PHILADELPHIA -- Think back to December, when the Phillies signed left fielder Raul Ibanez to a three-year, $31.5 million contract.
Ibanez completed an outfield that already included center fielder Shane Victorino and right fielder Jayson Werth. The three clearly had talent, but looking back, perhaps nobody could have predicted they each would make the National League All-Star team.
Entering Friday, Phillies outfielders -- including statistics from Ben Francisco, Matt Stairs and others -- ranked first in the Majors in runs (312), home runs (87), slugging percentage (.498) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.856). They ranked third in doubles (112) and RBIs (276), fourth in on-base percentage (.358), fifth in hits (518) and sixth in walks (216) and average (.279).
Fans knew about Victorino. He had been an everyday player since 2006, when the Phillies traded right fielder Bobby Abreu to the Yankees. They also knew about Werth, but he had never played on an everyday basis.
Werth has proved this season he can. He is hitting .268 with 35 home runs and 97 RBIs.
"We kind of relied on the scouting from our staff and our scouts themselves," Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "It was kind of a leap of faith to say, 'Hey, Jayson is going to be an everyday guy,' and be able to fill [Pat Burrell's] shoes, because Pat really was the one protecting Ryan Howard at the end of the year last year. That was a little bit of a concern, but he clearly showed that he could do that. We knew he was athletic enough certainly to do that. He proved it to us and proved it to himself. He's a front-line everyday Major League starter."
Ibanez replaced Burrell in left field. Burrell, despite his streaky play, finished last season as a fan favorite. Ibanez had been productive in his career with Seattle and Kansas City, but few in Philadelphia knew much about him.
Ibanez has hit .274 with a career-high 34 homers and 93 RBIs, despite missing almost a month this season with a strained left groin.
"He's been great," Amaro said. "I think what's been even better about him -- and what is every bit as important -- is how well he has fit in. His personality is perfect for us. He loves to play. He loves to compete. He wanted to win.
"Guys like Raul and Jamie [Moyer], who we brought in a few years ago, these guys hadn't been on winning clubs. With their personalities, you know you're going to get 100 percent from those guys. They'll give you everything they've got, because they want to be a part of a winning club, and so far, we've been fortunate and lucky that they've performed the way they have."