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.
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.
|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?
|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:
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:
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: