Predicting Carlos Ruiz’s Offensive Output

By all accounts, Carlos Ruiz had a fantastic 2010 season. He played solid defense behind the plate, handled one of baseball’s best pitching staffs (including calling both the perfect game and no-hitter thrown by Roy Halladay), and had the fourth-highest wOBA among catchers with at least 300 plate appearances. FanGraphs credited him with about 4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which ranked third-best in the Majors.

Clearly, we should expect Ruiz to once again be among the game’s best backstops in 2011. Right?

I’m not so sure, for a couple reasons relating to his offense.

Carlos Ruiz BABIP
by Batted Ball Type
2010 Career
Ground 0.276 0.226
Fly 0.124 0.125
Line 0.765 0.707

For starters, Ruiz benefited from a .335 BABIP. While hitters have a lot of control over their BABIP, Ruiz’s previous high was .283 in 2007 and he has a career average .280. There was barely a change in his batted ball splits, so there is no legitimate explanation for such a large jump in BABIP. So what happened?

Compared to his career averages, Ruiz was five percent luckier on ground balls and six percent luckier on line drives. With 143 grounders and 64 line drives, that’s an extra 11 hits. It may not seem like a lot, but if those 11 hits were instead outs, Ruiz’s batting average would drop from .302 to .272.

Ruiz set a career high in slugging percentage, but it’s entirely explained by luck on balls in play. Ruiz’s isolated power (ISO) actually dropped 25 points to .146. Even more interesting was how Ruiz’s power shifted from the inside part of the plate to the outside.

2009 ISO on balls in play:

2010 ISO on balls in play:

(Heat maps via Baseball Analytics)

Overall, he was pitched almost exactly the same. The weird thing is, even though Ruiz’s power shifted to the outside part of the strike zone, he had tremendous success going to left field. Per FanGraphs, his career wOBA going to left field is .395. In 2010, that number sat at a lofty .509. Was it due to batted ball luck? You betcha! His career average BABIP to left is .295; last year, it was .413.

In 2011, you can count on Ruiz being the jewel of the pitching staff’s collective eye and playing decent defense. Expect his offensive output to regress significantly, to around the league average in the .325-.330 range. That is plenty good for a Phillies offense that will still be among the league’s best.

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7 comments

  1. Steve

    December 21, 2010 08:24 AM

    Must say, I’m stumped that Ruiz’s ISO power moved to the outside part of the plate, and yet his wOBA went up on balls hit to left field. Very strange.

  2. Xyz

    December 21, 2010 08:56 AM

    It’s all that Cintron he’s been drinking.

  3. fansince010

    December 21, 2010 09:24 AM

    I am sure that playing a full season without J A Happ around is definitely going to hurt Corlos Ruis’s numbers this year. Besides being probably the best young pitcher to come through Philly in 10 years he was known to really keep things loose in the clubhouse which translates to on field success.

  4. FanSince09

    December 21, 2010 11:54 AM

    Ugh. Bandwagon new fans make me sick! You don’t know what you’re talking about, FanSince10. I’ve suffered through 2 years of heartbreak with this team.

  5. Scott G

    December 21, 2010 08:13 PM

    I’m sorry, maybe I’m just overly pessimistic, but how will this team’s offense be among the tops of the NL.

    Chase Utley will perennially be amongst the best hitters in the league. Howard can be elite as well, but his wOBA could be around .360-.370 which it was last year and in ’08. Not awful, but only above average.

    You have one elite hitter and one above average hitter. All the other hitters will fall somewhere between .315-.355 ish. Essentially average. How will this team’s offense be elite in and of itself (not comparing it to opposing offenses who will have to face 4th starters named Cuhl Hamuhls).

    Maybe I’m getting spoiled?

  6. hk

    December 22, 2010 07:49 AM

    Scott G,

    I understand some pessimism as they will surely need to be much healthier in 2011 to offset the huge loss of Werth, but I do think you are overly pessimistic. Although some people are clamoring that the Phils should expect significantly more production from Howard this year, I’m not so optimistic on this front. However, I do expect them to get approximately the same cumulative offensive production from C, 1B, 3B, CF and LF in 2011 that they got last year. The key will be the change in production from 2B, SS and RF from 2010 to 2011. The Phils were 2nd in the NL in runs scored last year, despite (a) getting a .317 wOBA (some of which caused by injury and a .246 BABIP) out of Rollins in 394 PA’s, (b) only getting 511 PA’s from Utley, many of which it seemed he was playing hurt and (c) being forced to give 363 PA’s to Wilson Valdez and his .294 wOBA. Therefore, if they can get 140 healthy starts each from Utley and Rollins – hopefully Charlie reads Bill’s blog post about giving Chase PTO and applies it to all of the regulars – and Rollins’s BABIP normalizes to the point where he produces a career average .336 wOBA, the increased production up the middle should somewhat offset replacing Werth with Brown (hopefully) or some combination of Gload, Francisco and Brown (probably). In 2010, Utley, Rollins, Valdez and Werth combined for 49.5 batting runs above replacement (according to Fangraphs). If the Phils can get 35 batting runs above replacement from 2B and SS in 2011 and 8 or so from RF, they should not lose too much.

    Even if they score one fewer run per week, they’ll still score 740-750 runs which should leave them as one of the top 4 or 5 scoring teams in the NL.

  7. css228

    December 22, 2010 10:41 AM

    @Steve, Seems like a pattern that can’t keep up. Hopefully it does, but I won’t be surprised if Chooch’s offense returns to pre-2010 levels or even lower than that

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