Ryan Howard said it best:
Cot for Choice.
The Phillies’ catcher, known affectionately as Chooch (or, in some parts of the Internets, CHORCH) is fourth among NL catchers in All-Star voting. He trails Yadier Molina, Buster Posey, and Brian McCann. Another deserving candidate, A.J. Ellis, is a dark horse that could cause even more trouble for Ruiz.
Prior to his current 2-for-15 skid, Ruiz was leading the league in hitting at .381. He currently sits fifth in the league in OPS among all hitters at .989, behind Joey Votto, David Wright, Carlos Gonzalez, and Ryan Braun. Yeah, pretty good. Ruiz ranks seventh in the Majors in wOBA at .422 behind Votto, Josh Hamilton, Paul Konerko, Wright, Mark Trumbo, and Gonzalez. All of them will be All-Stars and almost all of them will be in their league’s starting lineup.
How does Ruiz compare to the catchers in his way?
A blue shade indicates the worst in the group and a red shade indicates the best in the group.
Right off the bat, you can boot McCann from this discussion. Posey doesn’t have a leg up in any category and he’s a full win behind third place, so you can kick him out as well. It’s essentially a three-way race between Ellis, Ruiz, and Molina. The difference between Ellis and Ruiz offensive is essentially small ball against power: Ellis is drawing walks at nearly 3.5 times the rate as Ruiz, while Ruiz is hitting for significantly more power. Ellis has 31 singles and 14 extra-base hits; Ruiz has 37 singles and 20 extra-base hits. According to wOBA, Molina is having equally as good an offensive year as Ellis, but lags behind because FanGraphs values Ellis as a better defender and as a better base runner, both highly questionable conclusions given the small sample size.
Using Baseball Reference’s version of Wins Above Replacement (rWAR), Ruiz jumps ahead of the pack.
Ruiz is a half of one win better than Posey and a new challenger appears in Jonathan Lucroy, who may not be healthy in time for the midsummer classic. Prior to his boxer’s fracture, Lucroy posted a .414 wOBA and 1.8 fWAR, which would rank second and fourth among NL catchers, respectively.
It becomes clear that both Ruiz and Ellis should be All-Stars, but then the debate focuses on who should start in this alternate universe where All-Star rosters are chosen appropriately. Based on the stats, I think the starter has to be Ruiz. In overall offense by both OPS and wOBA, Ruiz has been significantly better than Ellis and there isn’t a wide enough gap to overcome the small sample size when it comes to defense and base running, both of which Ellis leads by a narrow margin.
Help send Ruiz to the All-Star Game by voting for him up to 25 times per e-mail account HERE.
UPDATE: The catcher defense ratings that I won’t shut up about have been updated by Matt Klaassen. Click here to check them out. No surprise, Ruiz has been the best defensive catcher in baseball so far this year.