Raul Ibanez's diminishing returns

Raul Ibanez's production has dipped significantly this year. Howard Smith/US PRESSWIRE

Raul Ibanez appears to be at the end of his rope.

The Philadelphia Phillies left fielder has looked "done" in the past, frequently vacillating between stretches equally torrid and horrific, but his start to the 2011 season feels different.

One of the biggest traps fans and analysts fall into is prematurely declaring that a player has nothing left in the tank. A pre-formed narrative develops, a few weeks of poor play at the onset of the season fit that narrative, and assessments both quantitative and qualitative are molded to purvey the message. This idea of anchoring -- weighing performance at the start of the season more than at another point in time -- often leads to inaccurate conclusions, especially regarding older players who may be done.

For example, many deemed Carlos Delgado and David Ortiz finished during the 2008 season. Both got off to terrible starts -- Delgado hit .198/.297/.323 in April, with Big Papi following suit at .184/.294/.350. Delgado finished the season hitting .271/.353/.518, with 38 home runs, great numbers given the slow start and his age. Ortiz finished at .264/.369/.507. Comically enough, Ortiz was also written off after a 2009 campaign in which he hit .238/.332/.462. He silenced naysayers with a .270/.370/.529 showing last year. It's foolhardy to label a player as washed up, because in most cases we just don't know.

The Ibanez situation, however, appears different. While Delgado and Ortiz exhibited decent plate discipline and signs of life throughout their slow starts, Ibanez's numbers, both above and below the surface, belie a player who might actually be tapped for productivity.