Mehring Monday: Raul

Raul Ibanez (27) leaps into home plate after a walkoff homer against the Orioles in Game Three of the ALDS. (Associated Press)

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | October 15, 2012 7:39 AM ET

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He did it again.  He is Raul Ibanez.  It would be the game tying homer in the bottom of the ninth inning of Saturday's first game of the American League Championship Series.  Again would be, well, again.

His professional career didn't start in Appleton, but he spent the 1993 and 1994 seasons with the Foxes at Goodland Field.  Ibanez is remembered well.   Here's is Jim Olski's note on Ibanez from last Friday in The Post Crescent:

I helped cover the Foxes that season. I had two years of high school Spanish, long forgotten, and two trimesters of Latin in college. I checked out a book on Spanish from the library and quickly knew I would not be able to talk to the players who spoke only Spanish.

Ibanez bridged the gap. He patiently interpreted my questions and his teammates' answers. I don't see how anyone could be a teammate of Ibanez for long without appreciating him as a good guy.

This Flashback Friday is a 1994 story in the PC about Jose Cuellar, a Cuban defector who played for the Foxes in 1994.  Ibanez was the interpreter:

"If they would have caught me, I would have gone straight to jail," Cuellar said in Spanish recently while teammates Raul Ibanez and Ivan Montane translated.  "I could forget about baseball. I would have it rough like everyone else."


In Appleton, he met [Ivan] Montane and Ibanez, two players with Cuban roots.  Montane, 21, and Ibanez, 22, grew up together in Miami as best friends, shrugging their shoulders when their mothers told them stories about defecting from Cuba.

Since meeting Cuellar, however, their interest has grown.  The three get together during batting practice almost every day to exchange stories about Cuba.


Ibanez's father spent two years working in Cuban sugar-cane fields in an agreement with the government so his family could leave in 1969.

Both upper-middle class families left their fortunes behind to start from scratch in the United States.

But until recently, Ibanez and Montane were oblivious to the hardship.

"You really don't realize it.  You know, in Miami, everyone is Cuban-American like us, and everyone speaks Spanish and English," Ibanez said.  "You really don't realize it until someone like Jose comes along.

Ibanez has been a major league baseball player since making it to the big leagues with the Seattle Mariners in 1996.  He never had more than 350 at bats until the 2002 season when he was with the Kansas City Royals.  He road took him back to Seattle, on to Philadelphia, and finally to the Yankees in New York.

The first taste of playoff baseball for Ibanez was in 2000.  He was with the Mariners and went 3-for-8 in the ALDS against the Chicago White Sox.  Then, he was 0-for-9 in the ALCS against the Yankees.  He hit no homers and drove in no runs in those playoff games.

Prior to the 2012 playoffs, Ibanez had appeared in 36 postseason games.  He had three homers in those three dozen games:

October 15, 2009:  Ibanez hits a three run home run to put the Phillies up 8-4 in the top of the eighth inning for Game One of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium.  Philadelphia needed that homer because the Dodgers scored twice in the bottom of the eighth inning.  The Phillies won the game 8-6.

November 2, 2009:  Ibanez hits a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning against the Yankees in Philadelphia.  The homer makes the score 8-2.  The Phillies kept their season alive with an 8-6 win of the Yankees.

October 1, 2011: Ibanez hits a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning against the Cardinals to push the Phillies lead from 4-3 to 6-3 on the way to an 11-6 win over St. Louis in Game One of the NLDS.

Ibanez had hit 271 regular season home runs over the span of his career.  You can see all of them at his home run log on Baseball Reference.  If you look at the notes column on that page, you'll see the six walk off home runs he has hit....or, I can just link to them right here:

September 26, 1999

April 11, 2002

April 20, 2004

August 7, 2008

April 19, 2009

July 8, 2011

Baseball Reference notes that Ibanez has hit 32 homers to tie games and 98 homers to put his team ahead in games.  That's a total of 130 out of his 271 regular season home runs.  BR also notes that 66 of his homers are high leverage. 

High leverage homers would be home runs like the ones that he hit against the Orioles in Game Three of the 2012 ALDS against the Orioles.

His first home run, the pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the ninth inning with the Yankees trailing 2-1with one out and none on base, turned that game around from an 89% chance of the Orioles winning to a 58% chance of the Yankees winning.

His second homer, the leadoff home run in the twelfth inning, pushed the win expectancy graph from 64% in favor of a Yankees win to 100%. 

Ibanez pushed the graph 83% to the good for the Yankees.  Those would be high leverage home runs.

Here's the chart from that game.

Then, there was Saturday's home run in Game One of the ALCS against the Tigers.  Detroit was rolling at 4-0 and Jose Valverde is on the hill.  Ichiro hits a two-run home run with one out to make the score 4-2.  Then, Ibanez hits a two-run home run with two outs to tie the game 4-4.  The Tigers won the game, but check the chart to see how big those home runs were in the game.

The legend of Ibanez grows.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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