Every year, hope springs eternal. Hundreds of major league baseball players across 30 major league teams all set out to do one thing, get off to a good start. Taken as a whole, Raburn hasn’t really been that bad of a player for the Tigers. His offensive production by the end of the year tends to look alright, especially for a guy that is pretty cheap. But Raburn is the ultimate in Jeckyl and Hyde production on a baseball field. His career has been a tale of two halves, with his bat often slumbering in a long winters nap until July.
This was the year that was supposed to be different. People were excited by the strong spring numbers he was posting right out of the gate. Raburn even led the Grapefruit League for some time in home runs and RBI, until the last couple weeks, when he began to swoon.
The Tigers essentially named Raburn their starting second baseman, and thus far, he has gotten the majority of the at-bats at the position. Things haven’t been pretty. In fact, so far, I think I wouldn’t be going out on a limb to say things have been epically bad for Raburn to start the season. In 27 at-bats so far on the season, Raburn has generated the offense of a sand gnat. And I am not talking one from the Mets minor league affiliate Savannah. Those guys could topple the kind of production the Tigers are getting from Raburn right now. Raburn has 2 hits so far for an anemic .074 batting average.
Batting average isn’t the be all end all in today’s sabremetric age, but since both hits were singles, and he drew his first two walks today, there is nothing I can give you to indicate anything positive with his numbers. To top it off, he semi-butchered a play out in RF today, and one can’t help but wonder if he is going to begin taking his early season struggles out to the outfield with him.
Now, I don’t want to go overboard here. It is just 27 at-bats, and we are only nine games into the baseball season. However, with Raburn’s history of slow starts, one has to be concerned. The Tigers other 2nd baseman, Ramon Santiago, is hitting only .091 early in the year, and well, we all know about the offensive prowess of that other guy (Brandon something…). The Tigers have enough production in the lineup, but it would be nice if that position wasn’t a completely vacuous spot in the order.
Raburn has been off to slow starts before. In fact, in Tigers fandom circles he is kind of famous for it, but it’s never been this bad. I was even a little surprised to see that April showers bring Raburn a career .215 BA, I thought it would’ve been better than that. The bigger surprised was its actually May that is far more terrible for Raburn. In May, Raburn has a career batting average of .169. One could argue that performance is due to getting sporadic at-bats, but one could also argue, you don’t get at-bats hitting .215 and .169.
So, while I scream at myself “sample size!!”, I can’t help but feel sorry for Raburn and his continued trouble when the games turn for real from March to April. At some point, you have to think this is the baseball version of stage fright. His OPS+ is actually a -43 right now according to Baseball Reference. I didn’t even know that was possible. I am not kidding here, I didn’t.
I’m cheering for Ryan Raburn to start having some early season success. I know there are guys out there that want to see him fail and shipped off to the waiver wire ala Clete Thomas. However, I have my reasons. Some pretty solid ones too. First, he is a Tiger, and him having success will help them have success. Second, him performing well will keep Brandon Inge off the field, so we won’t have to hear how pleased he was with his swings in his 0-4 performances. And lastly, it’s just tough to watch.
The good news is, the only for Raburn to go after this start is up. Well…at least until May.
*Just a side note. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Clete Thomas went 1-3 for Minnesota in his first game with 2 RBI and a homer off of Neftali Feliz. He also threw a runner out at the plate from RF. I don’t think Clete is an every day player, but it’s nice to see him get a chance.