Tag Archives: second base

The curse of second base . . . reversed?

There is a long running theory in our house that the Tigers have some sort of Voldemort/Defense Against the Dark Arts type curse going on at second base. The origin of this curse, we felt, was when the Tigers let Placido Polanco walk, because as much as we hated watching Granderson leave,  that decision struck us as particularly stupid.

Yesterday, thanks to my husband, a new theory arose. It may have only partially been Polanco’s fault. No. The blame for the curse may have always rested on the shoulders of one Omar Infante.

Think about it! Omar Infante and Ramon Santiago were supposed to be the second baseman and shortstop of the future. In the 2004 season, Omar played 142 games, the majority of them at second base. And it did not go quite as planned.  Omar hit .264 in 2004 and .222 in 2005 (not all games at second, mind you). Sensing the need for a hitter at that position, the Tigers went to the Phills and picked up one Placido Polanco, who proceeded to hit very, very well from 2005-2009 before he was stupidly unsigned despite hitting .285 and winning a Gold Glove. (You know what he did for Philly the next year? Hit .298. But I’m not bitter.)

So, based on our previous theory, Polanco was bitter for not getting the offer from the Tigers he deserved and placed a curse on second base. I certainly wouldn’t blame him. But let’s consider Omar for a moment. Despite having his job taken, he hung around and played off our bench for two more seasons, playing pretty much every position on the field, and watched Polanco be the second baseman his team always wanted before finally going to the Braves for the 2009 season. Still, he played off the bench, playing only 30 of 70 total games that year at second.

But a funny thing happened in 2010. The Braves played Omar for 134 games, 65 at second base. He hit .321 that year and was assigned to the All-Star team as a reserve second baseman. Huh. In fact, over the years prior, though it was generally smaller sample sizes, he was quietly increasing his batting average. The Marlins obviously noticed this and made him their daily second baseman in 2011 and, as well all know, 2012, with good results. The Tigers, having endured multiple years of years of second base insanity (Raburn, Santiago, Worth, Inge, Rhymes, Guillen, Sizmore,  . . .), looked back to Infante, who was playing very well for a team that has become the laughing stock of the National League, and said “Son, your time as come. Come home”.

And what has Infante done since? In 15 games, he’s hit .315, 8 RBIs, 2 home runs, 2 triples.

Yes, Polanco might have cursed the second base position. But isn’t it equally likely that second base, after losing Polanco, has just been waiting for Infante to come home?

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Ryan Raburn hates me: the search for a second baseman

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.

Inge, career:

AVG: .235
OPS: .692
OBP: .305
SLG: .388
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)

Raburn, career:

AVG: .269
OPS: .779
OBP: .323
SLG: .456
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:

AVG: .249
OPS: .658
OBP: .316
SLG: .342
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.

Inge and Leyland have a laugh

If you missed it, and I don’t blame you if you did because I’m probably the only insane person listening to pointless baseball games on the radio, Dan and Jim gave us a wonderful little story during today’s game broadcast.

Apparently, while the media was assembled in Leyland’s office for questions before the game, Inge came into his office and showed Leyland something his friend had sent him on his phone.  He was laughing, Leyland started laughing after he showed him, then Inge finally let the assembled crowd in on the joke.  It was a picture of Leyland and Cabrera laughing together with the caption “I just told Inge that he has a shot at playing second”.

Awwwwww.  And how great it is that Inge seems to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing, enough so that he can laugh about it with Leyland.  I’m working on a separate post about the second base fiasco, but I will mention how great it was to see Inge smack one out of the park (against the wind) right after Leyland repeated the whole “must hit or else” thing to the media.

Castellanos, Inge, and Cabrera

"Don't take it personally, Brandon. They told this kid he'd play third some day, and look how that turned out."