The last bit of snow is still clinging to the ground here in Grand Rapids, but it seems that the weather is taking a turn for the better. We hit the mid 50’s today, and tomorrow’s forecast calls for temperatures in the 60’s. It’s really starting to feel like baseball season is here. Unfortunately, we still have half a month to wait, but I thought a series of countdown posts would help us pass the time.
We’re pondering the number 15 today, which happens to be the number of home runs that Ryan Raburn clubbed last season.
After four consecutive seasons of part-time play (and part-time hitting), the Tigers finally are willing to give Raburn a full time job. The hope is that playing everyday will cause Raburn’s bat to stay “in the groove” (like it was last August and September). Even though his career in the batter’s box has been full of ups and downs, he’s still compiled career batting numbers that are better than average, and home runs are a big reason for it.
Through 1,079 career plate appearances, Raburn sports a .333 OBP, which is pretty much exactly average (.335 according to baseballreference.com), but he hits for more power than an average player would. Raburn has slugged .466 for his career, which is .045 better than the league during that time period.
A big portion of his better-than-average slugging percentage comes from the home run ball. Raburn has homered in 3.6% of his plate appearances in his career, which is a good bit better than the league average 2.7% mark. That 0.9% may seem small, but it’s just about equal to ten home runs in Raburn’s case. Ten extra homers in 981 career at-bats would boost a player’s slugging average by .041. That’s 91% of the difference between Raburn and the average player.
Last year Raburn got on base at a .340 clip and slugged .474. Now, an .814 OPS wouldn’t set Raburn too far apart from his peers around the league (as an outfielder), but it would provide a significant contribution to the club. Only Miguel Cabrera (1.042), Magglio Ordonez (.852), and Casper Wells (.901 in limited action) put up better OPS numbers.
I was a staunch Raburn “hater” until the end of the season last year when his hot bat made me eat my words. We’re all hoping that he skips the early season slump this year. If he can smooth out the production level, he’ll turn many of the remaining non-believers around.