Cleveland Indians: Ryan Raburn Has Been Key to Tribe’s Offense


Ryan Raburn Has Been Key to the Cleveland Indians’ Offense

Saying 2014 was a disappointing season for Ryan Raburn is an understatement. Both he and the Cleveland Indians were expecting a lot more after he signed a two-year extension the previous summer. He was coming off his best offensive season of his career.  In 2013, Raburn hit .272/.357/.543 with 16 HR and a 151 wRC+.  However, 2014 was a complete 180 as he hit just .200/.250/.297 with only 4 HR and a pathetic 54 wRC+.  There were many Tribe fans that were calling for Raburn to be cut all winter long and one could hardly blame them.  The Cleveland Indians though decided to stick with Raburn and they couldn’t be happier that they did.

Thru Sunday’s game Raburn .312/.368/.584 with 3 HR and 160 wRC+ in 77 at-bats.  More importantly, he is hitting left-handed pitching at a blistering pace, hitting .338/.390/.618 with 3 HR and 192 wRC+ in 68 at-bats.  Last season Raburn hit just .195 versus left-handed pitching with a mere an OPS under .600.  Yes, it’s early but a 400+ point turnaround in OPS versus left-handed pitching has been huge for the Indians.

It’s no secret that the Indians are a left-handed heavy hitting team:  Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Brandon Moss, Michael Bourn, and even David Murphy get a lot of playing time.  Throw in the fact that Yan Gomes missed a good chunk of the season with the knee injury and Nick Swisher started on the disabled list and the only other real right-handed threat is switch-hitter Carlos Santana.  Raburn has been a godsend from the right-side in the early going, and amazingly enough, heading into today’s game the Indians actually were hitting left-handed pitching better than right-handed pitching as a team (111 wRC+ vs 108 wRC+).

In fact, it would appear over the 2+ years that Raburn has been with the Indians, that as Raburn goes versus left-handed pitching, so to do the Indians:

[table id=19 /]
*2015 stats thru 5/31

No, I’m not truly saying it’s “all” Raburn that drives the Indians offense versus left-handed pitching.  In 2013, the Indians had guys like Drew Stubbs and even Mark Reynolds help out and Nick Swisher has been a big key as well. However, Raburn has really stepped up this year to the point he’s been the Tribe’s cleanup hitter versus lefties.

Odd-Year Raburn?

The hashtag “#OddYearRaburn” has become a fan favorite among Indians Twitter; however, is it truly an accurate one?  In the opinion of this writer the answer is a big “No”.  Sure it’s a fun little hashtag and anything that gets fans talking about the team is good but here’s how’s he’s hit versus lefties the last seven years:

[table id=20 /]
*2015 stats thru 5/31

In addition, 2010 was arguably one of his best overall years in his career as he posted his second best fWAR at 2.3.  In reality, Raburn simply crushes lefties when he’s healthy.  In 2012, he battled injuries and was eventually cut by the Tigers and last season he battled injuries most of the spring preventing him from ever getting anything going offensively.

Ryan “The Glove” Raburn

Maybe even more surprising than his offense this year has been Raburn’s defense.  While looking at defensive metrics in only a two month period can be dicey (small sample size issues), he does have a +2 DRS and +1.1 UZR in the OF this season. Ignoring the numbers and just going by the “eye test” it appears Raburn has been playing better as well.  Now no one is suggesting Raburn should be winning any Gold Gloves and at the end of the day he’s really only average at best in the outfield, but his play has been good enough to allow Francona to feel confident in putting him in LF and removing Bourn from games versus left-handed pitching, which has really helped the offense grow, without hurting the defense as much as it would have appeared to a few months ago.

With how Ryan Raburn has been playing this year, the Cleveland Indians may just have to actually consider picking up his 2016 option.  Show of hands how many thought that was a possibility heading into the 2015 season…