Saturday, June 25, 2011

Introducing Your Second Baseman, Ryan Raburn! Seriously?

Two years ago the Detroit Tigers allowed their All Star second baseman Placido Polanco to walk away from the team without even offering him a contract. General Manager Dave Dombrowski explained that the Tigers did not tender Polanco a contract because they had their franchise second baseman in Scott Sizemore. After injuries shortened his 2010 campaign, Sizemore was given two months on the big league team before Dombrowski traded him away for a bullpen pitcher. And who did the Tigers have to play at second base that was better than Sizemore? Ryan Raburn of course. Seriously, he was their choice.

Raburn had been with the club since the beginning of 2007, mostly playing in the outfield and drawing the ire of Tigers fans. He takes poor routes to balls in the air, misplays them when they're on the ground and even allows fly balls to hop off his glove and into the bullpen for home runs. In general, he's a AAA player at the major league level.

But nevertheless, the powers that be have named him the Tigers starting second baseman for the foreseeable future. Not because he is the have proved that he deserves the starting job, but because the Tigers literally don't have anyone better at the position. Raburn is below average at best playing at second base, and manager Jim Leyland knows it, which is why Raburn is frequently subbed out for Ramon Santiago late in games.

A look at Raburn's stats proves that he should be nowhere near the starting lineup for the Tigers. Currently he is batting just above the Mendoza Line by the slightest of margins. With a batting average of .201 Raburn is doing little to nothing positive for the ball club. And as a batter he has posted a -12 Rbat, or the number of runs better or worse than the average hitter. Not to mention he is a -4 in the oRAR, offensive runs above replacement level.

But his offensive woes could be forgotten if he had a good glove in the field (see Brandon Inge). Only problem with that is that he is just as mediocre defensively as he is with the bat. In several important statistical categories Raburn falls well below the average mark for most second basemen; in Rtot, or Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average, he has a -9. Which means that among all second basemen Raburn has surrendered nine more runs than the average player. And his Rdrs, Defensive Runs Saved Above Average, Raburn has an incredible -14, meaning that while playing second base he costs the Tigers 14 runs a season.

Stats like Raburn's show that he is a weakness for the Tigers, and in a what will be a close American League Central race Detroit cannot afford to keep fielding a player that consistently costs them runs and possibly games. For example, in the June 24 game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Raburn was unable to field an easy double-play ball that lead to the inning being extended and the Tigers giving up three runs. 

Fans in Detroit have recognized that Raburn is a weakness for the Tigers and have taken to booing him at Comerica Park, which lead Leyland to comment that it is tough to get Tigers fans to boo a player. Meaning that Raburn has performed at such a level that the normally forgiving and understanding Tigers fans have turned on him and want him off the team.

While Raburn has been identified as a big problem for this club, the problem of trying to replace him still remains. His struggles are not just obvious to people in Detroit, surely GM's across the league have noticed and trying to trade him for anyone of value is simply ludicrous. The Tigers may go after a second baseman at the trade deadline, but don't expect them to trade Raburn for the likes of Jose Reyes. A more likely deal would include Raburn and a few prospects for a player such as an Adam Kennedy or Jack Wilson. Might as well trade Raburn for a bucket of baseballs, at least the Tigers can get some use out of the baseballs.

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