What Went Wrong with Carlos Ruiz?

I know, the title implies that Carlos Ruiz had a bad season, which he didn’t. But he did significantly drop off in offense compared to his 2010 season. In terms of OPS relative to the National League average, Ruiz was 20 percent worse, dropping from .857 to .754.

Last December, I crunched the numbers and concluded Ruiz’s offensive output last season was fluky based on his BABIP and where those hits were falling. I wrote:

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.

Ruiz finished with a .332 wOBA, not bad. His BABIP on ground balls declined by more than 30 points. Given that he hit 151 ground balls in total during the 2011 regular season, the decline resulted in five fewer hits than he would have had last year. His luck on fly balls and line drives remained about the same.

More importantly, his batting average on batted balls to left field declined by more than 100 points, from .413 to .311. You can see the shift in the following heat maps, which show his BABIP on all hits to left field. (Click to enlarge)

Starting with 2010:

2011:

Ruiz overall made worse contact than he did last year. While his overall batted ball rates did not change much, his infield fly rate nearly doubled from 7.2 percent last year to 13.3 percent in 2011. The jump doesn’t have a significantly adverse effect on his batted ball fortunes because of the overall small number of infield flies (18), but it does illustrate the decline in quality of contact from last year.

It’s unlikely we’ll ever see Ruiz as productive as he was in 2010 unless he makes significant changes. He is a guy with mediocre power that will walk about as much as he will strike out and his offense should suffice at a very demanding position. The Ruiz you saw in 2009 and ’11 (.337 and .332 in terms of wOBA) is what should be expected going forward.

Heat maps courtesy ESPN Stats & Information

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15 comments

  1. DP

    October 18, 2011 07:52 AM

    I think a regression was in order for the reasons you mentioned. I also think 3 other reasons may have something to do with it although I don’t have any metrics at this point: (1) injuries; (2) teams not grooving Chooch fastballs all the time; and (3) it seems like Chooch was being moved around the line-up more than usual and due to injuries/ineffectiveness of other players. At the end of the day, Phils need to start looking at catcher because the farm system isn’t stocked and Chooch isn’t getting any younger.

  2. LTG

    October 18, 2011 07:56 AM

    I only see one heat map. Am I internetally challenged?

  3. Dan K.

    October 18, 2011 11:37 AM

    @DP,

    1 and 2 could be valid points (haven’t researched it to know for sure), but I’m not exactly sure how you expect number to change his BABIP or quality of contact.

    As for the farm, no we’re not “stocked” but who is, really? We had Valle (21) raking in A+, Rupp (22) putting up good numbers in A ball, and Numata (19) with a real chance to be a prospect in the GCL. We really only need one of them to work out, and Valle seems to be that one.

  4. Dan K.

    October 18, 2011 11:39 AM

    number 3 to change*

    @LTG,

    Not sure when you posted, but they’re both appearing for me.

  5. Bill Baer

    October 18, 2011 11:57 AM

    Yeah, they showed up for me in Chrome, Firefox, and IE. If they’re not showing up for you, maybe try clearing your cache and reloading the page.

  6. Kyle

    October 18, 2011 12:30 PM

    As much as I would love to see the 2010 version of Ruiz, this years version was not bad offensively especially for a catcher. I can live with him performing similar to 09/11

  7. bobby y

    October 18, 2011 03:53 PM

    You need insider for those heat maps on espn i take it?

  8. jauer

    October 18, 2011 03:58 PM

    I will take a .371 OBP from the catcher position any year. Move him up in the lineup, and its possible he’ll see better pitches and make better contact. His OBP/SLG when not-hitting-8th are significantly better than the 8-slot.

    It’s too bad we had Ruiz hitting behind Polanco and Ibanez all year; maybe the outcome would have been different.

  9. MBishop

    October 20, 2011 01:50 AM

    I think that Ruiz was beat up and physically tired from play and the heat this season more than any other. He experienced a number of bad collisions at the plate this season and had some injuries and was out of the lineup for a couple of spells. All of this took a toll on his hitting. The respectable amount of hitting he did during the regular season for the most part did not carry over into the post season in which he only had two singles. As many of us know, his offensive performance was far from the norm in the post season for Chooch when he was one of the best hitters for the team in recent post seasons. A better backup catcher is needed who can hit some, not like Schneider. Carlos needs to be given more rest during the season.

  10. carolb

    October 20, 2011 06:30 AM

    could it have been a decline after getting blasted that is so not right

  11. Larry Baker

    October 20, 2011 10:13 AM

    What went wrong? Greg Gross. I loved this guy as a player and great pinch hitter, but he should be replaced as hitting coach.

  12. Carl Podrasky

    October 20, 2011 08:59 PM

    You can say what you want about Chooch’s offensive production; however, I know one thing — Chooch is the best fastball-hitting player on the Philles team PERIOD. I remember Chooch scaulding an Aroldis Chapman 104.5 – 105 m.ph. fastball double down the right field line against Cincinatti for a double in the 2010 NLDS. I haven’t seen anyone else in mlb do that !

  13. Bill Baer

    October 20, 2011 09:02 PM

    Carl,

    You’re right that Ruiz hits fastballs well, but he’s not the best on the team.

    Phillies wOBA against fastballs, 2011:

    1. Ryan Howard, .417
    2. Shane Victorino, .380
    3. Hunter Pence, .374
    4. Carlos Ruiz, .369
    5. Jimmy Rollins, .362

    League average: .337

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