Today the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies signed Raul Ibanez to a three-year, $30MM contract. This means Pat “The Bat” Burrell won’t be back.

Is Ibanez really better than Burrell? Let’s look at the numbers.

Last year Ibanez hit 23 home runs. Burrell hit 33. Over the last three seasons Ibanez has 77 home runs and Burrell has 92. Advantage: Burrell.

Ibanez is pretty much a lock to have an OBP around .350. Burrell, on the other hand, has a career OBP of .367, and last season his OBP was — wait for it — .367. Advantage: Burrell.

Ibanez doesn’t rely on walks to get on base to the same extent that Burrell does. His batting average last season was .293, compared to Burrell’s .250. That helps explain why Ibanez’s RBI totals are consistently above 100, while Burrell couldn’t crack 90 in 2008. Advantage: Ibanez.

Now let’s talk about defense.

Last season, Burrell was last among qualified NL left fielders in Revised Zone Rating (.829), meaning he didn’t get to many balls that were hit near him. Ibanez’s Revised Zone Rating was second among qualified AL left fielders (.893). Advantage: Ibanez.

In 2008, Burrell played 50 fewer innings in left than Ibanez but still had more out of zone plays. Advantage: Burrell.

Over the past three seasons, Burrell has thrown out 25 percent more runners than the average left fielder, but he’s been less successful holding runners — holding two fewer runners than average. Ibanez (who didn’t play the outfield in 2006), threw out almost 28 more runners than the average left fielder (in 2005, 2007 and 2008), but he was just average when it came to preventing runners from advancing. Advantage: Ibanez.

John Dewan’s Fielding Bible says Burrell made 20 fewer plays than the average left fielder in 2008, while Ibanez made 18 fewer plays. Advantage: Nobody.

So what does it all mean?

The good news is that it’s pretty clear that Ibanez is a better defensive player, though Burrell sets the bar pretty damn low. Offensively, Ibanez doesn’t hit for power like Burrell does, nor does he get on base as often, but his higher batting average could lead to more RBIs (though that’s not a given). And logic would dictate that Ibanez will flourish now that he’s departing Seattle’s anemic lineup and landing in the middle of Philly’s high-powered offense.

On the other hand, signing Ibanez will cost the Phillies a draft pick because the Mariners offered Ibanez arbitration. Moreover, Philadelphia won’t gain a draft pick when Burrell signs elsewhere because new GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. didn’t offer Pat “The Bat” arbitration.

Why didn’t Amaro offer Burrell arbitration? Because he was afraid Burrell would accept. But would that have been so bad? Burrell might have made as much as $16MM in 2009. That’s a lot of money and more than Ibanez will make. But signing Burrell to a one-year deal would also free up cash to sign a better LF in 2010, when the market could be flush with corner outfielders like Matt Holiday, Rick Ankiel, Vlad Guerero, Xavier Nady and Jason Bay.

When you boil it down, Ibanez and Burrell are both similar players. And since Ibanez will probably be cheaper than Burrell over the course of the next three years, this signing makes some sense. But when you factor in the loss of a draft pick and the fact that Ibanez will be 37 come June and 39 in the final year of this deal…well, I’m not sure one year of Burrell and a return trip to the free agent market wasn’t the better option.

UPDATE: The 700 Level has this to say about the Ibanez signing:

Already a lefty-heavy lineup, adding another southpaw doesn’t exactly sound like a great idea, despite Ibanez’s overall numbers. But he did hit lefties well last season, better, in fact, than he hit righties. His average against lefties was .305, and his OBP was .371, and he slugged .497. Versus righties, those numbers were .288, .352, and .470, respectively.

However, those splits might be misleading. Over the last three years, here are his numbers against lefties: .269 avg, .325 OBP, and .410 slugging; against righties over that span: .300, .366, .526, respectively.

Rob Neyer, meanwhile, pretty much agrees that Ibanez and Burrell are very similar players.

14 Responses to “Is Ibanez really better than Burrell?”

  1. You’re right, they’re pretty much of similar value…for now.

    The question becomes why sign an old guy to a 3 year deal and not take the risk of a guy who is still around his prime for a 1 year deal.

    Or why not just sign Burrell to a 3 year deal? Decline will probably be slower with him. I don’t know what he’s asking for though.

  2. The face that the Phils have essentially downgraded in left, and decided Carlos Ruiz is their starting catcher next year bothers me. It looks like they are focusing on defense and pitching – which is fine, but their offense was streaky and declined last year.

    I know they won the world series, but let’s not forget it looked like they wouldn’t make the playoffs last year, and the offense was the reason. So far, it doesn’t appear Amaro is focusing on that fact.

    You gotta love the Chan Ho Park signing though. It will be fun to watch him ride the bus from Lehigh Valley to Philadelphia at least 30 times.

  3. Coley Ward says:

    The biggest reason the Phillies made the playoffs last year was health. Myers spent some time in the minors, but other than that the rotation was healthy pretty much all year. That’s remarkable and unlikely to be the case again this year. That’s why I love the Chan Ho Park signing. He can be a valuable reliever and he can fill in when a starter goes down. Between Park and J.A. Happ, the Phillies actually have some starting pitching depth for once (assuming they sign Jamie Moyer).

    As for Ibanez…it’s not that bad of a signing. Don’t get me wrong, I think offering Burrell arbitration was the thing to do. But Ibanez might be a very good player for the next three years. He put up great numbers in Seattle and, while he’s getting older, a move to Citizen’s Bank Park and hitting behind Utley, Rollins and Victorino can only help.

  4. This is not a good deal for the Phillies. I don’t understand why they would not offer arbitration to Burrell, and conversely sign an older player that was offered arbitration and will cost them a draft pick. To me, even if Burrell had accepted arbitration, he’s a better option than Ibanez. Why another left handed bat, especially one that’s going to continue to decline? If they think Ibanez is going to be a defensive upgrade guess again. He’s a bad fielder at this point in his career and most likely will get worse. I don’t know if they pursued Adam Dunn but he would be no worse than Ibanez in the field and offensively a far superior option. I am just glad the Phillies signed him and prevented the Cubs from picking him up. The Cubs need a left handed power hitter desperately and I am elated Ibanez is no longer an option.

  5. I have a bad feeling the Chan Ho Park we saw at the end of last season was the real Chan Ho Park. Then factor in the Park Factor (no pun), and i’m not so sure.

  6. Ibanez, Raul see Jenkins, Geoff. We had the same hope for Mr. Jenkins last year. Game 5 double aside, Jenkins was a major bust. Ibanez has similar potential.

    Chan Ho Park – he has a nickname in my fantasy baseball league – “Fantasy poison” – this man only leads to heart break.

  7. Sarah Green says:

    Chan Ho Park’s fastball apparently jumped from 88 mph in 2007 to 92 in 2008. Anyone got any theories as to how/why that happened?

    Re: Pat the Bat. He’s saying the Phils never made him an offer. Why not even make him an offer at a fair price and then see if he takes it?

  8. It’s a good question regarding Park, Sarah. I have no idea. But the increased velocity on his sinker led to great groundball rates. However, he left 78.2% of runners on base last year. Completely unrepeatable.

  9. Sean Trask says:

    Citizen’s Bank Park Chan Ho Park = home run rates to rival Way Back Wasdin – even with a sinker.

    My confusion on Pat the Bat continues. I don’t understand why there is no interest, he can be had (I imagine for cheap) and still has a little production left in that bat of his. He also has a cool dog.

  10. Sarah-I have theorized that it’s the magical Los Angeles bulgolgi that gives him extra strength.

    It’s either HGH and steroids or he’s finally healthy again.

    Takashi Saito was the same way. Dude was atrocious in his last year in Japan. Then he came to America and all of a sudden was hitting mid-90s on the gun.

  11. Sarah Green says:

    I didn’t want to be the first one to say the “S” word…thanks, kensai. <: -O

  12. If we’re talking value (as defined by Fan Graphs), Ibanez was worth $9.6MM in 2008, and he’ll get paid $10MM in 2009. So that’s pretty fair value. Moreover, he figures to at least maintain his value, moving to an NL team with a better lineup in a hitter-friendly park.

    Burrell was worth slightly more in 2008 – $12MM, but he was paid $14MM, and he would have made at least $16MM in 2009. It’s no given that he’ll be worth as much next season, since he’ll be moving away from Citizen’s Bank Park and its hitter-friendly left field fence.

  13. Coley, it’s usually a bad idea to pay a 36 year old baseball player for his past performances.

  14. And also, which player would have made the Phillies better?

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