At an age when most players have either long since retired or have reached the end of their careers, Raul Ibanez had quite the amazing year in 2013. Ibanez, at age 41, hit 29 home runs, his most since 2009, and the third highest single season total in his career. His OPS+, at 123, was the fourth highest mark of his career. Instead of winding down, it may appear, at first glance, as though Ibanez may still have something left in the tank.
The Angels are certainly hoping that is the case. He, along with reliever Joe Smith, made up both of the Angels free agent signings that were brought in on major league contracts. While Ibanez only cost $2.75 Million, that is still a decent investment in a player of that age.
While Raul Ibanez was solid overall in the 2013 season, he may have begun to wind down by the end. Prior to the All-Star break, Ibanez was a borderline candidate for the game himself, producing a .267/.314/.578 batting line and 24 home runs. Following the All-Star break, however, Ibanez’s production drastically declined, as he posted a batting line of only .203/.295/.345 with five home runs.
Normally, a second half slide like that may not be that much of a concern, especially given Ibanez has a solid track record of being a productive hitter. However, he is going to turn 42 years old approximately halfway through the 2014 season. The end, if it is not there already, has to be close for Ibanez.
Perhaps that is what those struggles down the stretch last season signified. Last season, Raul Ibanez hit well against offspeed pitches, putting together a .292 batting average with a .400 slugging percentage against slower pitches. However, Ibanez only hit .244 against fastballs and .238 against breaking pitches. With those results, Ibanez may be starting to have difficulty catching up to the fastball and recognizing breaking pitches. His ability to hit offspeed pitches may also signify that his bat is starting to slow down, making the slower offerings easier targets.
The Angels are hoping that Raul Ibanez has one more year left in him. However, given his performance down the stretch last year, that may just be wishful thinking.