May 7, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians right fielder Ryan Raburn (9) doubles in the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Raburn: 2014 Cleveland Indians Player Profile


Indians Won the Lottery with Ryan Raburn in 2013

“Doesn’t anyone stay dead anymore?”

From 2011 to 2012, Ryan Raburn was, in every baseball sense, dead. He posted a 73 OPS+ over those two years, averaging 320 plate appearances with eight homers and a 17/84 BB/K ratio per season. Over those two years he was worth -1.8 bWAR and -0.7fWAR. He was really bad, and the Tigers were happy to see him go despite his “good dude” reputation. He was going to be a bench player for the Tribe much like he was with the Tigers, as much a reclamation project as anything.

Then something happened. To wit, he started destroying the ball. In April he posted a .320/.370/.620 slash line with four homers, giving Mark Reynolds a Little Buddy to help carry the offense while everyone else got on track. Raburn never really cooled down either – he batted .186 in July but bolstered that with a healthy walk rate and another four homers to bolster a .512 SLG. His OPS was over 1.000 through July and August. In short, Raburn was reborn in Cleveland, a power hitting, relief pitching, platooning destructobot. He was pretty great, here are his stats in total:

 

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

SB

BB%

K%

wOBA

wRC+

fWAR

2013 Stats

277

.272

.357

.543

16

0

10.5

24.2

.389

152

2.5

He exceeded his career averages in every single rate stat and was on pace to set personal records in every counting stat were he not locked in platoon land. It was really cool. His splits weren’t even bad for a platoon guy, packing a 1.020 OPS versus lefties as opposed to .806 against righties. Suffice to say, Ryan Raburn was a heap of found money for the Indians, and 2013 wouldn’t have been possible without him. Literally. The Earth would have stopped spinning.

“Killian, I’ll be back.” “Only in a rerun.”

So naturally, Indians fans expect something similar out of Mr. Raburn as 2014 dawns. It’s understandable – hope is a great thing and he’s got a past of being pretty good, at least. We all understand he’s going to be a platoon guy so perhaps the counting numbers will be down, but trust in Francona has permeated the fan base as it has the team, and most fans I’ve talked to have been pretty positive about what they expect from him. Let’s take a look at some projections though:

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

SB

BB%

K%

wOBA

wRC+

fWAR

Steamer

365

.239

.302

.407

12

2

7.5

25.3

.312

99

0.8

Oliver

600

.236

.309

.413

21

1

8.5

26.3

.317

102

1.6

ZiPS

317

.233

.297

418

11

1

7.3

26.5

.313

99

0.3

Merritt

325

.255

.330

.475

10

2

9.1

25.1

.345

130

1.3

Before I say anything else, isn’t it amazing Raburn was worth 2.5 WAR last season considering he only played in about half the games? It’s crazy, he was insane there for a while. Anyway, as you can see, the three projection systems I gathered from Fangraphs think Raburn is going to crash and burn this season, far below career numbers and into something resembling his last two years in Detroit.

As for me? I know he won’t be playing in that many games, I dunno where Oliver gets off thinking he’s going to have 600 plate appearances with David Murphy on the team, but I think he’ll be pretty good. His walk rate was crazy last year, and though I don’t think he’ll sit in that 10-plus percentage point, I don’t think it’ll drop that precipitously. Ditto with the power – he’s not a thunderer up there, but the bat made noise and he was used properly (and also, judging from his home run log, benefiting from eating bad pitchers) and there’s some reason to believe in the power of Francona. Honestly, he might not crack 300 PA’s, but I’m optimistic by nature.

“Between your faith and my Glock nine millimeter, I’ll take the Glock.”

Raburn might epitomize the optimism of the Indians and their fan base in 2014. Last season gave us hope he can recreate what he did and faith in the abilities of the coaching staff. All that can be wonderful, or it can be poisonous, the expectations can crush our spirit if unrealized.

Do I hope Raburn repeats last year? Damn right, but that creeping realism, cynicism if you will, won’t let me get too expectant. There were times he carried the offense last year, but Ryan Raburn has to be a wonderful extra for this team, not a keystone. That’s what Kipnis, Santana and Swisher are for. But by all means, buy the guy’s jersey, or at least sherzy, he’s a cool cat and he deserves our support.

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