15 May 2012
The title of the post is a little bit tongue-in-cheek, Ryan Raburn’s “streak” is only three games, but the Tigers have been starved for any sort of batting production out of the second base position that it seems like more. No one can deny how big his three-run homer in the sixth inning was pivotal in Detroit’s improbable 10-8 come-from-behind win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday afternoon, but his wRC+ for the year stands at just 24 (meaning his batting value stands at just 24% of league average for the season).
I don’t think even the most ardent Raburn ‘haters’ think he’ll continue to hit this poorly all season long – his career numbers say he’s really an average (to slightly above) hitter – but the question remains: when will he start to hit?
Raburn has now started slowly in the early months for the third consecutive year, but he’s always turned it around in the past. Is his recent success a sign that he’s turned the corner? It’s impossible to say for sure, but here’s a look at his recent numbers:
The Hitting Streak
Raburn’s current three game hitting streak has netted him a triple slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .385/.429/.692 with a strikeout rate around 21% and a walk rate just above 7%. Obviously the slash line is amazing, but the strikeout and walk rates are also a bit better than his career norms (although still both a bit worse than league average). But Raburn’s probably been a bit lucky with on balls in play over this stretch. His BABIP in the three games is .444, and while his line drive rate is a stout 33%, he’s also hit a lot of fly balls (58%) and not much on the ground (11%) (fly balls tend to end up as outs much more than line drives or even ground balls). This sort of batted ball distribution would lead to an expected BABIP more in the .350 neighborhood (very roughly calculated). But I won’t hold the extra luck against him too much, his .203 season BABIP can’t all be the result of poor hitting.
It’s clear that Raburn has been hitting the ball better lately, but is this just an isolated sequence of events? I’m not going to say for sure (that’s why they play the games), but just for fun, let’s go back a few more games and look at his stats.
Last Seven Games
The numbers for Ryan Raburn get weaker the farther we go back, but if we add another four games, we find that he’s hit safely in five of the past seven games. The slash line isn’t quite as good: .250/.300/.429, but at least his career-level power has been around for the last week or so. His walk rate (6.7%), home run rate (3.3%), and extra-base hit rate (10%) are all nearly dead-nuts on his career averages. That’s a very encouraging sign.
And even though his batting average and on-base percentages are showing up a bit low, his batted ball distribution (namely 29% line drives) suggest that his .286 BABIP has been subject to poor luck compared to a .330 expected BABIP (again, roughly calculated using his batted ball types). Turning one out into a single would have bumped his average up to .286 and his OBP up to .333.
A week is only a drop in the bucket when it comes to an entire season, but the fact that the Tigers have had career Raburn around for seven games (with the possible exception of one single) is a positive.
Trying to definitively conclude that Raburn is “back” would be a fool’s errand (trying to say anything definitively about him would be foolish, the man is an enigma), but the Tigers have seen some encouraging signs of late. The numbers start to get poor quickly when going back even just three more games to look at his last ten (his OPS falls all the way to .621), but perhaps is time for us to quit looking back at how poorly he’s played this year, and start looking forward to how well he could start to hit.
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.