After just one month of play it is clear Cleveland Indians’ right fielder Ryan Raburn has naturally reverted back to the prior offensive production that plagued him with the Detroit Tigers. In 2012 as a Tiger, Raburn put together one of the most atrocious seasons in recent memory, starting off the season going 4-for-44 (.091). After licking his wounds, Raburn recaptured an old flame signing a minor league contract with the Tribe that led to a surprising .272/.357/.543 season, earning himself a two-year deal, $4.85 million extension.
Like a drinker falling off the wagon, Raburn plummeted in April down a lane mirroring his forgettable days in Detroit. This first month of play has the 33-year-old trending towards the worst offensive season the corner outfielder has ever logged. Raburn is doing just about everything wrong at the plate hitting .164/.217/.182 while sporting a 25 K%. Last season’s similar strikeout total (24.2%) was at least accompanied by a bat that was hitting for power (.543 SLG) on a consistent basis when given the opportunity.
Perhaps Raburn’s 2013 season came with a bit of luck taking advantage of new scenery to awaken his quiet plod that was once teetering on baseball exile. Since the honeymoon stage has passed, Raburn has left considerable doubt that last season’s production was legitimate entering spring ball.
Through 60 plate appearances Raburn hasn’t displayed any signs of at least league average play catering to a .179 wOBA, -6.9 offense rating and -.4 WAR. His contact rates have also dipped in comparison with to 2012 making contact with only 39.3% of pitches outside the strike zone (60% league average). Poor contact percentages supplementing his BB% of 6.7% is a clear indication Raburn is not seeing the ball well. The current state of his game is so unpredictable he is hitting .190 against righties and .140 opposite to left-handed pitchers. The only other season he hit righties better (minimum 200 PA) was his forgettable season in 2012.
If Raburn continues down this dreaded path, which I presume he will, the Indians will have an interesting determination to make about his future with the club. As David Murphy continues to play at a high level hitting .282/.360/.436, manager Terry Francona will be hard pressed to find any circumstance aside from handedness and rest to start Raburn in right field. In such a lefty-dominant lineup, Cleveland needs Raburn to at least play around league average to boost the batting order’s stock against left-handed pitching.