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Ryan Raburn didn’t live up to elevated expectations

But was he really that bad?

MLB: Texas Rangers at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season began, Ryan Raburn was seen as part of the solution to the Rockies problem of hitting left-handed pitching. This summarizes what expectations for him were:

Let's be clear: the Colorado Rockies were awful last year against left-handed pitching, so Raburn fits a need. His wRC+ against lefties from 2015 was 173, more than doubling Nolan Arenado’s wRC+(79) in those situations. Arenado won a Silver Slugger last year and brings a complete game to the table, but Raburn specializes in what the Rockies struggle with.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t near as helpful in that category as expected. He ended up facing way too many right-handed pitchers as well, doing him no favors on the way to a generally terrible season.

Not all of the disappointing outcome can be pinned on Raburn. While everyone was excited to have a bat that had smashed left-handed pitching the previous year, we may have been a bit better off tempering those expectations by looking at his career splits and his 120 wRC+ against southpaws. This is a flaw that can often times happen when looking at splits for a season; the smaller sample sizes of a single season’s splits can make for really bad predictions.

While Raburn’s 105 wRC+ against left-handed pitching this season still falls short of that mark, it’s not nearly as disappointing as what we saw from the Rockies’ offense as a whole in 2015, and among single-season splits is far from actually being
Raburn’s worst. It’s also easily within the range of outcomes that one would expect in the small sample size of a single season’s worth of splits for a bench player.

Sadly, the biggest flaw in Raburn’s season is one that isn’t his fault; rather, it was the fault of the Rockies’ recently departed manager, who chose to use Raburn more against right-handed pitching than the left-handed pitching that he typically fares much better against. This failure in utilization wasn’t just caused by the times when the Rockies ran out of left-handed outfielders due to injury, either. Raburn ended the season with 118 plate appearances against left-handed pitching and 138 against right-handers.

2017 outlook

Raburn was signed for 2016 on a one-year deal. That, combined with his production, age (35) and other talent on the Rockies’ roster will likely mean the veteran outfielder will be playing elsewhere next season.