When the upstart Cleveland Indians visit the Detroit Tigers tonight for the first time in 2013, their lineup will be packing a very familiar, polarizing face.
Ryan Raburn, who struggled to stick in Detroit’s lineup and often failed at the plate and in the field when he did, seems to have completely rejuvenated his career early this season. A change of scenery was all Raburn needed, and the player who struggled to consistently hit with the Tigers has blasted out to a .329 start with four home runs and 11 RBI, numbers which certainly grab the eye early this season.
What’s all of this mean? Count on Raburn to be slowly trotting the bases this weekend at Comerica Park at least once. Count on perhaps one improbable sliding catch and a few clutch hits. After all, the first law of the baseball universe seems to be released players will always find more success elsewhere, and if the teams should meet, it often happens at Detroit’s expense.
How else can you explain Jason Grilli, a former Tiger pitcher assigned to mop up duty in middle innings having an astounding 13 saves and a 1.26 ERA? Those numbers would look mighty nice at the back end of Detroit’s bullpen now. Last season’s version of Grilli was Fernando Rodney, who collected 48 saves with a miniscule 0.60 ERA. Shockingly, Rodney collected American League comeback player of the year honors and was an all-star last season. It was nothing but stressful to watch each pitch during their time in Detroit.
At this rate, the Tigers probably shouldn’t release anybody else considered a borderline talent. Raburn’s potential success in this scenario, though, has a chance to sting the most. When he was inserted into the Tigers’ lineup, he never asserted himself with the right mix of consistent hitting and defense. Many badly wanted to believe in Raburn every season, but after so many missteps, it became impossible, leading to the popular decision to finally send him packing this past offseason.
Raburn, of course, could always eventually come back down to earth statistically. His career statistics suggest that this uncommonly hot start is merely an aberration. Raburn’s best year in Detroit across the board was a 16 home run, 45 RBI season in which he hit .291, not inspiring much confidence that he can stay hot forever in 2013. There’s always one player who exceeds his normal career expectations from April to May, and certainly, Raburn would seem to be the best candidate for this in 2013.
Tigers’ fans will have to hope Raburn’s downward slide begins in earnest this weekend against Detroit’s much hotter pitching staff. Otherwise, they’ll have another reason to say “here we go again” as it results to a Tiger reject finding great success elsewhere after flaming out in the Motor City. Naturally, everyone will also begin to lament what his statistics may look like in the lineup.
In this case, Raburn’s release could become the most painful situation of all, especially if his success comes at Detroit’s expense in just a few of the 18 times the Indians and Tigers will play this summer.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax