Ryan Raburn Wishes August Would Never End

On Friday, I posted about how Miguel Olivo‘s horrific August dramatically changed his seasonal line, and what should (and shouldn’t) be concluded from that situation. Today, I want to look at a player whose seasons has taken the opposite path: the Detroit Tigers’ Ryan Raburn.

Back at the end of June, I suggested that the Tigers should be prepared to give some of Brennan Boesch‘s playing time to Raburn. To put it mildly, that statement did not meet with universal agreement. It is easy to see why that was the case. Through the end of June, Raburn’s seasonal line was .211/.290/.358, and Boesch’s was .332/.380/.602. I can’t take credit for figuring anything out, really. But CHONE still had faith in Raburn’s bat on the strength of previous performance, he hadn’t had that many PA so far in 2010, and Boesch’s overall minor league track record and major league BABIP in 2010 both suggested that he was playing over his head. This isn’t a post about Boesch, so I won’t belabor the point, but almost immediately after that post (at which point his wOBA well was over .400) he put up a .265 wOBA (.209/.311.253) in July and a .234 wOBA (.185/.227/.304) in August. Boesch’s seasonal wOBA is still a respectable .336, but expectations have probably been tempered quite a bit.

As I wrote above, though, this is about Raburn, not Boesch. While Raburn was okay in April (.333 wOBA), he was absolutely dreadful in May (.117), recovered a bit in June (.339), but was still horrible in July (.247). Then August rolled around, and Raburn busted out a .408 wOBA (.308/.357/.606), including 8 home runs. The hot streak hsa continued into the first few games of September, and raised his previously putrid seasonal line to a respectable .339 wOBA (.257/.323/.457). It’s worth noting that Raburn got about twice as many plate appearances in August (112) has he did in any other month. This isn’t to say that “consistent playing time” are what caused his streak, but simply that it is the reason one hot month was able to change his seasonal line so dramatically from the where he was at at the end of July: .211/.287/.329.

This isn’t about cherry-picking August as Raburn’s true talent or dismissing it as a “fluke.” Rather, it’s about a) accepting whatever a player’s “true talent” may be, his performance will be distributed more or less unevenly through time, and b) the old “small sample size” issue (in this case, in relation to impatience with Raburn after his first ~200 PA this season). It isn’t as if Raburn had never hit in the majors before. Yes, in 2008 he was terrible in the majors (.295 wOBA), but in only 199 PA, and the year before he was good (.365 wOBA) in almost as many PA (148). The most recent sample in 2009 was also the largest (291 PA), and he had an impressive .378 wOBA (.291/.359/.533), showing a decent amount of walks and very impressive power (.241 ISO).

Despite his ups-and-downs early in the season, Raburn’s overall 2010 line shows that 2009 was not simply a fluke. Yes, it was probably above his true talent level, but if he had a 8.9% walk rate in 2009, a 7.1% rate isn’t hard to believe for 2010. Just because most of his power came in August doesn’t mean that his very good .200 ISO in 2010 is less believable than his .241 in 2009. Taking into account his performance so far in 2010, both ZiPS RoS and CHONE’s August 28 update see Raburn as a solidly above-average hitter.

Raburn isn’t a long-term solution in the Tigers’ outfield. He’s 29 years old. He has been platooned pretty heavily in the majors, although not so much this season, and properly estimating his platoon skill shows that his split isn’t much larger than average and that he can hold his own against RHP. He’s been moved around defensively, he’s probably about average in left field — average left fielders are generally in left field because they aren’t impressive looking defensively.

Still, Raburn’s bat is good enough that combined with his outfield skills he’s probably about an average player (~2 WAR over a full season), and could make a decent stopgap starter or very good fourth outfielder. He’s going into his first year of arbitration, and probably will get an award that makes him quite affordable for at least one year. One great month isn’t enough to radically change our evaluation of any player, but in context, it should be enough to keep Raburn from being an automatic non-tender.



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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.


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Unnamed
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Unnamed
5 years 11 months ago

Did you just say Raburn had outfield skills.

Excuse me while I lol.

Firesign Theatre aficianado
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Firesign Theatre aficianado
5 years 11 months ago

Raburn is a Leyland favorite. Not as much playing time early when Boesch was hitting. He is probably better suited in the N.L. but if any of those teams check fangraphs they will see his best position is leftfield.
He is a butcher at second and third.
Some days like most of August he is called Ryan Raburn, other times when he makes an error like today he is called mudhen, in reference to being a AAAA player.

gnomez
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gnomez
5 years 11 months ago

Don’t you just mean “He is a butcher?” Maybe he could play first for a really, really bad team, or be an NL bench bat.

RPS
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RPS
5 years 11 months ago

Having seen a lot a Raburn, he is nowhere near average in left. He has a well above-average arm and good speed, but he gets terrible reads and has a predilection to dive for balls he has no chance to get. He also has a far more than acceptable rate of balls just plain bouncing off of his glove.

The Nicker
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The Nicker
5 years 11 months ago

Raburn is not a good fielder, but neither is standard left fielder in the majors. Raburn is an average left fielder.

Ian
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Ian
5 years 11 months ago

No…Raburn is exceptionally poor in left field…RPS had it right. We have seen the terrible likes of Craig Monroe, Gary Sheffield, Marcus Thames, Carlos Guillen, et al roam LF the past 5 years, and Raburn is the most Helen Kellerish of that lot. I have wasted entire games screaming at Raburn to charge the ball, or get back to the wall, or to run more to his left, because he legitimately has no clue where the ball is going. He is reasonably athletic…good arm, he’s not slow…so maybe he’ll have some kind of GPS system installed in his brain this offseason to enable him to track flyballs in 2011 with more competence.

WhatLeylandNoooo
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WhatLeylandNoooo
5 years 11 months ago

Raburn also makes an abnormal amount of baserunning mistakes for one player. Couple that with his penchant for making perplexing reads on fly balls that has been mentioned already in these comments and Raburn’s pretty much the “dumbest” baseball player I’ve seen or really just lacks any sense of spatial recognition and awareness.

Lee Panas
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5 years 11 months ago

A lot of Tigers fans think Raburn is a joke defensively and he does look really bad sometimes. I think his range and arm make up for his awkward plays though. I think he’s an average left fielder defensively. Since many left fielders are bad, that’s not really a compliment.

Good call on Boesch and Raburn Matt. Many Tigers fans were enraged when you said that. Even I was a skeptical, but you got it right.

Lee

WhatLeylandNoooo
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WhatLeylandNoooo
5 years 3 months ago

Hmm

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