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.