Laurel Wilder | On 30, May 2015
Throughout recent seasons, there have been quite a few endearing hashtags that fans have used to show their interest in the Indians good, bad, and bizarre happenings. From player nicknames such as “#Slamtana” to “#CyKluber” or “#Klubot,” to team taglines like “#TribeTime” or “#windians,” Twitter has been populated with recurring phrases throughout nearly every game. This year is no exception, and has brought about a hashtag that is really the only way to explain one of the bizarre, yet welcomed, strong player performances happening this season:
The phrase is two-fold. Yes, Ryan Raburn is having an odd year in that he has surged back onto the scene following an at times disastrous 2014 (#TheSpike), but, moreover, Raburn is setting a bizarre precedent – his best performances come during odd-numbered years.
Let’s look at the numbers. When Raburn joined the squad in 2013, he was coming off a 2012 year of hitting .171 in Detroit with one home run and only 12 RBI in 66 games. His OPS was a paltry .480. With the Indians, though, he excelled. In 2013, Raburn hit .272 in 87 games with 16 home runs and 55 RBI. His OPS rose to .901 and he even pitched an inning of shutout baseball on August 8 against the Tigers, throwing 13 pitches against three batters, and striking out one of those three. Suddenly, he was an invaluable member of a roster than fought its way into the AL Wild Card game.
Hopes were high coming into last season. Perhaps it was the pressure that got to him, perhaps there was something else going on, but Raburn did not live up to the expectations he had set for himself the season before. In 2014, Raburn played 74 games and hit .200 with only 4 home runs and 22 RBI. It was the season of the spike in left field, as well, when Raburn earned a glare of immense displeasure from Corey Kluber after spiking a throw to the infield into the ground instead. Needless to say, 2014 was not Raburn’s year.
His struggles last season did not produce well wishes for his performance in 2015. 2013 seemed to be a flash in the pan for Indians fans, and a strong, powerful Raburn at the plate was an idea met with scoffing rather than expectation. However, Raburn has again played against the precedent he set the year before: this time, by excelling.
Already this season, Raburn has appeared in 33 games and is hitting .306 with two home runs, 22 hits, 10 doubles, and 13 RBI. His OPS is .890 and he has yet to commit an error in the field. He is again, suddenly, a player you want in your lineup. Although he’s been unable to get a hit of a right-handed pitcher this season, he is dominating by hitting .349 against lefties, and is hitting .371 in Progressive Field, giving fans a likely change to see his odd-year power in action.
#OddYearRaburn may seem like a fluke that has only manifested itself during his time with the Indians. However, a look back at Raburn’s stats proves otherwise:
2007: .304 AVG, 4 home runs, 27 RBI, .847 OPS
2008: .236 AVG, 4 home runs, 20 RBI, .666 OPS
2009: .291 AVG, 16 home runs, 45 RBI, .891 OPS
2010/2011 are the outliers, with Raburn hitting .280 with 15 home runs, 62 RBI, and an .814 OPS in 2010 and .256 with 14 home runs, 49 RBI, and a .729 OPS in 2011.
2012 was Raburn’s .171 year with the Tigers, his last season in Detroit before coming to Cleveland.
It’s an odd trend, to be sure. One year off, then one year on, cycling almost perfectly throughout his career. There’s no scientific formula or magical explanation to give this pattern; it just is.
When this year is up, the Indians have a club option with Raburn for the 2016 season. If his track record is anything to be taken seriously, the Indians should review his odd and even year production when making their decision. There’s nothing that says history will repeat itself, other than the fact that it has a number of times before. Until that time comes, however, fans should keep enjoying the 2015 #OddYearRaburn while they can.
Photo: Phil Long/AP Photo