Clone Wars: Raul Ibanez and Andre Ethier

Predicting breakouts are the key to fantasy success and these two outfielders have been the key to many teams in 2009. Raul Ibanez should have been expected to grow increase his power after moving to the bandbox that is Citizens Bank Park, but his first half was beyond anyone’s expectations. Across the country Andre Ethier was expected to grow with Manny Ramirez back in LA, but a season on pace for 30 homers in Dodgers Stadium wasn’t one many expected.

                   R         HR        RBI       SB     AVG       BB%       K%        HR/F%     BABIP
Raul Ibanez        72        27        79         4     0.278     8.70%    22.80%    18.90%     0.299
Andre Ethier       77        27        87         5     0.286    10.70%    19.90%    16.40%     0.308

Raul Ibanez

Looking at his 162 game averages, you should pretty much know what to expect from Ibanez. He averages 23 homers, 84 runs, 95 RBIs, four steals and a .285 average. He has consistently been at those numbers for eight seasons and only really missed them in 2004 when he missed 37 games due to a hamstring strain. That consistency made his first half that much more amazing. He had 22 homers at the All-Star break, which would have been his fifth highest total for a full season.

The second half has not been as nice to Ibanez. Even with a short DL stint in the first half, he set career records. Since the All-Star game though his OPS has fallen to a dismal .708 from his first half 1.015. According to HitTracker he has 10 “just enough” homers, which is 37 percent of his homers and above the league average of “just enough” homers.

Some regression had to be expected, but the disappointing part is the drop in contact rate. His strikeout rate went from a solid 20 percent in the first half to 27.8 percent in the second. His contact rate could be explained by pitchers altering their approach when facing Ibanez. His walk rate has also risen from 7.6 percent in the first half to just over 10 percent in the second. The number of plate appearances is small for evaluating BB%, but could show he is getting less to work with.

Even with the regression he is still on pace to beat his averages in all five categories. He could also beat his career high in homers as ZiPS has him at 33 home runs, matching his career high. If you drafted Ibanez you got your moneys worth and more, but he isn’t the guys with the OPS of 1.015 from the first half for sure.

Andre Ethier

Andre Either
MLB: AUG 26 Dodgers at Rockies
August 26, 2009: Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier during a regular season game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. The Dodgers beat the Rockies 6-1. Ethier had two homeruns in the game. (Icon/SMI)

Ethier has shown great improvement each season, but the growth this year has been amazing. Hitting half his games in Dodger Stadium was supposed to limit him to around 20 homers. Suprisingly not only did his power improve, but most of that power is being shown at home. His OPS split so far is 1.024 at home and .796 on the road. This split is mainly because he has 18 homers at home and only nine on the road. This split has largely been consistent throughout his young career as his career OPS is .915 at home and .817 on the road.

Looking at his numbers at HitTracker you can see his numbers are a bit more encouraging as well. He has only eight homers classified as “just enough,” or just 29 percent of his homer total. That is close to the league average and makes his total much more reliable looking forward.

While his strikeout and walk rate have stayed fairly solid, his fly ball rate has climbed, as has his HR/F. His fly ball rate is up from 32 percent in 2008 to 41 percent this year. That has been a large factor in his power growth this year, but the hits have coming largely from his line drive rate.

This drop in line drive rate has seemed to effect his BABIP, which has gone from .336 last year to .308 this season. This change could continue to keep his batting average closer to .285 than the .305 of last season. This isn’t a large drop, but could effect his final stat totals. If the change continues to add an extra 10 homers I think most managers would take the 10-15 point drop in average.

Conclusion

When 2009 ends these two will have final lines that make them look like twins. The truth is though that Ibanez, besides being 10 years older than Ethier, is playing much further over his head. This isn’t to say Ibanez will be worthless in 2010, but it’s much more likely he returns to his 162 game average than the pace he had in the first half of this season. Ethier on the other hand is entering his prime seasons and showing excellent power growth. A regression in his FB% could drop his power next year, but the amount of power at Dodger Stadium is very encouraging for his future.

It will be tough to predict where Ibanez goes in 2010 drafts, as many doubt he could do anything like this again. Ethier on the other hand will go higher in drafts based on his age and future ability. Both may become overvalued in drafts, but have solid value for the owners who draft them.

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