Cleveland Indians 2013 in Review: Ryan Raburn turns his career around in a new organization

This makes up for Rocky Colavito, Norm Cash, and Jhonny Peralta (not really) - Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The regular (but not quite regular) fixture in the 2013 lineup.

Ryan Raburn

Right Field, Left Field, Second Base

Age: 32

2013 Salary: $1M

2014 Contract Status: $2.25M (2015: $2.25M, 2016: $3.0M team option)

In 70 years, when Baseball-Reference will be only available via brain implant, some enterprising baseball researcher will come across Ryan Raburn's entry and see this page page directly via his optic nerve....

Year Age Tm G PA R 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2004 23 DET 12 31 4 1 0 0 2 15 .138 .194 .172 .366 -1
2007 26 DET 49 148 28 12 2 4 8 33 .304 .340 .507 .847 118
2008 27 DET 92 199 26 10 1 4 16 49 .236 .298 .368 .666 75
2009 28 DET 113 291 44 11 2 16 26 60 .291 .359 .533 .891 130
2010 29 DET 113 410 54 25 1 15 27 92 .280 .340 .474 .814 118
2011 30 DET 121 418 53 22 2 14 21 114 .256 .297 .432 .729 96
2012 31 DET 66 222 14 14 0 1 13 53 .171 .226 .254 .480 29
2013 32 CLE 87 277 40 18 0 16 29 67 .272 .357 .543 .901 153
8 Yrs 653 1996 263 113 8 70 142 483 .258 .317 .445 .762 103
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/8/2013.

.

..and wonder, "what the heck happened between 2012 and 2013?"

The transaction log will say that the Tigers non-tendered Raburn, and the Indians signed him to a minor-league contract. They will see that Raburn was outrighted at one point during the 2012, but was brought back in September. They will not see a Disabled List entry, as Raburn was healthy the entire season. So how do you explain the awful 2012 and the outstanding 2013?

The short answer is that you can't just by looking at the stats and the transaction logs. And I don't think I can really explain things even having listened to Raburn interviews and having read Raburn stories throughout the season. But for those intrepid baseball researchers of 2083, here's my educated guess:

  • Ryan Raburn played every day at second base for the Tigers in the first half of 2012.
  • In 2012 he got off to a bad start and could never mentally get back on track
  • He had been with the Tigers his entire career (2001-2012), and just needed a change of secenery
  • Terry Francona recognized that Raburn needed regular (but not everyday) playing time, and stuck to that plan throughout the season.
  • Sample size

Take any combination of those reasons, and you could construct a compelling argument for why Raburn was so bad in 2012 but so good in 2013. Well, except for that last one, because "sample size" doesn't make for a compelling narrative, does it?

2013 in Review Hub: Your destination for Let's Go Tribe's look at key prospects and players from the Indians in 2013

Baseball has a 162-game season, and very few players are able to play every day. So you need a good group of reserves to give players days off, or to provide favorable matchups from time to time. Raburn shared right field with Drew Stubbs, though he wasn't a platoon player per se. Terry Francona would play Raburn against all manner of pitchers, but the one thing he didn't do was to bench Drew Stubbs and play Raburn every day. There were two reasons for this: one, Drew Stubbs is a much better defender than Ryan Raburn, and two, he believed that playing Raburn every day would wear him down. So even when Raburn got hot, he would still sit at least 2-3 times a week. Resisting that temptation to just go with the hot hand had to be difficult for Francona to do, but ultimately it helped the team. When Raburn got hurt at the end of the season, the Indians needed Stubbs, and because he had played consistently throughout the season, he did a tolerable job as an regular player.

Perhaps recognizing that his role will be a reserve player, Raburn signed an extension with the Indians during the season. He could have become a free agent, and undoubtedly would have gotten more money on the free agent, but he chose to stick around, perhaps because Francona had gotten the most out of him and he trusted him to do so in the future.

Ryan Raburn has in the past played a number of positions, so he isn't necessarily tied to right field. If the Indians acquired an everyday right fielder, then Raburn would play somewhere else, or rotate between positions. He could play some second base, some third base, even some first base, depending on how the starting lineup is configured. But regardless of where he plays, he will a regular (but not quite regular) fixture in the Indians lineup.

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