One of the Detroit Tigers most polarizing offensive batters, that being Ryan Raburn, is posting another good start to Spring Training.
This could be a reason to be excited, that maybe he’ll turn the corner and be a better “first half” batter.
Or…We could get burned in the first half again.
Raburn, who was horrible until July (.275 BA, August – .323 BA, September – .383 BA), is having another solid offensive start. Today, a 2-run HR, and another RBI hit, and he’s batting .500 after today’s game vs. the Philadelphia Phillies. He’s hitting the ball hard, which is always a good thing. Right?
History would tell us otherwise.
Last spring, Raburn’s numbers were rather respectable. In 20 games last spring, Raburn batted .316, hit 4 HRs and drove in 12. He scored 11 times, and had a nice OBP of .381. Whatever he did to get those numbers last spring, he left in the state of Florida because his April with the Tigers was bad, and his May was worse: despite opening the season with 4 more HRs, his batting average was .253 – with 35 strikeouts and a sluggish .298 OBP. In May, he hit a robust .113, striking out 22 more times, and hitting zero HRs and driving in one run. For 62 ABs in that month, that was a putrid showing, and the ravenous of Tigers fans were calling for his head.
And rightfully, so. I was one of those fans.
I hate to think that Raburn is the kind of guy who can only produce “when it doesn’t matter”… i.e. – Spring Training. But he has shown that when he is going good, he can really hit the ball. Today was evident of that (for what it’s worth, his HR was off of Cliff Lee). But as versatile as he is for the Tigers (laugh all you want, but he is), he’s going to be useful in Jim Leyland’s Opening Day lineup. I don’t envision a day in April with Raburn playing the outfield. In my mind, that’s for Brennan Boesch, Austin Jackson, and Andy Dirks. Brandon Inge will likely be a bench warmer, leaving Ramon Santiago and Raburn to possibly platoon at second base. Santiago is having a decent spring in his own right, batting over .300 so far, but in the past Leyland hasn’t trusted him to play every day.
So in the end, that leaves Raburn up there for some regular playing time. I can see the angst and the anger all go away with a quick start from Ryan. But until he can prove that he’s worthy of being useful in the early going of the season, it’ll be hard for even the staunchest apologist to stay on his side. Because we all know that Spring Training numbers are helpful, but when April comes, that’s when it matters the most.