May 2, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers second baseman Ryan Raburn (25) at bat as Kansas City Royals catcher Brayan Pena (27) catches at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

The 2nd Base/Ryan Raburn Situation: My Thoughts and Speculation

Ryan Raburn is struggling.  This we all know.  His current slash line reads: .146/.209/.211/.420.  You don’t need me to tell you that this is absolutely horrendous.  Has he been the victim of bad luck?  Perhaps somewhat, but as his 0-4 with 3 strikeouts looking yesterday shows, he’s really just not seeing the ball very well at all right now.  His swing has always had holes in it, but they seem to be bigger this season.  His hands are slow, his backside is weak, he is collapsing his front side, and he’s just not tracking the ball.  To make a long story short, he’s struggling.

So what should be done?  Most people seem to fall into the “Demote Raburn” camp, but the issue with demoting Raburn is that you really don’t have a big improvement waiting in the wings.  Santiago and Worth may be defensive upgrades at 2B, but are by no means 2009 Placido Polanco offensively.  Santiago/Worth combined are hitting .198.  Their combined OBP?  .259.  Yes, both of these numbers are upgrades over what Raburn is doing this season, but not by much.  If you’re OK with essentially still having a black hole in the order at 2B, then you belong in the “Demote Raburn” camp.  But people, that’s really not going to solve our problems. 

Aside from the “Demote Raburn” camp, there are still a few options left.  The 1st option would probably be the “Stay the Course” option, which would consist of basically continuing to play Raburn mostly everyday, as Leyland has done, usually at 2B but occasionally in the OF as well.  I have no doubt that Raburn will figure it out, because his track record has shown that he will.  Look at the 2nd halves of the past 3 seasons.  He’s shown a very good ability to hit for average, as well as for power.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that we shouldn’t be surprised that he is struggling thus far in 2012, his track record shows that he is a slow starter.  My biggest issue with the “Stay the Course” option is how long?  How long should we wait for him to get going?  We sure can’t leave him out there with an OPS of .420 consistently for the next 2 months.  But if the Tigers decide to stick with him, how long should they give him to stick it out?  2 weeks?  A month?  3 games?  It’s impossible to say for sure.  This morning on 97.1 The Ticket (Sports Talk Radio in Detroit), Jim Leyland was interviewed on the morning show, and basically said that Raburn has a “short leash”.  What is a “short leash”?  20 ABs?  40?  Who knows.  Like I said, I have little doubt that Raburn will get it going eventually, but we also can’t run a .420 OPS out there for 60 games while he figures it out.

Option 3 would be to trade for someone.  But the question is, who do you trade for and what are you willing to give up?  I’m fine with selling the farm for Robinson Cano, but guess what?  The Yankees aren’t trading him for Castellanos and Turner.  I’d be fine with acquiring a mediocre, offensively and defensively capable 2nd baseman, a la Kelly Johnson or Howie Kendrick, but we would have to overpay for them.  I’m not going to trade a top tier prospect for a decent 2nd basemen.  There has been talk around the Twitterverse lately about acquiring Rickie Weeks from Milwaukee.  A guy who has some power and some speed, isn’t bad in the field, and could fit right into the lineup in the bottom 3rd of the order.  All of that looks great on the surface, but let’s take a look at his numbers this season.  Through 45 games, Weeks has a slash line of .156/.290/.293/.583, with 5 HR and 2 SB.  Not exactly overly productive, right?  While yes, a .583 OPS is a big improvement over the .420 that Raburn is posting, it still wouldn’t be worthy of hitting any higher than 9th in the Tigers lineup.  Furthermore, remember that Weeks is posting these numbers in the National League, and would almost surely struggle more if he came to the American League.

In closing, I want nothing to do with Weeks.  I don’t think he would be that much of an improvement, honestly.  For the time being, I am placing myself firmly in the “Stay the Course” camp, because I believe that Raburn will turn it around like he always does.  But I reserve the right to switch to the “Demote Raburn” camp, should his struggles continue.  I don’t believe that we can have a .420 OPS black hole in our lineup everyday for the extended future.  Personally, I would give Raburn about 3 weeks or so to figure it out, or 60-80 AB’s.  If he can’t get it going, demote him and live with Worth/Santiago for awhile.  If Raburn doesn’t hit the ball like he’s capable of in Triple A, then you explore the trade possibility as we get closer to July 31st (trade deadline).

Please feel free to comment on here or contact me on twitter @B_Sakowski with your thoughts on the matter.  I would love to debate the subject.

Go Tigers!

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Tags: Danny Worth Detroit Tigers Ramon Santiag Rickie Weeks Ryan Raburn

  • littlestclouds

     Rabble rabble Raburn rabble.
    Actually, I’m with you (as you probably expected). There’s not much they can do right now unless a better option turns up.

    • BSakowski

      @littlestclouds I appreciate the support. And people need to realize that it’s not like we have a 22 year old 2nd baseman in Toledo tearing it up

      • ChrisHannum

         @BSakowski  @littlestclouds We do have 27 and 29 year old second basemen in Toledo tearing it up…

  • ChrisHannum

    This should be the topic of the week around the Tiger-net.  I would  have written this piece myself, if you hadn’t beaten me to it.  I agree that trade upgrades are probably going to be mediocre and costly, but were I the GM I’d at least be sending out feelers to LA over Maicer Izturis.  They already locked up Kendrick and Aybar and have Trumbo and Callaspo at third, so Izturis is a backup making $3.8 million in his walk year.
    I’d say that Raburn needs to be demoted immediately – he does have an option.  The difference between what he has done offensively and what other struggling players have done is a bit like the difference between what we “expected” from Raburn and Miguel Cabrera.  Other Tiger flailers have shown some positive signs lately, like Boesch, Young and Santiago.  A platoon of Santiago and Worth looks like a stopgap, but still an improvement.  The Tigers loaded up on AAAA second basemen at Toledo this year – so far we’ve only seen one of them (Worth), but Justin Henry, Matt Young and Eric Patterson are still kicking around down there.

    • BSakowski

      @ChrisHannum I guess I don’t really disagree with anything you said, and I’m sorry I unconsciously stole your story idea haha. But I suppose that I’m still leery of an immediate demotion because I’m just hoping it “clicks” for him, and we’ve seen what can happen when he’s hitting (carrying the team, namely). But as I said, I don’t really disagree with what you said

      • ChrisHannum

         @BSakowski  @ChrisHannum I don’t know about “stole my idea”, I think of it more as saving me an hour of writing.  I definitely wouldn’t advocate simply getting rid of him (though many fans do), but since there’s no risk of that I’d rather bank on calling him up again as soon as it appears to be clicking.  And seriously… look at Justin Henry’s numbers in the month of May…

        • BSakowski

          @ChrisHannum Yes I’ve been rolling around the Justin Henry idea in my head for a little while now, but seeing as he plays all over, how does he profile as a major league 2nd baseman defensively?

        • ChrisHannum

           @BSakowski  @ChrisHannum A 4.7 range factor at second seems OK.

  • jgorosh

    Raburn can be demoted up until June 7. That’s when he accrues 5 years of service time, and can veto a demotion.

    • BSakowski

      @jgorosh Ahhh well then. I suppose my opinion would change to “give Raburn until June 7th to get it going” then

  • jimbone

    Justin Henry.