Carlos Ruiz, Unsung Hero

Ruiz, Offensive Ranking
(min. 60 PA) 
Team NL C
wOBA 1 1
ISO 1 3
fWAR 1 4
K% 3 4
BABIP 3 5

Through 37 games thus far in 2012, catcher Carlos Ruiz has been the Phillies’ best and most consistent position player. Given his personal progression and the roadblocks the rest of the team has faced recently, it isn’t all that surprising, even though the Phillies signed him as an amateur free agent way back in December 1998 for the princely sum of $8,000.

If you set the minimum at 60 PA, Ruiz leads the team by far with a .408 wOBA. He already has six home runs, matching his total from all of 2011, and puts him on pace to surpass his career-high of nine (set in 2009) some time in the next month. Although he hasn’t walking as much as he has in the past, he’s averaging more than 10 PA per strikeout, which means he is putting the ball in play with regularity.

One out of every five of Ruiz’s fly balls have gone for home runs, nearly three times his career average. Generally, when a hitter’s HR/FB% is so far above his career norms, it means he is likely due to regress going forward. However, it does appear that Ruiz simply has better plate coverage this year as well. Compare the two heat maps from 2011 and ’12:

And also compare his swings between the two years:

The most noticeable difference is that Ruiz’s leg kick is much smaller this year.

As a result, Ruiz was in a better position to swing once his foot came back down to the ground.

I’m not a biomechanics expert by any means, but to me, I see a significant change — one that might explain his current success. Does this mean we should expect him to continue driving one out of every five fly balls over the fence? No, but we can realistically expect him to exceed his career average of seven percent. More importantly, we can expect him to continue being the linchpin of the Phillies’ offense even when — if — Chase Utley and Ryan Howard return.

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15 comments

  1. JM

    May 16, 2012 07:55 AM

    A completely unscientific calculation. Ruiz comes through when it matters. Period. Going back to ’08, he had a very pedestrian season, but a wonderful post season. Putting the ball in play and making things happen when the big hitters weren’t. His swinging bunt go ahead RBI shows he has the “moment” in him. Now, with the big guns either out or struggling, Chooch once again is putting up the difference. The question is, will he continue this progression and performance when he doesn’t need to. When and if the big guys start performing and playing for that matter, and he is moved back to the 7 or 8 hole, will he continue to show his true skill level? I hope so. He is the most valuable unsung catcher in recent memory, and it would be great to have him keep up this level so that the rest of the baseball world will sing his praises…

  2. Bliz

    May 16, 2012 08:58 AM

    Chooch = The Man

  3. BDF

    May 16, 2012 09:30 AM

    “Unsung”? He’s the most popular Phillie on the team (possibly excepting Utley) and has a fantastic nickname! He’s beloved!

  4. awh

    May 16, 2012 12:23 PM

    Bill, great breakdown of Chooch’s swing.

    One thing that you didn’t mention is that in the 2012 version, his head (and, therefore, his eyes) appears to move less. I have to wonder whether or not that makes a difference.

  5. Noah

    May 16, 2012 01:05 PM

    Perhaps not unsung in philly. But he’s clearly unsung on the national stage. Almost every position player; Polly, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Pence and Victorino all have higher profiles nationally (sports illustrated cover not withstanding).

  6. Phillie697

    May 16, 2012 01:31 PM

    Wasn’t it Joey Bats who also said that he used to have a leg-kick in his swing that he got rid of that made his swing and timing more consistent? If so, maybe Chooch is going to a similar (albeit much less dramatic) change. I will take a 20-HR catcher please.

    @JM,

    Please stop with the amateur psychology of baseball players. Seriously, any professional baseball player who will “only” perform at his absolutely best when he “needs to” or because there are “runners on base” or any other crazy reasons people come up with for why a player performs “better” in certain situations should just be fired. You get paid millions of dollars; you shouldn’t need additional reasons to be a professional and play hard on every play.

  7. Ty

    May 16, 2012 02:06 PM

    Why isn’t Chooch batting 4th in the lineup?

  8. jauer

    May 16, 2012 04:39 PM

    Even before this season, his HR rate was significantly lower when he batted 8th than any other position. The sample sizes were large too, with over 600 PAs in the 8-slot, and over 600 not-8th.

    He now has more career home runs while not batting 8th than he does while batting 8th. In the 8-slot, he has 1387 PAs and 19 homers. In the 1-7 slots, he has 783 PAs and 21 homers. (I’m omitting his 2 HRs in 110 PAs while batting 9th — my god, Manuel has batted him 9th that often? no wonder they suck in interleague play).

    This can’t just be a coincidence, right? I’m guessing he’s seeing more fastballs while also abandoning his walk-first mentality in the 8-hole.

  9. Allen

    May 16, 2012 06:23 PM

    @BDF

    I agree, I don’t think he’s unsung. It’s pretty clear (at least to our community) that Chooch is the man so far this season.

  10. Ron Lindsley

    May 16, 2012 10:59 PM

    Chooch is the ultimate! And I’m just proud to be a Philly Phan…

  11. Thomas

    May 16, 2012 11:00 PM

    how did you have time to type this up and play Diablo 3? Great write up.

  12. bingbangbong

    May 16, 2012 11:34 PM

    Chooch is the epitome of concentration. That’s why Halladay loves him so much. Watch Chooch – his head is ALWAYS in the game. He gets pissed whenever he makes a small mistake. HE WANTS TO WIN and he knows that to win you have to play hard and more importantly play SMART! I do hope that Chooch gets voted into the All Star Game this year, but I think we should all probably be a little bit thankful that he has been flying under the radar so to speak for a few years. Chooch (as far as I can see) does not have a massive ego and his swagger is contained to the baseball diamond where it is palpable. He doesn’t have to “prove” anything and because of this he shines even brighter when he comes through (which is nearly every single game). ICE CREAM FOR CHOOCH!

  13. zeke

    May 17, 2012 10:41 AM

    That giant red zone in 2012 is beautiful.

  14. Rob in SJ

    May 17, 2012 02:57 PM

    Jauer – hard to prove a cause and effect there. Charlie has tended to move him up when he’s hitting well (as he is now), so that could be part of it.

  15. jauer

    May 17, 2012 05:03 PM

    He was moved out of the 8-slot because of Freddy Galvis, not because he was hitting well.

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