade, but he has plus speed and there’s no doubt that he could cover more ground out there than Jones at this point.  And with his center field experience, transitioning to a corner spot shouldn’t be a problem.

Mesa doesn’t walk much, and he’s going to accumulate his fair share of strikeouts, but isn’t that what Jones is already doing?  He has an offensive skill set identical to Jones’ and a potentially higher ceiling for production because of his younger age.  What we’ve seen from Jones lately is likely what we’re going to see for the rest of the year.  What we could see from Mesa could be a step up from that with the added bonus of better defense, an ability to play all 3 OF positions if needed (something Jones can no longer do), and speed on the basepaths.  We know the Yankees value flexibility, especially on their postseason bench, and Mesa brings more of it than Jones.

This whole thing hinges on the Yankees actually peeling Mesa off the bench and putting him on the field, something Joe hasn’t shown a whole lot of interest in doing just yet, but if/when they do they could be doing themselves a big favor.  At age 25 and in his 7th Minor League season, Mesa is a fringe prospect at best.  But he still has value as an upgrade over Jones, has skills that fit the Yankees’ needs, and he’s cheap.  With any luck, the Yanks could have found themselves an under-the-radar boost to their postseason roster and a potential piece to their payroll-cutting plan, even if it’s just as a 4th OF.  I know it’s a longshot, but I’m holding out hope that we’re going to see the new Melkman’s name on a lineup card soon.

Has Andruw Jones Lost Bat Speed?

I cringe when opposing managers bring in their lefty relievers in big spots. For one, a lot of the Yankee left handed batters appear to be slumping against same side pitchers lately. When it comes to guys like Eric Chavez though, you  can always forecast Joe Girardi going to his bench. Ever since last year, Andruw Jones was expected to be that guy, but thus far, his platoon splits are far from acceptable. He’s hitting just .209/.287/.411 against these lefties, which is far from ideal when he’s given big opportunities to pinch hit in.

Over his career, Jones has demolished lefties, just last year he hit .286/.384/.540. With Brett Gardner‘s early season ending injury, there was some speculation that Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez might not be able to handle all the playing time. Up until July, the veteran combination looked like a brilliant pickup from Brian Cashman, but as of late, neither have hit a lick. In particular, Jones not only looks tired, but he looks completely lost at the plate.

There were quite a few recent hits from Jones where it looked like he was completely guessing at pitches. If the 60 games in the outfield truly exhausted him to the point where he has to guess on everything, perhaps his bat speed has taken a hit. In this case, one way to determine a decline in is by using his batting average on the fastball.

Looking at the graph above you’ll see that his batting average on the fastball spiked in May, and just about half his fastballs put in play where good for hits. While June and July certainly showed a drop, the numbers were still favorable. Things absolutely collapsed in August, where he only had 4 hits on 26 fastballs put in play. Although this correlates with the all the playing time he received and the likelihood of overuse, the sample size is far too small to make a claim yet.

Using the batted balls from fastballs put in play, I added expected BABIP to the graph above. April, May, and June all show a consistent xBABIP of right around .290-.300. Once July and August hit, his xBABIP plummeted to .231 and .257, respectively. This was primarily due to a line drive rate of just 10.3% in July, and 11.5% in August, which you can compare to 20% throughout the beginning of the season.

Adding the xBABIP definitely helps prove that bad luck on batted balls didn’t occur with his decline. Just because he wasn’t squaring up the fastball doesn’t mean he lost bat speed though. Let’s take a look at some video to see if there’s any noticeable difference.

Here are two homeruns, one from May 11th and one from August 16th. As you can see, his hitting mechanics are identical.

Now that it’s slowed down, you’ll see that the homerun he hit in August is slightly different. The GIFs here are matched up to meet at the point where he makes contact with the ball. If you look at when each swing begins, Jones from August begins his swing right around 3 frames before the one on the left. That equates to a difference of 1/10th of a second. Obviously, a hitter wants to wait on a pitch as long as possible so that they can determine movement, but when you consider that it takes a 90 mph fastball .424 seconds to reach homeplate, a possible loss of .1 seconds is massive.

This evidence shows that he’s both struggling with the fastball lately, and showing less bat speed. But even with the ability to check xBABIP, the sample size available is much too small to make any definitive conclusions. The GIF above also falls into that same category, since we’re dealing with just two at bats. With the way he’s looked on the field and at the plate, I think Jones is simply burnt out. If so, a few weeks of rest is long overdue for the outfielder. It isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that he can recover at least some of the stamina before a possible playoff run.

The Big Man Returns And He Doesn’t Miss A Beat

CC's Back and Looking Good

Tonight the big story for the Yankees – no pun intended – was the return of CC Sabathia to the rotation. In his first start since June 24 against the Mets, Sabathia lasted six innings, gave up only four hits, struck out six and only walked one batter. Oh, and he held the Blue Jays scoreless in those six innings. Not a bad day at the office for the big man.

Sabathia looked sharp all night and he was taken out following a single by Adam Lind in the top of the seventh inning. He threw 87 pitches, 66 for strikes.

Thanks to a big three-run home run by Andruw Jones off of Blue Jays starter Brett Cecil in the second inning, the Yankees had a lead they’d never relinquish. It was Jones’s 432nd career HR which breaks a tie with Cal Ripken, Jr. to take sole possession of 41st on all-time list. That early three-run lead extended the Yankees’ streak to 41 games of three or more runs.

As for Jones, he is on fire against left hander pitchers of late: In his last 16 at bats, he has six hits and four of them are home runs.

Some other streaks that are still intact after tonight’s game are Robinson Cano‘s hit streak which has reached 20 games. He’s the first Yankee since Derek Jeter in 2007 to reach that particular plateau. And there are only four Yankee left handed batters who have had longer streaks than Cano’s: Wally Pipp (21), Don Mattingly (24), Babe Ruth (26) and Earle Combs (29). Cano is now batting .405 with six doubles, six home runs and 20 RBI during the streak.

Chad Qualls and Clay Rapada made it interesting in the ninth inning by combining to load the bases with only one out so Joe Girardi had to call upon Rafael Soriano to clean up the mess. Luckily for the Yankees, Soriano made his fifth appearance in the last six games a quick one by inducing a line out-double play to Mark Teixeira to end the game. It was his 24th save of the season.

So the Yankees won another series, taking the first two games against the Jays and they’ve now won three series in a row after splitting a series against the White Sox two weeks ago and losing two out of three to the Rays in Tampa.

Things I’m Looking Forward To In The Second Half

(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

We’re just one day away from meaningful baseball games starting up again, and that time can’t pass quickly enough.  It’s been absolutely brutal without them this week because there is NOTHING on TV.  I barely paid attention to the HR Derby on Monday, started tuning out of the All Star Game around the 3rd inning and turned it off completely by the 5th on Tuesday, and don’t even get me started on how stupid the ESPYs are.  The Yankees are coming back into my life at the perfect time, and as some people say, the season REALLY starts now.  There are plenty of obvious second half storylines to follow, like the trade deadline, Andy’s return, September call-ups, and the always fun start of the magic number countdown, but there are plenty of other things I’ll be following as well.  Like what, you might ask?  Well, how about…

Joba’s Rehab

The David Aardsma comeback trail is still on a detour, but Joba Chamberlain stepped up to fill that void and made his return to game action on Tuesday for the GCL Yanks.  It’s been over a full calendar year since we last saw Joba pitch in the Majors, and I actually kind of miss the guy.  He’s recovered quickly from both his TJS and ankle surgery, and appears to be in tremendous shape from the few pictures I’ve seen recently.  If reports of him touching 97 on the gun on Tuesday are accurate, then following his trip back to the Majors is going to be even more exciting.  Love him or hate him, Joba throwing smoke is always an entertaining watch, and even sans command, a smoke-throwing Joba would be a nice bullpen weapon to have on standby.  It’s not even worth getting into the “should the Yankees strech him out as a starter” debate, because it’s not going to happen.  I just want to see Joba on the mound again.

Brett Gardner‘s Return

Speaking of seeing guys playing again, the timetable for Gardner’s return is starting to loosely take shape with the announcement yesterday that he could be back by July 27th “at the earliest.”  That makes an early-to-mid August return more likely, but Gardner is another guy I think I’ve taken for granted a bit strictly from the “enjoyment of watching” standpoint.  I get a little uneasy sometimes watching Swish track flyballs, I get downright nervous watching C-Grand, and I practically hide my eyes with my hands watching Raul, so it will be a refreshing change of pace to see somebody back out there who knows what he’s doing.  The speed, versatility, and count-working skills that Gardner brings to the table will also be welcome additions to the Yankee lineup, and will allow Ibanez to shift back to the DH spot full-time to keep him fresh down the stretch.  Just please, no more setbacks.

Andruw Jones‘ Awakening

There was some squabbling last season after Jones got off to a slow start (.195/.278/.356 in the first half), and Jones made efforts to get into better shape before this season to try to combat that.  Those efforts didn’t bring much of a return, as Jones was hitting just .206/.310/.412 on June 20th.  In the 9 games since then, though, he has 11 hits (including 2 doubles and 5 homers), 6 R, and 9 RBI in 31 PA, raising his season line to .244/.326/.535 (.366 wOBA).  Last season, Jones was a monster off the bench in the second half of the season (.291/.416/.612 w/ 9 HR), and the 4-homer barrage he had at Fenway just before the ASB, along with the much improved overall production over the past 9 games, may have been a sign that he’s fixing to repeat 2011’s monster performance.

Robinson Cano‘s MVP Chase

It’s still a little bit too early to start really talking AL MVP, but if the award was being handed out today Cano would have to be right at the top of the list of legitimate candidates.  Yes, Mike Trout is having an unbelievable season and is the sole reason that the Angels woke up, and yes, Josh Hamilton is putting up ridiculous numbers again, but Robbie’s case this season is stronger than it was in the past 2.  He’s once again the best player on the team with the best record in baseball, he’s played out of his mind for the past 2+ months, and he’s on pace to set new career highs in hits, HR, R scored, wOBA, wRC+, and fWAR, where he happens to rank 2nd in the league right now at 4.3.  With A-Rod on a serious decline, and Teix and Swish both having down years, Cano also won’t have as big of a battle to fight against the “he plays on a team full of All Stars” perception that always hampers Yankee MVP candidates.

Assuming he’s not too heartbroken from the boo beating he took in KC and can pick up where he left off before the break, Cano has a great chance to bring home the hardware this season.  He’s always been a great second half player, and he’s coming off the best first half he’s had in his career.  He’s finished top-6 in the last 2 seasons; it’d be cool to see him win the award this year and give himself that final push into mainstream recognition as one of the game’s best players.

So that’s what I got.  What’s everybody else looking forward to in the second half of 2012?

Nova fans 10, Yanks win 3 of 4 in Boston

Can every inning be the first inning at Fenway Park? The Yankees scored 14 runs in the four first innings of this series, including two last night to jump out to an early lead against Jon Lester and the Red Sox in Fenway. Derek Jeter, who ended up with three hits, led the game off with (what else?) a single to right off of a left-handed pitcher. Curtis Granderson followed with a single of his own, this one to center. With two on and still no one out, Mark Teixeira ripped a 1-0 pitch down the left field line for a double, scoring Jeter. After a weak fly out by Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano drew a walk. Nick Swisher came up with the bases loaded and it a ground ball to Boston third baseman Mauro Gomez, who stepped on third for the force out. At that moment, it looked like the Yankees were, once again, going to come up short with the bases loaded. Luckily, Gomez held on to the ball just a bit too tightly and the throw short hopped Adrian Gonzalez, allowing Swisher to reach and a run to score. Once again, the Yankees had a first inning lead. Unlike the lead on Friday night, this one would last an inning, despite an error on a pop-up that Jeter dropped. The Yankees were also able to get that run back in the top of the second thanks to a leadoff double by Jayson Nix. Nix moved to third on a passed all and scored on a sac-fly by Chris Stewart.

In the bottom of the third, the Red Sox were able to pull the game to one run as David Ortiz drove a double to center, scoring Pedro Ciriaco, who reached on an “infield single” (that should’ve been scored as an error to Jeter). The Sox would go scoreless again until the eighth when Mike Aviles drove a double off the Green Monster to plate Boston’s third run. At that point, though, the Yankees already had seven runs of their own, having scored four more after Stewart’s sac fly. One of those came on a triple by Alex Rodriguez, a ball that was absolutely tattooed to centerfield; it would’ve been a home run in just about any other park. Andruw Jones added a single two batters later to make it 5-2, chasing Jon Lester from the game. Jones hit yet another homer in the seventh to cap the Yankees’ scoring.

Despite the bats putting up more run, the story of the night for the Yankees has to be Ivan Nova. He went six innings, surrendering only six hits–many of which weren’t particularly hard hit–and two walks while fanning ten, including striking out the side in order in the second. Nova struck out a batter in every inning he threw last night and his curveball looked particularly great.

The Yanks now head into the All-Star Break with the best record in baseball and the largest division lead in baseball.


Every Yankee starter, except Chris Stewart, had a hit.

Five different Yankee batters drove in a run.

Every Yankee pitcher, except Cody Eppley, had a strikeout.

Last night was Ivan Nova’s second double-digit strikeout game of 2012; he had one in 2011 and none in 2010.

Andruw’s struggles against lefties

A funny thing has happened regarding Andruw Jones this season. Jones, typically a lefty masher, has had a complete and total reverse platoon split this year. Coming into yesterday’s game, in which he went 0-1 against a lefty pitcher, Jones was hitting just .188/.254/.344 against lefties with a .263 wOBA and a 58 wRC+. Compare that to his career numbers against southpaws of .243/.352/.478 with a .355 wOBA/114 wRC+. While his career numbers against righties are fine, .352/112 wOBA, they’ve been different of late and he’s employed by the Yankees as a lefty-masher. This year, he’s crushing righies: .250/.418/.563, .420 wOBA/166 wRC+. Obviously that’s welcomed, but the Yankees need him to start doing his job by crushing lefties again. What’s been the issue this year? What’s made Jones struggle against lefties so much?

First, let’s take a look at how Jones is being pitched and compare it to last year, when he had a .400 wOBA against left-handed pitching. Here are the tables from 2011 and here are the tables from 2012. The biggest difference I can see right away is Jones’s performance on two-seam fastballs. While he’s seeing two percent fewer two-seam fastballs, many more are going for strikes (59.3% in ’11; 70.7 in ’12) and he’s also whiffing on them more (6.5% in ’11; 12.2% in ’12). There aren’t any other significant differences, except that he’s whiffing on about 3% more changeups than he did last year. As a righty against lefties, he’s going to see a lot of changeups, and he’ll need to get better there. In a similar vein, Jones’s strikeout percentage against lefties this year–28.2%–is much higher than his career rate of 20.6%. Aside from the whiffing, there’s also the issue of contact.

Jones owns a career .261 BABIP against lefties, but this year it sits at a supremely-low .214. His line drive and ground ball rates in 2012 are actually a bit higher than his career numbers, suggesting that his BABIP should actually be around or a bit higher than his career mark, let it’s low. Why? Those two numbers suggest some bad luck, but if we peak at Jones’s IFFB%, it’s a lot higher in 2012 (21.1%) than it has been in his career (11.6%), so there’s definitely some weak contact there, bringing down the BABIP. His HR/FB% this year (15.8%) is also down a tick from his career number (17.9%).

The problems are fairly evident: Jones is striking out more against lefties and not hitting the ball quite as hard against them. Based on the GB and LD numbers, I think we should see a bit of a BABIP rebound from Jones which will obviously uptick his production.

Whatever Happened To The Ibanez/Jones Platoon?

(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

The Raul Ibanez/Andruw Jones DH platoon was supposed to be the Yankees’ cheap filling of the hole left in their lineup after Jesus Montero was traded away.  Brett Gardner‘s elbow injury and delayed comeback from the DL has thrown a bit of a wrench into those plans, and both players have been forced into more OF duty than the Yankees anticipated (especially Ibanez) while the DH spot in the lineup has become a revolving door.  Even with the loss of roster flexibility created by the Gardner injury, there’s really no reason to get away from the L/R platoon plans for Ibanez and Jones, especially with a manager like Joe Girardi who loves to play the matchup game.  Lately, though, it seems as though Joe has gotten away from that tactic, particularly in late-game situations, which is puzzling considering that Ibanez and Jones were signed to fill those exact roles.

If you want to jump to Joe’s defense, you could point out that Jones hasn’t exactly been the lefty masher he was in 2011 and the guy the Yankees thought they were getting when they re-signed him before this season.  In 52 PA against LHP, Jones is sporting just a .213/.269/.362 slash and a .276 wOBA, a far cry from the .286/.384/.540 line (.400 wOBA) he put up last season.  Jones actually has a pretty significant reverse platoon split going on right now, granted in a very small sample size, as his wOBA against RHP is .437 and 6 of the 7 hits he has off of righties in 31 PA have gone for extra bases.  But reverse split or not, Jones is still at his best offensively when he’s facing lefties.

Ibanez certainly doesn’t have anything screwy going on with his platoon splits, and this is where the strategic problem comes in.  In 20 PA against lefties he’s got a .211/.250/.368 line (.267) wOBA. That sample size is smaller than any of Jones’ splits, but the fact that it continues to increase in situations where Jones is available is frustrating.  I can think of a few instances in recent games where the opposing team brought in a left-handed reliever and Joe allowed Ibanez to face him rather than counter with Jones to play the L/R matchup.  Once or twice it was Ibanez staying in to face the lefty and then being removed for Dewayne Wise as a defensive replacement during the next half inning.

Now I can definitely get on board with anybody coming in to replace Ibanez for defensive purposes late in a game, as I’m sure everybody else can.  But I can’t figure out why Joe wouldn’t choose to use Jones in that situation to get the added benefit of a favorable matchup at the plate prior to the defensive switch.  Jones might not cover as much ground as Wise out in left field, but for just a couple of late innings that difference is probably negligible when you factor in Jones’ advantage at the plate.  Righy or lefty on the mound, I would rather have Jones up in a late-game situation than Wise.  If Joe’s argument is he doesn’t want to use his bench up and still wants somebody available if the game goes to extra innings, I would have to kindly remind him of Herm Edwards’ lesson of coaching- you play to win the game.  Using Ibanez and Jones as the platoon hitters they are is a winning strategy and one that needs to continue to be implemented.

Gardner’s absence and Wise’s presence don’t change who Jones and Ibanez are as platoon hitters, and those platoon splits should continue to be considered when using these 2 even if it isn’t in the DH spot.  Ibanez has already been very productive for the Yankees this season, and Jones started to heat up last year when the weather did the same.  Playing the L/R matchups with these guys is the best way to maximize their value, especially in late-game situations, and something that Joe needs to get back to doing all the time.  When Gardner returns, a lot of this stuff will probably work itself out, but for the time being the formula should still be simple; let Ibanez face righties, let Jones face lefties, and let Wise be the “break glass in case of emergency” extra-inning bench option.

Just Say “No” To Raul Ibanez In The Outfield

(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

As important as it is for the Yankees to keep their key veteran players healthy this season, and as much as I want to see guys like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez get regular rest to avoid wear and tear and trips to the DL, I was a little surprised to see Eduardo Nunez starting at shortstop in the second game of the season while Jeter got a DH day on Saturday.  I was even more surprised to see Raul Ibanez in the lineup in right field Sunday while Nick Swisher got a DH day.  Seeing as how both Jeter and Swish are coming off of Spring Training injuries, it’s perfectly understandable that Joe would want to err on the side of caution early in the season and give them a day off from the field.  That being said, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t against the idea of Ibanez getting regular time in the field this season at the expense of healthy, better defensive options.  In fact, given the showing he had in the field in his first game, I’d go as far to say that Ibanez should never be playing in the outfield.

With Nunez, there really isn’t much the Yankees can do as far as finding a better utility IF/OF option.  As he showed on Saturday, he’s more than capable of turning the most routine defensive play into an adventure, but we’ve already known this about him for some time now and when you factor in all the good things he does bring to the table, it helps a bit to balance out what he takes away defensively.  When you consider that Nunez’s issues in the field seem to be rooted more in focus and mechanics rather than physical ability, it does leave room for optimism that he can improve and clean up some of his error issues.  With Ibanez, the situation doesn’t look so rosy.

Even in his prime, Ibanez was a marginal defensive outfielder at best, and that prime is pretty far off in the rearview mirror now.  The fact of the matter is that Ibanez hasn’t been a useful defensive outfielder in years. He doesn’t get good reads or jumps on balls and doesn’t have the speed or athleticism to cover the ground needed to make plays, and his botch of the ball Matt Joyce hit to him on Sunday is Exhibit A, B, and C of that.  You can make the small sample size case if  you want, but for a guy like Ibanez with a track record of poor defense, that play on Sunday seems more representative of a continuation of a consistent negative trend rather than a one-time freak outlier.  At his age it’s pretty much impossible to expect Ibanez to suddenly improve upon these physical deficiencies that make him so ineffective.

Cue the Benny Hill music. Courtesy of Mock Session

The difference between this situation and the one with Eduardo is that the Yankees have another OF option totally capable of playing, at the very least, a serviceable defensive outfield in Andruw Jones.  Along with being Ibanez’s platoon partner in the DH spot, Jones is the “official” 4th outfielder on the Yankee bench and should get plenty of playing time season in both the DH role and as the left fielder on days when the Yankees are facing a left-handed starter.  With Ibanez’s face-palmingly bad defensive debut this past weekend, Joe might want to consider using Jones exclusively as the 4th OF option if he wants to give one of the regulars a day off, even if it means keeping Ibanez out of the starting lineup altogether.  He’s not a world beater against RHP by any means these days, but Jones put up a respectable .709 OPS and .316 wOBA against righties last season, and his ability to draw walks is an asset against righties and lefties.  That production combined with the defensive value he brings to the table should be enough to make up for any potential loss in offensive output caused by Ibanez being on the bench, especially with the rest of the lineup around him.

I understand that the Yankees like Ibanez as a power lefty bat in the lineup, and I can respect their desire to maximize the number of opportunities that Ibanez gets to do damage with his bat, especially in home games where his swing and the short porch in right are a match made in baseball heaven.  But if that means regularly using Ibanez as a starting outfielder on days where a starter is being rested, I question whether that is a winning formula.  Raul Ibanez flat out sucks as an outfielder.  There’s no other way to say it, and at this stage in his career he isn’t going to get better.  Neither corner outfield in Yankee Stadium is a picnic, and I shudder to think at the idea of him trying to navigate those areas without embarrassing himself and costing his team runs.  The Yankees have a much better defensive option in Jones and a possible better defensive option in Nunez for emergency cases.  The right move is to play those better options and allow Ibanez to maximize his value with the greatest (and only) asset he brings to the table- his bat.