Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ryan Raburn or Don Kelly?

The Tigers are going to have to make a decision pretty soon when Andy Dirks comes off the DL.  They are going to have to make room on the 25-man roster and it might come down to either keeping Ryan Raburn or Don Kelly.  There is a 3rd option in sending down Quintin Berry, but he has become a fan favorite.  The Tigers released an official Berry jersey for fans to buy and it seems like he gotten enough clutch hits to earn a spot on the roster for at least the rest of the season. 

Neither Raburn nor Kelly have had much offensive production this year.  Raburn is hitting .172/.227/.255 with only 1 HR and12 RBI.  He was already sent to the minors once this year, right before his “veteran” clause kicked in that would allow him to refuse the assignment.  Since returning to the Tigers, Raburn has hit .217/.260/.333, which is better but a far cry from the 2nd half numbers we are used to seeing from him the last couple of years.  His sub-.500 OPS is even lower than his career .641 1st half OPS, suggesting that his 2nd half resurgence isn’t even going to happen this year.  And now that he can refuse an assignment to the minors, he isn't the obvious choice anymore.

Then there’s Don Kelly.  Kelly has never been on offensive juggernaut, hitting only .244/.282/.378 over the last 2 years.  However, this year he’s hit a pathetic .178/.272/.248, which is far below expectations. 

Of course, offensive has always been secondary to Kelly as his true talents have always been flexibility and defense.  He has mainly played in the OF this year, but has also filled in the infield.  His DRS and UZR have shown him to be an average to an above average defensive player.  But his defense might not help him this time, as he has regressed as he’s gotten older and his dWAR is only at -0.1 this year. 

Raburn also has flexibility, playing 2B and OF this year.  He was forced out of the 2B position when the Tigers acquired Omar Infante, but Leyland expressed that he still wanted to play Raburn in LF when there’s a left-hander on the mound.  Quintin Berry has struggled against lefties this year, only hitting .224/.240/.367 against them, so Leyland may want to continue benching him when a left-hander starts.

As far as Raburn’s defense is concerned, he’s been bad at 2B, with a -3 DRS and -2.2 UZR this year (-18 DRS and -16.6 UZR career).  Although, he has been better in the OF (even though people only seem to remember the HR he helped assist).  With Ramon Santiago now back to a fulltime back-up infielder, Raburn might now only be seen as an outfielder.  That helps Kelly’s case as he can do both OF and INF, but Raburn is a right-handed bat.  Kelly, Berry and Dirks are all left-handed hitters.  Leyland might want to keep Raburn around just so he can go to a right-hander when a southpaw is on the mound.

If it were my choice – flip a coin.  Neither one is going to have that much of an impact.  Both have been below replacement level, Raburn at a -1.3 fWAR, -1.8 rWAR and Kelly at -0.5 fWAR, -0.5 rWAR.  Neither one is going to be the first choice off the bench.  Santiago will handle the back-up infield positions and Berry will handle the back-up outfield positions (assuming Dirks is handed the LF position). 

Both Kelly and Raburn are Leyland guys, so my guess on what the Tigers will do is to delay this inevitable decision and send pitcher Darin Downs back to the minors.  Dombrowski rarely goes with less than 12 pitchers, but with the acquisition of Anibal Sanchez, the Tigers are deep in starting rotation.  When Drew Smyly gets healthy and comes back, then the Raburn/Kelly decision will be made.  Maybe by then, something else will happen (like another injury or trade) that will delay the decision even further.  After all, this is such a tough decision as both Kelly and Raburn are so close to equal value.  


  1. With the starters getting in a lot of innings lately, your Downs theory may hold water. Didn't think of that.

  2. DFA Raburn
    Dirks is everyday LF
    DY is DH