Who Should Start at 2B in Detroit?

With Prince Fielder in town and Miguel Cabrera heading over to third base, second base has become a hot commodity in Detroit. Since losing his spot at the hot corner, Brandon Inge has been seeing time at second base for the first time in his career this spring and is now competing with Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago for the starting spot. Let’s take a look at what metrics tell us about who should start at 2B on opening day.

Right off the bat we can eliminate Inge from the conversation because he was atrocious at the plate last year and has no experience at 2B. Inge’s biggest asset is his glove – as seen by his career 5.6 UZR/150. But even with solid defense last season, Inge was a less valuable than an average AAA replacement player.

2011 Stats wOBA UZR/150 WAR
Brandon Inge 0.247 3.3 -0.4
Ryan Raburn 0.314 -21 1.2
Ramon Santiago 0.305 3.8 1.4
Career Stats wOBA UZR/150 WAR
Brandon Inge 0.301 5.6 15.8
Ryan Raburn 0.337 -23.8 4.6
Ramon Santiago 0.296 -3.5 4.9
Bill James Projected wOBA
Brandon Inge 0.297
Ryan Raburn 0.336
Ramon Santiago 0.291

Ramon Santiago is definitely the defensive option to start at 2B – metrics place him as an above-average defender overall (career -3.5 UZR at 2B, 3.6 UZR/150 including SS/3B). Last year Santiago posted the highest WAR of the three, highlighted by his 3.8 UZR/150.

That said, Raburn is still the favorite to start at 2B because of his offensive value. He boasts a career .337 wOBA – far superior to Inge’s career .301 and Santiago’s abysmal .296 career wOBA. This will probably be enough of an offensive spread for Leyland to overlook Raburn’s atrocious play in the field (-23.8 career UZR/150).

A strategic platoon is going to be the right way to play this one out. Two things are important here: 1) Ryan Raburn is a significantly better hitter vs LHPs (career OPS .847) than RHPs (career OPS .731) and 2) When Rick Porcello is on the mound, defense should be the priority. Porcelo sports a 51.4% GB rate and life is going to be tough on him with the Tigers awful defense.

With that, Raburn should be a shoe-in to start vs. southpaws. He will probably get most of the starts vs RHPs as well given Santiago’s offensive struggles, however; it would be strategic to give Santiago the nod at 2B when Porcello is on the mound. This essentially knocks Inge out of the picture aside for coming in as a late-inning defensive replacement, spotting at the hot-corner as an injury replacement, or filling in on potential DH days for Cabrera.


4 Comments

  1. Solid analysis. And I agree with your conclusion on Raburn.

    But, it’s worth noting that Raburn only has 777.2 innings at 2B in his career. That is not really a sufficient sample to say that he is a true -20 defender there.

  2. mikepod1 /

    You spelled Raburn’s name wrong……..There is no Y in Raburn…….

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