A few people mentioned that with Ryan Raburn’s demotion down to Toledo, the expectation is that he will dominate Triple-A pitching, just as he did the last three times he was demoted so he could get his bat right.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. The assumption that he was demoted in 2010, 2009, and 2008 to kick start a struggling start is flat out wrong.
On May 9th 2010 Ryan Raburn struck out in his only at bat, a pinch hit effort, in a 7-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Three Days later, on May 12th, the Tiger optioned the second baseman/outfielder to the Toledo Mudhens. At that point, Raburn was hitting .215/.315/.362 in 54 plate appearances with 18 strikeouts and no home runs.
Many people think this was because Raburn was struggling at the plate, which he was, but there was in fact, a bigger reason the right hander was demoted.
From MLB.com archives news post regarding the move:
Raburn was batting .213, with five RBIs and no home runs in 17 games for the Tigers. He will have to stay in Toledo for a minimum of 10 days, making him eligible to return to the Tigers on May 22, when the team is in the midst of a three-game road series against the Dodgers.
The move leaves Tigers manager Jim Leyland with only three bench players he could utilize in the doubleheader — Alex Avilia, Don Kelly and Ramon Santiago.
“It’s a matter where we were short on pitching,” Leyland said. “Hopefully this is a very short stint for Raburn down there. I’m not happy playing a split doubleheader with three extra players, but I have to have pitching.”
While Raburn was indeed struggling, the reason behind the move was because he was an extra bat, more of a bench player at that point than anything, and the Tigers need for bullpen relief outweighed his presence on Woodward Avenue.
In Toledo, Raburn raked: In seven game he hit .444/.483/.667 in 29 at bats. He had six doubles and a pair of RBI and only three strikeouts. As soon as he was eligible to return on May 22nd, he was recalled.
He then continued to struggled for three months. On June 13th he hit rock bottom: .165/.242/.271 and he didn’t crack the .230 mark until August 13th. After that he took off, finishing at .280/.340/.474.
In 2009, Raburn didn’t make the big league roster out of spring training. He was recalled on April 22nd after hitting .255/.357/.638 with five homers in 56 plate appearances.
In 2008, he pinch ran on April 4th, was optioned to Toledo the next day, recalled on April 12th and remained on the roster the rest of the season having batted .316/.435/.737 with two home runs in 23 plate appearances.
So if you are amongst the many people who see this demotion as an annual thing that gets Raburn going, think again. If you are amongst the many people who think that all he needs to do is mash against triple-A pitching and he’ll be fine, think again.
I can’t suggest that he’s not going to hit in the second half as his history suggests, but I can suggest that this demotion isn’t going to suddenly wake up his dormant big league stick if he returns in the next few weeks.
This of course doesn’t mean that I won’t be updating you all with the Ryan Raburn Reboot and Recovery Project after ever minor league game!