Carlos Ruiz Again Rates Among Game’s Best Defensive Catchers

It’s one of my favorite times of the year: Matt Klaassen (@devil_fingers) posts an update of his fantastic catcher defense ratings at Beyond the Box Score. In past iterations of the ratings, Carlos Ruiz has graded out very well and this version is no different. Klaassen’s aggregate rating put Ruiz as the fifth-best defensive catcher in all of Major League Baseball, adding roughly six runs above what a league-average catcher would provide. Those six runs translate to roughly two-thirds of a win.

Rank Player Age Tm PA FERuns ThERuns PBWPRuns CSRuns Total
1 Matt Wieters 25 BAL 4971 -0.9 2.2 6.8 7.1 15.2
2 Miguel Montero 27 ARI 4903 0.6 -1.7 3.3 5.7 7.8
3 Lou Marson 25 CLE 2872 0.8 -0.6 2.3 4.7 7.2
4 Kelly Shoppach 31 TBR 2601 0.0 0.7 2.6 3.5 6.8
5 Carlos Ruiz 32 PHI 4327 0.4 1.3 6.4 -2.4 5.7
6 Wilson Ramos 23 WSN 4038 1.1 0.1 1.7 2.3 5.2
7 Ramon Hernandez 35 CIN 2832 0.8 1.3 -0.1 3.1 5.1
8 Yadier Molina 28 STL 4896 1.3 0.7 2.4 0.6 5.1
9 Nick Hundley 27 SDP 2726 0.8 -1.2 1.6 3.4 4.6
10 Ryan Hanigan 30 CIN 2906 0.1 0.4 2.6 1.4 4.5

FE: Fielding Errors; ThE: Throwing Errors; PBWP: Passed Balls/Wild Pitches; CS: Caught Stealing.

As per his reputation, Ruiz was among the best at blocking pitches in the dirt, which prevents wild pitches and passed balls. Chooch happened to lag behind in throwing out base-stealers. Had he been league-average in that category, he would have jumped ahead of Miguel Montero in second place.

If you use Klaassen’s metric as a replacement for FanGraphs’ defensive rating for catchers, Ruiz moves from 2.8 to 3.6 WAR. Only seven other catchers in baseball finished the year with more value. Meanwhile, just three Phillies regulars ranked ahead of Ruiz: Shane Victorino (5.9), Chase Utley (3.9), and Jimmy Rollins (3.8). Quietly, Ruiz has become a critical factor in the team’s success, especially when you consider other qualities such as game-calling and handling a pitching staff.

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22 comments

  1. hk

    November 02, 2011 10:15 AM

    The funniest part of the ratings is that Mike Napoli is 12th while Jeff Mathis is 62nd.

  2. LTG

    November 02, 2011 10:18 AM

    I remember reading an article that tried to account for pitch-framing. It found that it is a skill and gave a metric for translating the appearance of framing into runs. As I recall Ruiz was in the middle of the pack according to this metric. Does anyone know more about this than I? Should we take pitch-framing seriously and would it increase or decrease Ruiz’s value?

  3. hk

    November 02, 2011 10:19 AM

    Well, at least the Angels only have 3 years and $63M left on Wells’s contract.

  4. LTG

    November 02, 2011 10:27 AM

    Thanks, BB.

  5. Matt in NYC

    November 02, 2011 10:33 AM

    LTG:

    The pitch framing article was by Mike Fast over at BP. It found Ruiz was 23-runs below average since 2007 in that department, or about 6 runs per 120 games. That ranked him 32nd out of 45 qualifying catchers. Here’s the link:
    www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15093

    There was also a great study by Bojan Koprivica over at the Hardball Times that looked at pitch blocking which found Ruiz the 6th-best in MLB since 2008, adding about 4.4 runs per 120 games through his blocking skills. Interestingly, of the 4 catchers who finished ahead of Ruiz overall above, 2 finished in the top-15 in Bojan’s study (Wieters and Marson) and 2 finished in the bottom-15 (Shoppach and Montero, who was dead last). Here’s the link to that one:
    www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/another-one-bites-the-dust/

    I’m not familiar with Klaassen’s methodology for evaluating pitch blocking, but while it agrees with Koprivica on pitch-blocking for Ruiz, the two methods clearly disagree on some other catchers. I think we’re still a long way from coming to a consensus on who to best measure catcher defense, although I am glad we’ve got such smart people working on it.

  6. Matt in NYC

    November 02, 2011 10:36 AM

    One correction–Montero was not dead last, but rather 15th-worst in the pitch blocking study at THT. The “worst” list listed 15 catchers and he was at the bottom of it, and I confused the order.

  7. Phillie697

    November 02, 2011 12:07 PM

    Has anyone done the “smell” test with Fast’s numbers to see if they are truly as pitcher-independent as he claims to be? For example, what’s Chooch’s number pre-2009 vs. post-2009, i.e. before/after Roy Halladay, who you gotta believe can influence an umpire or ten.

  8. Richard

    November 02, 2011 02:06 PM

    I don’t suppose there’s any way to measure how well pitchers hold on runner. So often, it seems to me, Ruiz has no chance whatsoever at throwing runners out at second, good throw or no good throw. (Though I realize quickness of release, and footwork are factors, too.)

  9. Phillie697

    November 02, 2011 03:13 PM

    @Richard,

    Left-handed pitchers have an inherent advantage in that regard.

  10. Josh G

    November 02, 2011 03:19 PM

    Where did Alex Avila end up on this list?

  11. Phillie697

    November 02, 2011 03:22 PM

    @Josh G,

    You could have just followed the link you know…

    Anyway, joking aside, he was 96th, about where I expected him.

  12. Josh G

    November 02, 2011 05:24 PM

    My reading error – I thought that the link was to a past version

  13. Richard

    November 02, 2011 09:24 PM

    “Left-handed pitchers have an inherent advantage in that regard.”

    How does this address my question? Are Lee & Hamels good at holding on runners compared to other left-handers?

  14. jauer

    November 03, 2011 12:54 AM

    How many times has Hamels had a runner picked off but Howard failed to make the throw to second base? This results in a stolen base against Hamels, rather than a CS/PO for Hamels. This results in a 2-unit swing and likely deflates Hamels’ true value in terms of holding runners on first base.

    I feel like Howard throws the ball errantly to 2nd with Hamels on the mound than any other pitcher.

  15. JonathanN

    November 03, 2011 04:51 AM

    Super post! Just like your blog professionalism! Keep up the good work.

  16. Mike B.

    November 03, 2011 06:08 AM

    But Joe Buck told me Yadier Molina is the best catcher ever!

  17. Phillie697

    November 03, 2011 08:48 AM

    @Richard,

    Because it would be unfair to compare Lee and Halladay, for example?

  18. TripNineS

    November 10, 2011 06:17 AM

    It amazes me how so many think of Carlos Ruiz as being such a great defensive catcher. Above average maybe. Good, not until he throws out a few more base stealers. In your most recent “chooch is fantastic column”, he is ranked #5 by virtue of one particularly bogus stat, PBWPRuns. You, like Klaassen seem to fail to take into consideration the Phillies pitching staff when compileing this stat. Their staff compiled bests in each of the following categories, WHIP, K/BB and BBs. The top 3 in innings pitchers all finished in the top 5% of all ML pitchers.

    Fewer baserunners would, in my mind anyway,equate to fewer runs scoring on PBs, WPs and otherwise. Also the Phillies pitching stats would seem to indicate a staff with exceptional control, which would seem to indicate that the great PB/WP stats are a product of the pitching staff, not the catcher. To further compromise Ruiz’s stats are stats that show that Brian Schneider actually has better numbers in the area of fielding percentage, CERA (in spite of catching more innings from Vance Worley than the “big 3″ — in fact he did not catch Halladay at all), and PBs per 9 innings caught.

    Unbelievably you state, “Had he been league-average in that category (CSRuns), he would have jumped ahead of Miguel Montero in second place.” Instead you should have noted where he’d be with the league average in the category of PBWPRuns. My guess would be around 25 with an overall total of about 2.5.

  19. Phillie697

    November 10, 2011 10:56 AM

    @TripNineS,

    Yeah, a catcher is good because he excels at a particular area, and somehow it’s “misleading” to point it out? Let see, Joey Bats would be an average hitter, actually below-average hitter, if he didn’t hit so many darn HRs. Therefore it must be mis-leading to suggest that he’s an awesome hitter because he accels at doing this one thing well. Boy, we are so freaking stupid for thinking he’s that good!!!

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