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Thank You For Voting

The results are in, and they are as follows:

Ibanez: -15 runs per full season (778 votes)
Chavez: +13 runs per full season (791 votes)

The Wisdom Of Crowds approach has yielded a 28-run difference between Endy Chavez and Raul Ibanez in the field over a full season. This is pretty consistent with the numbers shown by UZR, PMR, RZR, and plus/minus, all of which consider Ibanez a problem and Chavez one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball*. Nothing new here, I imagine.

Now, let's look at their 2009 offensive projections, in terms of wOBA.

Ibanez Chavez
CHONE 0.368 0.304
Marcel 0.344 0.308
ZiPS 0.340 0.296

The ZiPS numbers were manually calculated based on the available information, since ZiPS doesn't project wOBA, but they should be close.

Over a full season of 700 plate appearances, those numbers equate to a 39-run difference at the plate by CHONE, 22 runs by Marcel, and 27 runs by ZiPS. By this point I think you can see where I'm going. Combining these differences with our defensive difference shows that Raul is, at best, about a win better than Chavez overall and, at worst, ever so slightly inferior.

If we're confident that the defensive difference above holds true, then in order for Raul to be the better overall player, either he needs to keep staving off age-related decline at the plate, or Chavez needs to get worse. Raul is 36, and Chavez is 31. And this doesn't even factor in the real possibility that the true defensive difference between the two over a full season is greater than 28 runs. I'm just trying to be conservative.

Raul Ibanez is not a markedly better player than Endy Chavez. Depending on how his bat ages, and how different they really are in the field, he may not even be better at all. That might sound crazy to some of you, but there you go. You're talking about a maximum difference of ~one win a year. One win. Tops. And almost certainly less than that. Rest assured, anybody who's still complaining about how we haven't replaced Raul's bat in the lineup has missed the entire point of Zduriencik's offseason.

If you're still having trouble making sense of how Raul's 100+ RBI bat doesn't separate him from some scrawny fourth outfielder, think of it like this. If you send somebody a handwritten letter, it's easy to understand how the letter arrives. You write the letter, then you put it in an envelope, then somebody takes that envelope and, after a number of exchanges, somebody takes that envelope to its destination. Simple. Now what if you send somebody that same letter as an email? You press keys that make characters appear on your screen, then when you're done, you click a button that transfers all of those characters electronically through either wires or the air to another computer, which interprets the electronic information to recreate the message you sent. Not so simple. The process is far more difficult for the average person to understand. However, in both scenarios, the letter arrives at its destination, right? Two totally different paths lead to the same endpoint. (For the sake of the analogy, let's go ahead and ignore the time factor.)

Offense is easy to see happen. Hits are good. Home runs are better. Strikeouts suck. It's not difficult to understand because all of the events are so obviously positive or negative. Defense is different. Most people see a hit and blame the pitcher, or see a catch and think it was routine. It takes a very, very skilled eye to identify what's a good defensive play and what's a bad one. But just because it's harder to judge than hitting doesn't mean it isn't significant, and in many situations - such as the Ibanez/Chavez example - a player can be so good in the field as to wipe away any offensive gap between he and another player with inferior defense. That is an irrefutable fact.

No, I don't think the Mariners are going to let Endy Chavez play a full season in the outfield. No, I wouldn't want them to. But I wouldn't want them to let Raul Ibanez play a full season in the outfield, either, and for the same reason - he just isn't that good of a player. And if you're having trouble understanding why, then I suggest you start doing a lot of reading, because with the people we now have in charge, this is how decisions are going to be made. Now, more than ever, it's time to get on the trolley.

*fun fact: check out Tangotiger's Fan Scouting Report. The top four outfielder ratings in baseball: Carlos Beltran (87), Endy Chavez (86), Ichiro (84), and Franklin Gutierrez (82). A year ago, Ichiro was #1, with Chavez tied with Shane Victorino and Felix Pie for #2, and Gutierrez coming in tied for #14. That's out of 159.