For over two weeks, I’ve been intending to write a post about the second baseman situation. My goal was to compose something intelligent sounding and objective with a lot of statistics, possibly in some sweet tables. For those weeks, it became increasingly apparent that I was avoiding this post, especially taking into account the fact that I didn’t even have to work for one of those weeks. Over said work-free week, I went to four spring training games and got a ridiculously painful sunburn instead. I mean, it wasn’t like I was avoiding thinking about baseball. I was just avoiding thinking about the drama unfolding at second base and Ryan Raburn’s personal crusade to make me miserable.
To be fair, Brandon Inge has been equally intent on making me tear my hair out, but as his has been a more . . . passive approach, I blame Ryan.
See, the whole reason I planned this post was to force myself to look at the situation objectively, because Brandon Inge has a way of making me incapable of objectivity. Believe me, being a Tigers fan and loving Brandon Inge isn’t exactly an easy choice. While I’m not alone in this, the faction that hates Inge does so with a passion that borders on irrational. Let us consider last season, when reading the comments on any internet article about the team would lead you to believe that every loss was the direct result of Inge’s very presence on the team. This leads the Inge defender to start overcompensating in their rebuttals, making them also seem completely deranged. And when Inge goes through stretches like last season, you begin to wonder if he’s doing this to you on purpose, just to make you look stupid in front of the haters.
And so, I took to Baseball Reference and pulled some numbers on Inge, Raburn, and Santiago in an attempt to understand why Inge’s spectacular play at second base this spring doesn’t seem to be enough to compensate for his terrible hitting, even if it was okay enough every other year, and especially given the defense we’re sacrificing overall this season. The Raburn haters have been out in full-force, too, remember, and neither he or Santiago have been a daily player at any point in their career. Keep that in mind when we talk about career numbers below.
WAR: 17.9 (2010- 2.4)
Fielding %: .976
And here are Inge’s best years:
AVG: .287 (2004)
OPS: .793 (2004)
OBP: .340 (2004)
SLG: .453 (2004)
WAR: 4.3 (2011- .8)
Fielding %: .958
Raburn’s best years:
AVG: .304 (2007)
OPS: .891 (2009)
OBP: .359 (2009)
SLG: .533 (2009)
And Santiago’s career:
WAR: 4.8 (2011- 1.3)
Fielding %: .978
Finally, Santiago’s best years:
AVG: .284 (2007)
OPS: .870 (2008)
OBP: .417 (2005) (only 8 games)
SLG: .460 (2008)
I bolded the best career number in each category, and . . . yeah. This definitely works out in Raburn’s favor. If you could guarantee that Inge would be at his best, you’re starting to get somewhere, but he still gets nudged out in many categories. Santiago is solid, but the problem I found with a lot of his numbers was small sample size. He just hasn’t had a lot of consistent playing time over the years.
This, of course, segues nicely into my current woes. Raburn is having a monster spring. When you pair that with his career numbers thus far, the choice actually looks pretty easy. The trick is going to be getting Raburn to carry that into the Spring and not save all his hitting for August yet again. Memories are short, and while Raburn looks like a sure thing now, how soon we forget that the same people calling for Inge’s head last May were also booing Raburn when he stepped to the plate. I refuse to talk about intangibles because they make me twitchy, but all three of them seem like fantastic guys and I would hate to lose any of them from my clubhouse.
My feelings on the matter? Raburn will be our opening second baseman, and to be honest, I think that was how it was going to be from the day Inge asked to try out at second. The more people talk about Cabrera’s transition to third, the more it comes out that Cabrera was working with the coaches to start transitioning to the position even before Prince was signed. Inge was allowed to try out at second because that’s the least they could do for someone who has been with the team for that long and they didn’t have anything better to do with him. Raburn will start at second, Santiago will bounce between short and second as per usual, and Inge will play second or third base depending on the day and depending on the pitcher (against left handers). Also, I firmly believe Inge will not finish the year with the Tigers. He’s not ready to be a bench player and he’s shown that he can play multiple positions well. Plus, the Tigers have said that they’re done with him without really saying it. And, finally, he’ll be gone this season because I bought an Inge jersey this summer. That pretty much sealed it, right there.