Every day you'll find a look back at the 2014 season for one of the Indians or their key prospects, as we sort out what happened and what it means for the franchise going forward.
- Position: OF
- Age: 33
- Acquired: Signed as free agent prior to 2013 season; signed to two year extension covering 2014-15
Quick, among players with 200+ PA, who had the team's lowest AVG, OBP, SLG, wRC+, wOBA, and second lowest UZR/150? Unless you don't know what article you are reading, you probably figured out it was Ryan Raburn. Only Nick Swisher had a lower WAR, and that's because he played almost twice as much - Raburn's WAR is far, far worse, when taking playing time into account.
Raburn's 2013 season was one for the ages. Playing a part time role, he posted a .900 OPS with 16 HR and played excellent defense, spinning that performance into a two-year contract (with a team option for 2016 that looks pretty bad right now) and a presumed spot as a the RH half of a RF platoon. But a year after creating 2.4 WAR in 277 PA, Raburn absolutely bottomed out. He was, undeniably, the worst player on the Indians.
2014 saw Raburn play even less (212 PA) during which he posted -1.1 WAR. That means that Raburn alone was a three and a half win swing between the 2013 playoff team and the 2014 edition. So what happened?
For starters, he stopped walking. His K% barely moved (24.2% in '13 to 24.1% this year) but his BB% dropped from a solid 10.5% to a not-solid 6.1%. His BABIP went from .311 to .245. His great 2013 defense (4.5 UZR/150) became abysmal 2014 defense (-9.2). Instead of destroying left-handed pitching (184 wRC+) while handling right-handed pitching well (124 wRC+), he was abysmal against lefties (68) and only barely better than me against righties (29...ok, probably a lot better than me, but still).
Honestly, nothing sums up Raburn's season better than "the play":
On that day, Raburn almost single-handedly cost the Indians a game against the Royals in spectacular fashion. On the season, Raburn did an awful lot to keep the Indians behind the Royals in equally spectacular fashion. If the team had made the post-season, we might have looked back on that play - and Raburn's season - and laughed.
As it stands, that video causes no laughter for me.
2014 grade: F (if F- were a thing, this would be the time to use it)
Raburn is locked into a contract so I have to imagine he'll be on the Opening Day roster. And while the article above makes this sound like a terrible thing, here is where I surprise you. I think Raburn may bounce back. Not to 2013 levels, but closer to that than 2014. In 2013, Raburn swung less often than he previously had, particularly on pitches outside the zone, and made contact at a high rate. He kept his swinging strike rate steady. He put up one of his best seasons in terms of line drive rate, while hitting fewer fly balls (which helps every offensive stat, other than HR). In 2014, he maintained the all those gains, and spiked even higher in LD%. The power is not coming back, but the BABIP should, and if it does, you are back to having a solid RH bat to face LHP, something the Indians desperately need.