Carlos Ruiz Is Back on Track

Carlos Ruiz missed the first 25 games of the season as a result of testing positive for amphetamines in November, then missed another 27 games between May 20 and June 18 with a strained right hamstring. To say it’s been a disappointing year for the 34-year-old catcher would be an understatement. To make matters worse, he followed up last year’s outstanding .935 OPS performance by posting a .591 OPS at the end of July. For those eager to turn the page and begin a new chapter of Phillies baseball, Ruiz was quickly erasing himself from the team’s future plans.

Since the start of August, Ruiz has turned his season around. In 98 trips to the plate, he has posted a .344/.385/.567 line, good for a .952 OPS. He still isn’t walking much, but he is hitting the ball with much greater authority.

Ruiz has had drastically more success on pitches over the plate and inside, as the following two heat maps indicate:

Prior to August, Ruiz only had three hits that went behind the outfielders: a home run to left against Barry Zito on July 30, and two doubles down the right field line against Jon Niese on April 28 and Peter Moylan on June 28. Since August 1, Ruiz has had four homers and two doubles to left, a single to right-center, and a double down the right field line.

It seems Ruiz made an adjustment, attacking pitches more over the plate and outside as opposed to those inside. He displayed very little pull power in the early going and now that he’s consciously going the other way, he has actually improved his power to the pull field, if that makes any sense. Perhaps he was affected by starting the season later and was simply trying to do too much, as they say.

Ruiz’s sudden surge puts the Phillies in an interesting situation. With the unfortunate 2013 Tommy Joseph has had, and given that Cameron Rupp has had fewer than 200 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, the Phillies should be interested in keeping Ruiz around. Assuming they are not interested in overspending on a free agent like Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia, it makes sense. Ruiz, who turns 35 on January 22, won’t be heavily pursued as a free agent; he won’t be seeking a payday. Sticking around in Philly keeps him in his comfortable environment surrounded by fans who still adore him for his role with the 2008 championship team. For the Phillies, keeping Ruiz around for another year or two allots them extra time to address the catching situation properly. Perhaps it’s Rupp; maybe they find another option elsewhere. Ruiz is a good safety net to have.

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23 comments

  1. Jaron B

    September 03, 2013 12:38 PM

    And don’t forget he caught Roy Halladay’s two no-hitters in 2010, batted .400 in the second half that year and has been stellar since despite taking Adderall.

  2. joecatz

    September 03, 2013 01:24 PM

    Salty career vs LHP:
    207/270/329

    2013:

    225/323/306

    RUIZ career vs. RHP:
    279/372/439

    Ruiz vs LHP 2013:
    339/415/518

    salty vs RHP 2013:
    279/339/498
    career:
    259/324/462

    Chooch vs RHP in 2013:
    267/302/356
    career:
    275/356/407

    His numbers vs RHP have been slightly off this season, but hes actually hit LHP better than his career line.

    the only reason why the Phillies would consider Salty is that he’s a switch hitter. But he SUCKS from the right side. and hes only a marginal upgrade at best, vs RHP power wise.

    even McCann, at 275/348/495 on the year?

    those splits end up (for 2013)
    284/371/549 vs RHP
    250/289/370 vs LHP

    I see absolutely no reasoning to not bring Chooch back in 2014. especially over either of those guys.

  3. Tim

    September 03, 2013 01:48 PM

    If the Phillies maintain a payroll of $150 million or above, it’s hard to fathom this deal not being done, even if Chooch is a part time player at the end of what could be a 3 year $27 million contract.

  4. Steve

    September 03, 2013 01:55 PM

    Bill,

    I’m honestly having a hard time reconciling two prevailing thoughts from your writing. If you could, please clarify how you believe that:

    1) this Phillies team, as constructed, just isn’t very good, and is more than just “one player away” from contending.

    AND

    2) each ‘substantial contributor (I’d simply stay starter, but then that limits contributing bullpen talent), from Utley to Rollins to Ruiz to Kendrick to Halladay to Revere to Bastardo, is worth bringing back?

    To be clear, I’m just as guilty of being a fan of the Phillies resigning Utley, Rollins, and co, but I’m working from the perspective of a fan. If anything, it’s something where I chalk up those decisions to Amaro doing what I would have done. I’m limited in criticizing him, since I’d be throwing stones from a glass house…

    However, given your quite clear disdain for how Amaro values talent, and the ease at which you criticize the makeup of this roster, I’d expect that you’d suggest the changing of the guard in many of these mainstay positions.

    I understand the Ryan Howard contract is the elephant in the room, but I also think its an overplayed hand for criticism levied at the front office. Take out Ryan’s injury and it’s still a bad contract, but within the context of aging stars getting awful contracts pretty regularly.

    In any case, I’d really like to understand what you suggest should be done to fundamentally alter the make up of this team, since that has been the underlying criticism for the past two years.

    Thanks

  5. SJHaack

    September 03, 2013 03:00 PM

    Most of the issues are the pitching staff and the bullpen, and most of these assessments are cost assessments.

    The nature of the team has changed as well. You’re moving from trying to add pieces to win a championship, to try and cost effectively squeeze everything out of the current roster that you have. Who would you rather have besides Chooch who will be less than $10m a year? Is there even a catcher worth $10mm available?

    The pitching staff is almost certainly going to be a disaster, so the cost assessment value is “Can you do better than Kyle Kendrick on a budget?” and the analysis is “no? Isn’t that depressing?”

    I’d say Utley, Ruiz, Revere, and Bastardo are all worth bringing back. Utley, Ruiz and Bastardo especially are all at-value or potentially bargains at their price. Rollins has had a really rough year, but at an aggregate .726 OPS the 4 previous seasons (includes his .694 OPS in 2010 so not to cherry pick) $11mm is a completely reasonable price to pay for a shortstop with that bat and his defensive and baserunning skills.

    Here’s two questions for you –

    1) where do you split the analysis and the outcome? Of course if you could predict that Rollins would drop 100 points of slugging you could say in advance it’s going to be a bad deal, but the process and the outcome are separated.

    2) Have you noticed almost all the team criticism comes around players who are either outside acquisitions or not cost controlled? Ruiz, Utley, Rollins, and Kendrick are the Phillies playing with house money, so to speak. It’s about finding options that are better or less expensive than the alternative, and with an absolutely ransacked farm system it’s hard to get any of either.

  6. Steve

    September 03, 2013 03:53 PM

    SJHaack –

    1) Agreed 100% that it’s hard to criticize what at the time seemed like a good deal for Rollins (and one I still don’t hate).

    My point is, you can’t rip into this team as aged, slow bat speed, over the hill veterans if you simultaneously endorse resigning the majority of the individuals that comprise the team. Bullpens are the easiest thing to replace, given you can get so many expendable young arms and see what you got. The criticism I see on this website is around how the Phillies lineup has drastically reduced its production, as a result of age.

    2) Are we saying then that the only major criticisms relevant to the Phillies are guys like Michael Young, Delmon Young, and (at times) Papelbon? Because I’d beg to differ, in that those pieces are at best on the peripheral of the argument (sure Delmon is a poster boy for scouting vs stats, but he represents very little in terms of the risk the team took).

    My point is that I 100% agree that at the time of these moves to resign in house talent, they looked pretty good, or at least reasonable. But the level of criticism levied at the front office for such moves after the fact is hard to digest.

    Or rather, there’s this nebulous old, decrepit, lineup that’s not worth what they’re being paid collectively, but individually each core player is worth his spot. And in all honesty, you cannot have it both ways.

  7. Phillie697

    September 03, 2013 04:01 PM

    @joecatz,

    You missed a minor point. McCann is 5 years younger than Ruiz. You know, pretty minor point.

    I don’t like Salty nearly as much as McCann, so I’ll agree with you on him.

  8. joecatz

    September 03, 2013 04:09 PM

    one thing that I think gets lost in translation in regards to Amaro and mistakes:

    he gets almost universally panned for the big money deals. And in some instances thats completely justified. But in reality how many of those big money deals EVER turn out to be good ones? for any team?

    For me the biggest criticism for Ruben that often gets overlooked is in the small deals.

    Non tendering Nate Schierholtz
    believing that Chad Durbin, Chad Qualls, Danys Baez, JC Romero or Jose Contreras as cheap bvetern bullpen reclamation projects are good ideas.

    Siging Mike Adams to a two year deal…

    2 years for Laynce Nix, etc…

    those are the deals that have really crippled the team, not from a cost perspective, but from a “not being able to right the ship due to a lack of talent below” perspective.

    and for me, all of those choices have been the result of bad scouting combined with no analytics.

    teams with big payrolls live and die based on the small under the radar acquisitions that pan out, combined with the cost controlled studs circling through the farm system.

    thats where he fails epically.

  9. JM

    September 03, 2013 04:10 PM

    @ Steve
    One thing you are looking over here is that BB is not suggesting that resigning these aging players will make the Phillies contenders again. He is simply stating that they are reasonably the best options available right now. The unspoken comment is that even if you get rid of the old guard, the new will not make our beloved team a winner again…

  10. Jesse

    September 03, 2013 04:14 PM

    I think it’s completely consistent to say: (1) the Phillies don’t necessarily have a better option than re-signing Chooch (or Rollins), but that (2) management has failed in (a) not drafting/developing enough young, cost-controlled talent that the best we can hope for is break-even deals where we pay average free agent salaries for average production and (b)signing certain players (Howard and Papelbon) to such expensive contracts as to limit the available pool of money for other players. In other words, I like Chooch fine on a 1- or 2-year deal, but it would be better if we could have developed a cost-controlled alternative. I also wouldn’t mind overpaying for McCann…except that you already have $25 million in dead weight for your first baseman and $13 million for your closer, which dramatically increases the risk in signing a 30-year-old catcher to a longterm deal. Maybe the better example with that is Cano. Given the circumstances, I’d rather have Utley for the next two years. But if the team had a lot of freedom of movement, I would have favored trading Utley for good prospects and making a run at Cano, knowing that he would eventually not be worth it but believing that the 3-4 years in between would be very good.

  11. Jesse

    September 03, 2013 04:17 PM

    @joecatz Good point. It sometimes seems like Amaro doesn’t even understand basics of negotiating. Why did Danys Baez and Nix get 2-year deals? Did anyone else offer more than a year? And if they did, would it have been such a loss to have to look elsewhere? By contrast, they could have kept Schierholtz around and, at worst, tried trading him during the season if they felt like he didn’t fit. Seems like a lot of panicky moves.

  12. joecatz

    September 03, 2013 04:18 PM

    “You missed a minor point. McCann is 5 years younger than Ruiz. You know, pretty minor point.

    I don’t like Salty nearly as much as McCann, so I’ll agree with you on him.”

    he’s also gonna command a 5 year deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 15mm per season because of that.

    if my choice is McCann or Chooch for 2-3 years at 5-7mm per? its a no brainer.

    But McCann, aside from not being able to hit LHP, hasn’t played 130 games since 2010, and while he’s 5 years younger, he’s also caught 1250 games between the minors and majors on his career.

    Chooch has caught 1285.

    trust me on this, age is relative to games played for catchers, especially with regards to their knees. I did it for 16 years. McCann’s body is as old as Ruiz’s body and just as likely to break down.

    the idea of paying him 15mm a year in 2016 or 2017 scares the living crap out of me.

  13. joecatz

    September 03, 2013 04:27 PM

    “I like Chooch fine on a 1- or 2-year deal, but it would be better if we could have developed a cost-controlled alternative”

    They traded those options, in Darnaud and Marson, for Halladay and Lee because they had Chooch. And if joseph hadn’t gotten hurt this season, theres a good chance he would be the guy they’d be looking at for next year right now instead of Rupp.

    But they also missed on Valle, and at the same time drafted Andrew Knapp this season, so depth wise, at Catcher, theyre actually doing ok right now. it’s very very difficult to develop catchers at the minor league level. few teams are succesful at it. most of the guys that do make it, end up as 2nd string guys, or spend two to three seasons platooning or working as an understudy at the major league level unless theyre an absolute stud with the bat like Weiters or Posey.

    It’s incredibly difficult to transition from the minor leagues to the major leagues as a catcher. theres a trust level with pitchers, an entirely different “real” strike zone which messes with framing, and most of these kids never get the opportunity ubntil they make it to catch anyone with the level of movement, break, velocity, etc.. of a #1 or #2 starter.

    theres a good 2-3 year learning curve there.

  14. Larry

    September 03, 2013 10:12 PM

    @Joecatz,

    “For me the biggest criticism for Ruben that often gets overlooked is in the small deals.

    Non tendering Nate Schierholtz
    believing that Chad Durbin, Chad Qualls, Danys Baez, JC Romero or Jose Contreras as cheap bvetern bullpen reclamation projects are good ideas.

    Siging Mike Adams to a two year deal…

    2 years for Laynce Nix, etc…

    those are the deals that have really crippled the team, not from a cost perspective, but from a “not being able to right the ship due to a lack of talent below” perspective.

    and for me, all of those choices have been the result of bad scouting combined with no analytics.

    teams with big payrolls live and die based on the small under the radar acquisitions that pan out, combined with the cost controlled studs circling through the farm system.

    thats where he fails epically.”

    Why no mention of the worst one of all? Delmon Young?? He played every day out in right field for 4 months. That trumps everything for me. The other guys you mentioned were part time players, except Non tendering Nate Schierholtz.

  15. Stupid is as Stupid Does

    September 04, 2013 09:41 AM

    And the DY signing was forced on them because they didn’t have Schierholtz and limited internal options which became more limited when Ruf played himself out of a job with a poor ST. Than they compound the error by refusing to acknowledge that DY was a horrific fielder and had no business being on a ML Roster until he “played” himself into shape. One look at him trying to run after a ball in May and you thought you were looking at Barry Bonds in his last years. Although he hit like Barbie Bonds.

  16. joecatz

    September 04, 2013 11:07 AM

    Theres no mention of Delmon Young, Larry because Delmon Young was a PRODUCT of those other bad decisions. Delmon Young was literally the last resort and a dart at a board. in the grand scheme of things, Delmon young paled in comparision to these other deals because Delmon Young was avoidable if they were smarter.

  17. Phillie697

    September 04, 2013 12:02 PM

    @joecatz,

    All deals carry risks. You’re assuming Ruiz gets $5-7M per. Probably true, but then what? Catchers don’t grow on trees. I think McCann is worth the risk; he’s so far above his peers that a notable drop-off will still make him an above-average catcher.

    That said, do I think McCann will be signed by the Phillies? Doubt it.

  18. joecatz

    September 04, 2013 12:14 PM

    Catchers definitely don’t grow on trees, and its probably the toughest position to develop a starter at. thats 100% true.

    but for me, and we can differ here, its okay, I have enough faith in Andrew Knapp, Cameron Rupp, and even Valle and Joseph as wild cards that I don’t think its wise to commit 5 years to Brian McCann at the money he’s going to command.

    If he was signable on a three year deal? then I don;t care what the AAV is, or how much they pay him actually. it’s the 4th and 5th year that hes likely to get that scares the living crap out of me.

    and while I don’t buy into the LH vs RH arguement as much as most do, McCann has been absolutely horrible against LH pitching the past two seasons. 51 Ks 17 BB and 61 hits in 264 PA. thats roughly a 4% BB rate to go along with a 22% K rate.

    the idea of Utley, McCann, Brown and Howard all in a row late in a game vs a tough lefty is not something i look forward to watching.

    I just don’t think he makes sense for the Phillies. Not when Chooch is there, destroying LHP. Chooch is Victorino all over again, the RH bat thats staring you in the face that you don’t see.

  19. Stupid is as Stupid Does

    September 04, 2013 01:30 PM

    I like the idea of Chooch mentoring Rup and any of the other kids on our staff and think he has two years left in the knees. Love the way he’s crushing the ball.

  20. Simmons17

    September 04, 2013 02:18 PM

    I’m astonished anyone thinks the Phillies should let Ruiz go. I mean, unless they are going to take an Astros/Marlins burn it down to build it up again approach, of course bring him back. And I felt that way even before Ruiz began hitting again. I always felt confident his hitting would return somewhat, even if 2012 clearly was a career year.
    He just means too much to the pitching staff. And I also find it highly questionable that the Phillies will even be in the bidding for McCann or Saltalamacchia.
    With Joseph’s prospects cratering and Valle getting on base about as well as a decent hitting pitcher, there’s no way the Phillies can think about letting Ruiz walk. Ruiz and Kratz for one more year, and then hopefully work in Rupp toward the end of 2014. And hope for the development of Andrew Knapp, etc.

  21. joecatz

    September 04, 2013 03:41 PM

    the other name that rarely gets mentioned but is a dark horse to watch is Gabriel Lino.

  22. Simmons17

    September 05, 2013 11:24 AM

    Can’t say I find much encouragement in Lino’s offenseive numbers from this past season.

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