The Raul Anomaly


Most people know that I am one of Raul Ibanez‘s biggest critics. Being of the sabermetric-mold, I do not place very much value in a 40 year old DH-in-the-outfield, who can only hit in Yankee Stadium. I don’t know why, but that just isn’t appealing to me. More traditional fans do not necessarily focus on that though, and will point to his veteran leadership. And that is just fine. Raul seems like a great guy, and might be able to mentor some of the kids. But there are problems with that too.

In reality, there is not much he can do. Sure, he can tell people to keep their head up or whatever, but it comes down to the players ability. Encouragement is great, but it doesn’t really matter if the recipient just can’t hit. Raul follow me around day and night, giving me words of wisdom and encouragement. Doesn’t replace the fact that I am an out of shape, slightly lazy 17 year old, who stopped playing select baseball at 14 because I just was not that great anymore. If I would have worked my butt off like my friends who kept playing, then maybe it would be different. But it still comes down to what I can do, not what someone is telling me I can do.

So those are the basic reasons why I disagreed with the Raul signing, especially for $2.75M. That and the fact that I knew he was still going to get a lot of playing time despite being a veteran presence. My reasoning for that belief? See Miguel Olivo over John Jaso last year.

But, over the last week or so, things have changed a bit. Raul is no longer hitting below the interstate (that’s .190 for those who do not get the reference), and in fact, is crushing the ball. After today’s tough loss in Cleveland, he has 6 homers in 7 games. And dating back to May 4th against Toronto he has slashed a ridiculous .375/.394/1.031. This streak has led many to start talking about how good Raul really is, in addition to his veteran presence.

While it is nice to see him hit like this, it is not going to continue. I am sorry, but it just won’t. He now has a .839 OPS on the season, which is 328 points higher than the .511 he had before the streak. There are a few different reasons why there is no way he sustains the .839:

  1. 6 of the his last 8 games, when the success started, have been on the road. Raul thrives in hitter-friendly parks. Yankee Stadium is a prime example. He had a .343 wOBA there last year, compared to .223 on the road. And that pattern continued this year, and 4 of his hits and 3 of his home runs came in New York. He won’t have the luxury of playing in that little league field they call a big league stadium anymore.
  2. .562 points of his .839 OPS have come from his slugging percentage. Hitting 6 home runs in a week will do that for you. Raul does not have that kind of power anymore, or ever really. That would be the highest SLG% of his career, and he obviously won’t sustain it. Plus, it is hard to have any long term success with a OBP under .300.
  3. Raul just is not that good, plain and simple. He used to be, but at his age, he is not the same. He will probably have another one of these stints where he crushes the ball. That is what hitters like him do. But I would not think they will last much longer than this one has.

There is also another big point that I think needs to be made, despite it’s “elementary” feel. Defense is still a part of the game. I know it sounds simple, but people ignore it. Everyone sees the dingers and forgets that Raul is the most gif-able player in the league. Before today’s game (because it isn’t updated as fast) Raul’s WAR was a -0.1. He was costing the team 1/10th of a win with his play. That will probably go up a tad, maybe to an even 0, or a positive decimal. So despite this show he has put on at the plate, his overall value is extremely low. He can’t field, he can’t run, and he can only kind of hit sometimes.

Hot streaks are fun. It is good to see a fan favorite like Raul kill the ball, especially against a team like the Yankees. But do not take this for more than it is. An anomaly. A rather exciting one, but an anomaly nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong either. I like Raul and respect the player he was for the Mariners. But the key word is was. He is not that same player, and if I had it my way, he probably wouldn’t be on the team.

I know a lot of what I said will seem pretty obvious to most of you. But there are a lot of people who overreact to things like this, and do not understand how things like this work. In fact, I would say most traditional-thinking fans would fall into this category, so I still think this was a point that needed to be made. You probably won’t see USS Mariner or Lookout Landing making this sort of post, but they do not appeal to the casual fan as much as we do at Sodo Mojo.