Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The bewildering case of Ryan Raburn

How long should the Tigers stick with Ryan Raburn? Their 8-7 victory over Minnesota Tuesday was secured despite more shaky play in left field by Raburn.
Most nights, when a team just hands the opposition runs like that, it costs them the game. The Tigers were fortunate.
Raburn does have one plus, that's his bat. Or at least it's supposed to be. In a fairly large sample size in the major leagues, his average 162-game season is .264 with 16 home runs and 65 RBI and a .767 OPS. Problem is, he is hitting below .200 this season, and has been a constant rally killer. This is not a young player; he is 30 years old. The Tigers signed him to a two-year, $3.4 million deal after Raburn finished strongly in 2010, saying with their actions they thought it would save them money in the long run because Raburn is arbitration eligible. It doesn't look like such a bargain right now. He did hit well in pennant race pressure in 2009, but not until after the issue was decided in 2010.
I've always been perplexed by Raburn, who was a very good hitter in the minor leagues. He seems athletic enough, and will at times make plays. It's just there are so many moments like Tuesday night. His fielding percentage as a left fielder in the major leagues is .965 - and that doesn't take in account the misplays that are turned in hits. His best position is second base, but he is below average there in terms of range.
Playing Raburn is only worth it if he hits - really hits. He is not doing that currently. At least for now, the Tigers would be wise to stick with Danny Worth at second base - a superior fielder, who had a couple hits Tuesday - and their other corner outfielders until Magglio Ordonez comes back.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does our new FULL TIME Second Baseman end up in the outfield making that horrible mistake?

10:34 AM 
Blogger Core Contrarian said...

I think Raburn would be a decent 25th man but Leyland seems to love him and projects him as a starter and that just doesn't seem to fit considering his average (maybe generous) skill set.

We seemed to have this issue years ago with Neifi Perez. The manager loved him and started him regularly but he really was your "25th man".

10:53 AM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...


I can only believe this whole "Raburn's my second baseman" aproach is / was only meant to be a radical stop-gap measure until a real deal goes down (IF a real deal can be made).

If not - if Raburn is still at 2nd base 6 weeks from now - still batting .200 ish - and no deal erupts for a two-bagger of notoriety - then I think it will spell the final end to the Dombrowski / Leyland era - the five year plan concluded and determined to be a close-but-no-cigar project.

The thing slowing judgement is the fact the Tiger's are winning despite this. And winning - as you taught me - solves more problems than it exposes.

And Leyland & Dombrowski won't be leaving if the Tigers are even remotely in the hunt.

12:52 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just one more example as to why no one should expect this team to play above .500 for the season. Cabrera is at first by default; we don't have a legitimate shortstop or second base or third base - apologies to Peralta and Inge and fill-in-the-blank second baseman. Our entire infield is pedestrain at best. And I don't even want to start on our outfield ... aside from the sophomore Jackson, we don't have an outfield.

3:41 PM 
Anonymous Michael C said...

The past couple years I thought the fans have been undeservedly harsh on Raburn. This year however, he's deserved their wrath. He's a hell of a lot more talented than Don Kelly, but he hasn't shown that this year. Kelly's actually outplayed him.

I think he makes for a solid reserve player, but he seems like one of those guys that doesn't play well when he starts full time, unless he's on a hot streak. But his hot streaks are good enough to keep him around and playing occasionally until he gets on one.

Kudos for referencing his OPS, btw. I know how you mainstream journalists hate those more advanced stats.

5:23 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leyland has always had a thing for utility players. In Pitt, he had Bonds, Bonilla, Van Slyke and a bunch of no names, sound familiar? In Florida, the owner bought a championship so that doesn't count but since he has been here he always carries a plethora of these light-hitting versatile position guys on his roster. Don Kelly, Will Rhymes, Danny Worth, Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn, Clete Thomas, etc. He loves these types of ballplayers. It appears Leyland's ideal lineup is to have 2-3 big bashers and the rest will be these utility, scrapper type dudes. He is comfortable with this formula and he will not change. It is what it is.


10:25 PM 
Blogger Lynn Benoit said...

Ever since he has been a Tiger, Raburn has alternated between bumbling and competent. That kind of performance just doesn't cut it. Cut him loose.

8:36 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

In retrospect, Donald Kelly or Andy Dirks (even with lefty going) would have been better options to start that night.

10:38 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Core Contrarian,
Tigers made an organizational decision to give Raburn, at 30, a two-year contract. That meant the expectation is he plays most nights ahead of players they've called up from Triple-A. They thought he'd be better than this and keep playing him with the hope he'll snap out of it. But it's June...

10:41 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
When Raburn started to make real advancement in the minor leagues, it was at second base. Bat got him here, but he was blocked at second by Polanco. Now, he is not a very good second baseman by major league standards, but it's clearly his best spot defensively. If he has a chance to remotely play every day or platoon, it's there.

10:44 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Tigers are a 50-50 team. Some really good parts, some holes. But fortunately for them and their fans, a lot of clubs are in the same boat.

10:45 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Good point. But most managers are in the same position that way. There is a core that plays every day, and the other parts are interchangeable. It's that way with most title teams, too.

10:46 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Lynn Benoit,
Inconsistency has been an issue with Raburn, but the chances of the Tigers releasing him with a year and half remaining on his contract are slim.

10:48 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Michael C,
Raburn has shown sparks in the past. Don't know if it is a sign he'll find a level in second half. Sample size of his career is kind of in-between - not small, but not quite extensive. As for OPS, not exactly an "advanced" stat.

10:50 AM 
Anonymous Michael C said...

Yeah, but it's still too advanced for most journalists. How often do you see OPS mentioned or listed on TV?

It tells you a lot more about how effective a hitter is than average does.

6:15 PM 

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