Taking a close look at Ibanez’s critical at-bats
Second guessing a manager is as big a part of baseball as hot dogs and beer, so naturally there was some fan chatter today after the Mariners dropped a 4-3 decision to the White Sox in a game where they missed a few golden opportunities.
Going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position is usually a bad formula for success, but one situation that raised particular interest was a sixth-inning at-bat by Raul Ibanez when manager Eric Wedge left the veteran left-hander in with runners on first and second even after White Sox skipper Robin Ventura brought in lefty reliever Donnie Veal.
Ibanez wound up striking out. Should Wedge have pinch hit for Ibanez there? He did have plenty of right-handed sticks on the bench with Jason Bay, Jesus Montero, Franklin Gutierrez and Robert Andino.
“Not at that point in time,” Wedge said postgame. “For the exact reason that he comes around again late with a chance against the right-hander and you feel pretty confident that’s going to come back around that way.
“It’s early in the season and you want to give these guys an opportunity. Raul has obviously been a clutch hitter most of his career. It looked like he had one pitch to hit, otherwise that guy pitched him pretty good.”
These things can be micro-analyzed to death, but I happen to agree with Wedge on this one. If you take Ibanez out in the sixth, you don’t have a lefty on your bench to face right-hander Jesse Crain when Ibanez’s spot came up again in the eighth with runners on first and second again.
Yeah, Ibanez struck out again in that situation. He went 1-for-4 on the day with a double and run scored, but whiffed in the two big late-inning situations.
“I left a couple chances out there,” Ibanez acknowledged. “I didn’t get it done. I’ve got to be better than that.”
But you can’t nitpick baseball to death. Guys don’t always come through, but that doesn’t mean the thought-process was wrong. It’s a tough game and the majority of time, the pitcher wins. Ibanez talked specifically about that situation afterward.
“The 2-0 fastball away started it. I had a pitch to hit in that situation after two sliders. Then he dropped a 3-1 breaking ball on me. Because that landed for a strike, I swung at the next one. Once he’s able to throw that for a strike, I had to be prepared to hit it and he made a good pitch. It could have gone either way if I’d taken it, but with guys out there I wasn’t going to take that chance.
“I would’t say I chased one. I’m still not sure if it was a strike or ball after viewing it. It could have gone either way. But I could have fouled it off maybe and I didn’t. I didn’t get it done.”
As for his final at-bat against the right-hander Crain?
“That one I chased out of the zone,” he said of his swing and miss on 95-mph fastballl that sent him packing. “He gave me a decent 1-0 pitch on the outer third,
that one I probably could have hit. Then he threw the big slow curveball
backdoor, then I chased one out of the zone. What else can you say? I’ve got to
be better than that.”
Ibanez has racked up a lot of big hits in his career, but he knows sometimes it just doesn’t happen. That’s the nature of the game.