2012 Prediction Series: Ryan Raburn

Ryan Raburn spent most of 2011 being the victim of sarcasm and snark among many Tiger fans. Ryan Raburn spent most of 2011 playing horrible at second base. Ryan Raburn spent most of 2011 not hitting. Ryan Raburn spent most of 2011 deserving everything negative said about him.

A brief, yet simple story:

Yankees vs. Tigers, May 02. My wife and I somehow managed to get out of work at roughly the same time and sent our awesome child up to his Aunt’s for a few hours. The Tiger/Yankee game was ours, for that night, at least.

The positive: Alex Avila hit two home runs. That was pretty much it.

Brett Gardner played left field. We sat ten feet away from where he stood. My wife told me that she liked Brett Gardner. I told her that he was probably one of the few unknown players on the Yankees, at least on the national spotlight.

Ryan Raburn also played left field that night. The problem was, Brett Gardner played a whole lot better. Of course, that’s not saying much, given the way Raburn played I could have made him look sluggish patrolling left.

To make matters worse, he was 0-4 at the plate with 2 bad looking strikeouts. Of course, how would anyone expect any different. It was the first half of the year.

Of course the game overall wasn’t that impressive from the Tigers perspective. The Yankees won 5-3, Verlander pitched but wasn’t dominant, Valverde took the loss in the game, and Magglio was hitting .151 (and, unlike the rest of the Tigers, he never took off). When we were leaving my wife, a very keen observer in general, mentioned one thing that stood out to her more than anything else:

“Raburn’s body language.” She said as we walked back to our car.

“What about it?”

“It was completely negative. He didn’t try at all. At least, it seemed like he didn’t.”

After that, every game I went to for the rest of the year I watched his body language.

I’m no expert, but I do know enough to honestly say he not only hits like a different player in July and on….he acts like one too.

That’s some food for thought going into the 2012 season.

2011 G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1st Half 76 277 258 30 55 14 0 8 31 12 86 .213 .248 .360 .609
2nd Half 45 141 129 23 44 8 2 6 18 9 28 .341 .393 .574 .967
Career G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1st Half 223 648 83 134 38 2 20 82 5 43 172 .228 .287 .402 .689
2nd Half 277 849 126 234 43 6 33 122 10 57 191 .300 .351 .497 .847

The stats there pretty much speak for themselves. But 2011 was also interesting because Raburn spent most of the year hitting lefties much better than righties, which suggests that he serves as a platoon player.

2011 Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG
vs RHP as RHB 101 261 241 59 12 2 7 36 11 75 .245 .283 .398
vs LHP as RHB 69 157 146 40 10 0 7 13 10 39 .274 .321 .486
vs LH Starter 47 190 177 29 51 10 0 9 22 10 50 .288 .328 .497
vs RH Starter 74 228 210 24 48 12 2 5 27 11 64 .229 .271 .376

At this point we get more serious. We have seen what he hit against LHP and RHP last year and so we ask, was this an outlier, or has he hit like this his whole career, confirming the platoon scenario?

Split G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
vs RHP as RHB 360 865 215 39 7 23 116 11 45 224 .268 .311 .420 .731
vs LHP as RHB 279 632 153 42 1 30 88 4 55 139 .270 .340 .507 .847
vs LH Starter 196 732 113 181 39 4 32 99 2 51 168 .271 .326 .484 .811
vs RH Starter 304 765 96 187 42 4 21 105 13 49 195 .268 .320 .429 .749

Obviously he hits RHP and LHP pretty evenly and we can pretty much toss him out as a platoon player (at least in that way, they may way to consider benching him for the first half of the year…I’m only partly kidding), especially since he’s had a nice even percentage of at bats against both types of pitchers.

So, it’s obvious that Raburn has done historically bad in the first half of any given season. 2011 was a year he spent hitting lefties better than righties, but that doesn’t translate to his career, where he is pretty well balanced. Where do you look from here?

Well, consider where Raburn hit in the lineup last year:

2011 Season G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Batting 1st 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000
Batting 2nd 17 59 55 10 13 1 0 5 9 3 20 .236 .288 .527 .815
Batting 3rd 11 37 32 2 8 3 0 0 2 3 9 .250 .314 .344 .658
Batting 4th 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Batting 5th 6 11 11 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 .000 .000 .000 .000
Batting 6th 18 73 68 7 17 4 1 2 8 3 24 .250 .274 .426 .700
Batting 7th 18 67 60 10 14 3 1 2 6 4 21 .233 .303 .417 .720
Batting 8th 30 111 104 16 31 7 0 3 17 7 25 .298 .342 .452 .794
Batting 9th 18 59 56 7 15 3 0 2 7 1 9 .268 .276 .429 .704

He obviously performed at his best hitting eighth. Those small sample stats aren’t too bad considering the place in the batting order. But what does that mean, does that mean that he’s only going to be productive hitting eighth? No, the data for his career suggests otherwise:

Career G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Batting 1st 40 130 18 30 4 0 8 19 0 14 27 .268 .349 .518 .867
Batting 2nd 41 139 24 34 6 1 9 26 2 6 32 .270 .316 .548 .864
Batting 3rd 74 217 30 52 18 0 8 25 3 16 48 .265 .326 .480 .805
Batting 4th 33 51 7 17 0 0 2 12 0 3 12 .354 .392 .479 .871
Batting 5th 32 85 12 24 8 0 3 16 0 5 24 .300 .341 .513 .854
Batting 6th 91 273 28 64 13 4 5 31 4 18 67 .255 .308 .398 .706
Batting 7th 69 239 36 57 12 3 8 31 3 16 63 .261 .319 .454 .773
Batting 8th 67 228 34 58 13 0 5 33 1 15 62 .274 .325 .406 .730
Batting 9th 53 135 20 32 7 0 5 11 2 7 28 .256 .299 .432 .731

The data suggests that he’s a pretty decent leadoff hitter…until you consider his speed, which is pretty unfortunate, because if he could steal even 15 bases a year, he’d be a better option than Austin Jackson. But he’s not.

Batting second, third, fourth, or fifth aren’t options at all, so what’s left are batting 6-9 in the order. Given his 2011 season, and the slightly better career numbers, the data suggests Raburn would be most effective hitting eighth in the lineup.

Batting eighth certainly has different pressures than batting first or fifth, or even sixth. Batting eighth in the American League isn’t exactly a place to put a  division one player.

For example, from the 8th spot in the batting order Chicago, Kansas City, New York, and Texas were the only other teams to have a higher on base percentage than Detroit last year (which was a low .321). Chicago and New York were the only teams to hit more home runs than Detroit (who hit 21). In fact, only New York had a high OPS (.838) than Detroit did last year (.768).

So the question is not how bad or inconsistent is Raburn, but, how much better is he than the rest of the league when it comes to hitting expectancy in the eighth spot in the lineup. Raburn matches up pretty favorably in that regard.

In fact, given the Tigers 2-7 hitters in the lineup, dropping him to 9th when Ramon Santiago isn’t playing wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

The bottom line is this: Raburn is obviously a flawed hitter, but Detroit would be unwise to simply give up on his talent and they obviously will give him a serious opportunity this season, given it is his walk year (and they really don’t have another option at this point).

Walkoff Woodward Bubblegum Card Prediction:

PA R B2 B3 HR RBI
550 60 23 2 22 71
BB SB AVG OBP SLG BABIP
45 5 .262 .332 .471 .316

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