Raul Ibanez's next homerun will be his 21st of the season. This is a player who has not had 21 homeruns since his first season with the Phillies in 2009, has only topped 25 homeruns twice in his 18 season career, and holds a 3.8 percent career homerun rate that is not too far above the 2.7 percent MLB average.
Naturally, fantasy owners left and right don't believe his six homeruns since June 22 are a fluke, and he's now owned in 81.2 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues (including being picked up 49.4 percent in the last week).
I have to ask: really? Is everybody so hurt for power, especially in the outfield or DH slots, that a Raul Ibanez pickup is absolutely crucial? The stats say you would be better off throwing your waiver wire position into the trash next time; it would cause less anguish and heartbreak. And here is why.
Not Like a Fine Wine
It is indeed true: Ibanez's numbers have been trending upwards as he has gotten older. However, there's a certain point where trending upwards stops, and statistically improbable outcomes begin. Let's see if you can identify that point along with me.
OK, that wasn't exactly the toughest question. While his 2011 and 2012 power numbers were somewhat unexpected for a man of his age and a 3.8 percent career homerun rate, you could at least make the case they weren't statistically unlikely outcomes. A 4.5 percent rate given his career average is at least reasonable given variance in power numbers at low percentages. But that 2013 figure? Those numbers stick out worse than Mac Miller at the BET Awards.
If he had enough plate appearances to qualify (the current MLB cutoff point is only a little higher at 260), Raul Ibanez would hold the second-highest homerun rate in the entire major leagues. Only Chris Davis would be better, and he wouldn't even be much higher at a 9.0 percent rate. Pedro Alvarez is currently next in line all the way down at a 7.0 percent rate, and even Miguel Cabrera has only hit 6.9 percent of his plate appearances for a long bomb this season.
This is all to say: you're absolutely Amanda Bynes-brand cuckoo if you believe Ibanez will continue to hit with this type of power. Given his career average and the large sample size of 7750 plate appearances that has gotten him there, we would expect Ibanez to hit around 3.8 percent of his remaining plate appearances for homeruns. And once that power surge comes back to normal levels, and the rest of the Mariners outfield becomes healthy once again, we would expect the Seattle outfield platoons to start right back up.
So What Comes Next?
Looking forward, we actually believe that Raul Ibanez will finish with 33 homeruns this season. All things considered, that's not half bad for a 41 year old. In fact, those 33 homeruns are tied for the 15th-highest projection among all major league players and sixth among players with outfielder as their primary position. We think he'll have more than Domonic Brown, Justin Upton, or even Mike Trout when all is said and done.
That's positively spectacular if you play in a fantasy league where homeruns are the only stat you count. I'm going to guess most leagues aren't like that. And it's in every single other area of the game where Ibanez fails miserably.
Ibanez's 0.46 nF Score means he is barely better than a replacement player at generating runs; a lineup of nine Ibanezes would only generate 0.46 more runs than a league-average squad. Among all batters, that places him far, far down the list: 149th among batters to be specific. Among players with outfield eligibility, he's 68th.
Sure, Ibanez is hot now. The laws of statistics being what they are, though (curses Math!), each game is viewed in an individual vacuum. And despite his recent homerun streak, it's much more likely he will continue along on a 3.8 percent homerun clip than a 8.1 percent homerun clip. That's doubly true given his high sample size of plate appearances. And with nothing else to his name other than homeruns, Ibanez doesn't provide much value at all.
If he's available in your league, don't make a move to pick him up. Michael Brantley, Kelly Johnson, and even the soon-to-be-returning Mike Morse are all better outfield options, and all are owned in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues. I'd probably even pick up Andre Ethier and pray he gets traded before I think about Ibanez. Don't trust the recent power; leave him be or trade him while you still can.