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.