Ryan Raburn would like a do-over. Not in the field, though if we could turn the clock back to Oct. 6, 2009, we would certainly grant him that opportunity. No. He'd like the fans and media to give him a second chance to make a first impression in the field.
In a profile about Raburn last week, MLB.com's Jason Beck quoted Raburn:
"I don't understand why people give me such a bad rep," he said. "Yeah, I've made mistakes, but so have a lot of other people. I'd like to see [others] go out every so many days ... and try to do the best they can. They're not going to be perfect, but there's nobody in this game that is perfect. All I can do is go out and play my best and get myself prepared. I think the more reps I get, yeah, I can be a really good outfielder."
Beck adds at his blog:
Raburn's point: It's hard to judge a utility player as an outfielder if he's playing there sporadically while mixing in infield work. He's getting all of his work in the outfield this spring, both in games and in workouts.
Look, we've all seen the same gaffes. Raburn has made a spectacular mess of things a couple of times. Go big or go home seems to be the theme of the errors he does make in the field. But errors are a lot like coffee stains on a white shirt. The other 99% of the shirt might be fine but that 1% with a coffee stain is all anybody an look at. So the perception of Raburn's defense is that he stinks.
Statistically, that's not true. He's no Gold Glove. He's never going to be confused with Austin Jackson. He's not in the same class sa Casper Wells, Clete Thomas, Andy Dirks or a few other names either. That doesn't make him an awful fielder like people think. It just makes him a typical left fielder.
Statistically speaking, there's a few numbers we can look at to explore this.
Total Zone Fielding Runs Above Average Per 1200 Innings as a left fielder
This one includes what he did with his glove, as well as what he did with his arm in gunning down baserunners. Just looking at the fielding component, Raburn rated a 0 for his career in left field, and +2 runs in 2010.
Ultimate Zone Rating as a left fielder
Ultimate Zone Rating Per 150 games as a left fielder
So again, we see Raburn compares favorably with his left field brethren.
John Dewan's plus-minus
Career: 8 runs above average
2010: 6 runs above average
I saved the best for last. You can read more about the plus-minus system if you want to. Like many other advanced systems, it's produced by a combination of video scouts recording plays and using formulas to compare how players from the same position compared. So what do you see? Again, Raburn is above average for a left fielder. A pattern has emerged.
Is there room for Raburn to improve? Certainly. He could take better routes. He could make better decisions. Hopefully now that he knows his place on the team is that of left fielder, concentrating on one position rather than two or three and getting regular playing time there will help him move along the learning curve a bit more. But is he bad? Far from it. At worst, he's average. We'll take that.
Try something new: Stop counting the number of times he messes up spectacularly, and start counting the number of times he makes routine plays and prevents runners from taking the extra base. You might be surprised how you feel about Raburn's defense.