In recent weeks, the Yankees have made it clear that they’re interested in adding one more bat to help them fill their DH spot. This hitter would ideally be a left-handed hitter who could platoon with Andruw Jones and provide the Yankees with a valuable bat off the bench.
It just so happens that there are a number of left-handed hitters still left on the market: Raul Ibanez, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui. The Yankees have reportedly been considering all three, and as of last night, they appear to be leaning toward Ibanez:
Sources: #Yankees in serious discussions with Ibanez. He is willing to take less to play for them than he could get elsewhere. #MLB
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 7, 2012
Are the Yankees right to prefer Ibanez to Damon or Matsui? Judging from the their regressed splits, it’s a toss-up.
|Projected wOBA vs. RHP|
I calculated these splits using an Excel calculator that uses the methodology spelled out in The Book, and it takes into account the player’s career L/R splits and their projected wOBA going forward. In this case, I took each player’s projected 2012 wOBA from their FanGraphs page.* The results are about what you’d expect; Damon and Ibanez project as similar against righties, while Matsui is a less attractive option.
In the Damon vs. Ibanez debate, it’s worth remembering that Damon is two years younger than Ibanez and has a more well-rounded skill-set. He has more speed, more defensive value, and he walks more and strike out less often. He was more productive at the plate than Ibanez last season, and he’s been roughly comparable to (or better than) Ibanez at the plate for the past four years. And if it’s power you want, Damon had the extra same number of extra base hits as Ibanez last season, despite playing home games in a park that suppresses left-handed power considerably.
But if you’re looking solely for someone who can mash righties — which the Yankees seems to be doing — Ibanez is likely the way to go. Damon has a small career platoon split, displaying the ability to hit both hands well, while Ibanez has mashed righties to the tune of a .363 wOBA. Ibanez also had good success against righties last season (.358 wOBA); meanwhile, Damon oddly posted reverse splits and struggled against them (.313 wOBA).
Even if that was a small sample fluke — which it likely was — Ibanez still seems like the correct target when looking for a righty masher. Just as long as the Yankees don’t plan on him doing anything else.
*To clarify even further, I used the Bill James projections for Damon (.332 wOBA) and Ibanez (.328 wOBA), and used the RotoChamps projection for Matsui (.327 wOBA). I normally like to maintain internal consistency, but in this case, I couldn’t bring myself to use the Bill James projection for Matsui since it had him being better than both Damon and Ibanez.