At the beginning of the 2011 season, Ryan Raburn began the season as the Detroit Tigers’ starting left fielder. He earned himself the job by finishing strongly in the 2nd half of 2010, and also earned himself two years of arbitration being bought out as well. The question at that point for most fans was, could he handle the job full-time? Raburn had shown unquestionable brilliance in the batters box once July rolls around, but the early months were a completely different story. Some fans chalked that up to a lack of consistent at-bats in April and May. Other fans just figured that Raburn was like a hibernating bear, and didn’t wake up until things were warm.
Either way, his tantalizing 2nd halves are like a peep show of sorts, equal parts excitement and frustration.
The inexplicable splits have played themselves out again in 2011. It’s actually quite phenomenal and becoming a little laughable even. In the first half this year, Raburn had a batting average of .213 with an OPS of .609, striking out in 33% of his at-bats. That is so unbelievably bad for a LF (or any player for that matter), I am not sure where to begin. It certainly didn’t endear him to Tigers fans, and he has been a whipping boy for it most of the year, especially considering he plays pretty poor defense. I know, his advanced metrics like UZR will tell you different, but he scores well because of range and his arm. His glove might have some concrete in it. The eye test tells us he is merely average out there at best in left field, and terrible at second base.
In the 2nd half, much like it was last year, and for his entire career, Raburn has once again been demolishing the baseball. In 2011, Raburn is hitting .327 in the 2nd half, while carrying an OPS of .931. That OPS is so outstanding, it would be one of the tops in the league for leftfielders if he could do it throughout a whole season. For his career, Raburn always turns things up in July, and has a 2nd half slash line of .296/.345/.493 for a career 2nd half OPS of .893. Raburn’s 2nd halves are statistically comparable with what Josh Hamilton and Alex Gordon have produced this season. Those are two pretty good players. This is why the Tigers keep giving him opportunities, and why he teases us fans.
With the addition of Delmon Young to the Tigers organization in August, it is unlikely that Raburn will begin the 2012 season as the everyday LF again. I don’t know what the Tigers will do with Young, but at the very least they have to be smart enough at this point to realize Raburn just can’t get things going until the summer is in full force. At the very least, you can’t count on him as an everyday player. If he does get a shot as an everyday player come April 2012, its probably going to be at 2nd base, and that’s only if GM David Dombrowski doesn’t fill that need from elsewhere in the off-season.
Make no mistake, Ryan Raburn has some utility on this team looking ahead to 2012,and maybe beyond. He has some pop in his bat, he runs rather well, and he has a strong arm in the outfield if he can get the ball to stick in the glove. I am not going to be fooled by this guy again though as an everyday option, at least not until about mid-July.
Maybe the Tigers should just look into genetically engineering one player out of Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn. One has dominant first halves, one has dominant second halves. Put them together and you probably have the best offensive LF in the game of baseball. Or, maybe you just utilize them that way.
Given that Raburn is a 2nd half player, I expect he will do something real good come October. Then again…..it is cold that time of year.