The Phillies and Raul Ibanez will rely on Ben Francisco heavily to reverse the effects of aging.
Love them or hate them, algorithmic forecasters like PECOTA were custom-built for projecting 37-year-old plodders like Raul Ibanez. To me, Ibanez, who turns 38 in June, shares some of the same qualities as Geoff Jenkins, whose first season with the Phils, at age 33, turned out to be his last. Jenkins proved sabermetric-minded scribes correct when his second-half decline in '07 marked the downward spiral that they had feared. Ibanez, whose own second-half decline has been interpreted the same way, enters 2010 slowed by sports hernia surgery and all the other creaks and moans that come with being an older player. To his credit, he's another Phillie who takes conditioning very seriously and performed better than ever during the first few months of the season.
Nevertheless, there's no escape from the wall that thousands before him have tried to clear. And the wall is fast approaching. Actually, Baseball Prospectus thinks he'll slam against it in 2010:
Ibanez in 2009: 565 PA, 34 HR, .272/.347/.552
Ibanez in 2010: 520 PA, 17 HR, .267/.336/.436 (PECOTA)
There are two sides to this coin. Here's the other side:
Francisco in 2010: 476 PA, 16 HR, .266/.343/.442 (PECOTA)
I respect these projections. Would I make sweet love to these projections? No, I wouldn't. But I respect them. Obviously, a lot would need to go wrong for Francisco to see that many plate appearances, but I like the idea that a hungry 28-year-old will elevate his game over a full season in his new surroundings. From what I've seen, Francisco wants to get a fastball down-and-in that he can pull. As a matter of fact, on fastballs down-and-in, Francisco hit .358 on balls described as "well hit" by stats inc., good for ninth in baseball. On baseball's bottom third, he starts.
Charlie Manuel couldn't wait to have a reservist like Francisco; he doesn't subtract much from the starting lineup and will cover more ground than the fourth and fifth options they've had in the past. Unfortunately, I see it the way BP does for Raul. Days off will help. Expect Cholly to play left field by ear instead of a straight-up platoon. Their splits are essentially even.Vote: If you haven't voted for Beerleaguer, take a moment to show me you care here.