2013 Phillies Report Card: Darin Ruf

Let’s do this as an acrostic.

  • Defense. So I know the Phillies played Delmon Young in right field 64 times last year, so it looks like they don’t care about outfield defense. The hope was that Ruf could be a backup corner outfielder as well as a first baseman, but let’s be real: he’s an Easter Island statue out there. It’s not that he’s particularly fat or that he doesn’t try hard, but sometimes big things don’t accelerate or change direction well. If you’ve ever seen a cruise ship, you know this.
  • Age. Ruf famously didn’t even make AA until age 26, but he’s made the most of his opportunities since then. He’s hit quite well since then, including a 125 wRC+ as about a half-time player this season. To a certain extent, the questions about Ruf’s age don’t really matter anymore–he’s starting to build a major league track record, so we can judge him as a 27-year-old big leaguer now, instead of arguing over what he has left to project.
  • Righty power. The Phillies have been fairly lefty-heavy in the middle of the order even going back to the days of Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu. We probably make too much of this, but Ryan Howard‘s platoon splits couldn’t be more noticeable if he’d divided a group of about 40 soldiers. Assuming we’ve seen the last of John Mayberry and Carlos Ruiz, no returning right-handed hitter with 100 plate appearances comes within 50 points of Ruf’s OBP or 70 points of Ruf’s slugging percentage.
  • can’t think of one for this. Spell your name like a normal person, Darin.
  • Not making contact. When you’re trying to read the tea leaves of 330 career plate appearances, you should break into the peripheral stats. Ruf’s enjoyed a modicum of batted ball luck, but it’s not like he’s got a career .565 BABIP we’re waiting to cool off. The big alarm is his 31.2% strikeout rate, which is a tremendous number. You can live with a player who strikes out three times in every 10 plate appearances if he hangs a double-digit walk rate, as Ruf has, and hits on a pace for around 30 home runs a year, which Ruf also does. But if those numbers, either the walk rate, strikeout rate or home run rate, starts to go sour, Ruf could find his major league career shortened significantly. Or he could find himself on the receiving end of a three-year, $10 million contract. Because these are the Phillies and you never know.
  • Reward. What the Phillies should do for Ruf, in the form of playing time. When a college senior you drafted in the 20th round even makes the majors, that’s a pretty wise expenditure of a draft pick. That he could hit at an above-average clip makes him found money, and I say the Phillies should let it ride until he stops hitting.
  • Unexpected. I’ll wear it–I never thought Ruf would force the Phillies to even think about keeping him around going into 2014. Sometimes it feels good to be wrong.
  • Funds. Insofar as Ruf doesn’t require many of them. Much better for the Phillies to have Ruf for the league minimum than someone like Jose Abreu for eight figures a year.

EDIT: I originally forgot the grades (and the title) for this post, so here they are:

My Grade: A

Bill Paul Eric Ryan
B+ B A+ B

Leave a Reply

*

15 comments

  1. Dan K.

    October 24, 2013 11:13 AM

    Are you going to make an acrostic out of the letter grades?

  2. bubba0101

    October 24, 2013 11:37 AM

    This is like when the worst student in the tough class works his butt off and really impresses you. Yeah he got a low 70s score on the test but you figure out, as the grader, a curve that gets him into the B range. The kid deserves some praise and he doesnt have the skillset of others. In that vain, Ruf gets a B even though he score a 72 on his exam.

  3. Dan K.

    October 24, 2013 11:58 AM

    @bubba,

    No offense, but I’m glad you never taught any of my classes. Bumping up my grade because I tried hard, though nice of you to notice my efforts, doesn’t help me more fully understand the material.

    I’m not of the mind that trying your best is enough. Especially not for things, such as tests, that are to determine your grasp of certain knowledge.

    As it relates to Ruf, he has skills. They are lesser to some, but he has them. He gets the most out of them by trying his hardest. But he’d still be worse than Trout at 70%, and I’d still take Trout at 70% over him. I wouldn’t give them the same grade because Trout is just simply better. Assessment of skill should be objective. If you judge him against expectations, that’s one thing. But bumping up a person’s grade on something like a test, which is uniform to everyone, just because you like them doesn’t change the fact that they are lacking.

  4. LTG

    October 24, 2013 01:57 PM

    Hey, if Ruf can play around league average defense at 1B and maintain his hitting performance so far, he figures to be around a league average 1B, aka Prince Fielder in 2013 and something the Phillies haven’t had since 2009.

    Before I get skewered, I take those “ifs” seriously. But I am surprised he looks like this so far.

  5. KH

    October 24, 2013 04:10 PM

    He has to make to better contact and improve his defense a little and he could be a regular on a mediocre team or one with stars at other positions.

  6. Bill Baer

    October 24, 2013 05:23 PM

    I’ve probably been as tough on Darin Ruf as anyone but I was pleased with what I saw in 2013. I have my concerns, of course, but he can be quite useful if he can continue making progress.

  7. bubba0101

    October 24, 2013 08:42 PM

    Dan,

    I have a PhD with a concentration in biophysics. Its impossible to get 90+% correct on those exams. Curves are necessary in these cases. And in the Physical Chemistry classes I taught as a TA there also had to be a curve because we graded everything tough to help the students learn the material better. Baseball is very scientific from swing mechanics to routes to baseballs hit to right field where Ruf wasnt better than average but he gets the credit for making huge strides there and also holding his own at the plate where he was doomed to struggle if you ask the experts. So I repeat, he rides the curve to a B

  8. Pencilfish

    October 25, 2013 10:31 AM

    Ruf has earned a spot on the 25-man roster next season, but what should Ryno do with him? Should he be the 4th OF and split time with Howard at 1B? Should he be shifted to LF? Ruf has displayed a reverse platoon split in a small sample size, so why platoon Howard with him? OF defense suffers with him, Brown and Revere out there. We can hide Ruf in LF (like we did with Burrell and Ibanez), but then RAJ needs to find a great defensive CF. What do we do with Revere then?

    Ruf needs ~400 PA’s to be a meaningful contributor in 2014, but not sure how to solve this. Ruf might fill several needs (RH power bat, 1B, OF, patient middle-of-the order hitter, etc), but none of them perfectly.

  9. Mark66

    October 25, 2013 12:46 PM

    This situation with Ruf just demonstrates how poorly they draft. They do not project very well. I think they need some turn over in their scouting system and front office. Is there any other way to look at it ??

  10. MattWinks

    October 25, 2013 03:50 PM

    @Mark

    You realize that with Darin Ruf was a 20th round pick as a college senior and was signed as organizational fodder. His story is an incredible developmental success. In terms of scouting and developing the Phillies really are not that horrible. Over the past 5 years they have strip mined their depth in the upper minors. Many of those guys have not panned out yet but the sheer volume is quite staggering.

  11. Steve

    October 26, 2013 07:19 AM

    The scoring on this site by the four of you makes absolutely no sense. The idiots at the end give Zack Miner D’s and Quintero D’s and you all, after lambasting Ruf for most of the previous offseason, give a guy who had passable offensive numbers and poor defense B’s and an A+. Seriously Eric, if you are just going to mail in your scores by throwing at a dart board, why are you even bothering to waste your time posting scores.
    What the hell are the four of you using as scoring criteria as most of your scoring seems to show a lack of consistency or logic. The Phils sucked and were a horrible team to write about but I am finding this site harder and harder to follow. Just my opinion.

  12. Mike B.

    October 26, 2013 04:56 PM

    @Dan K:

    But the thing is, you can’t grade baseball players on a straight line. Of course you’d want a team full of Trouts, but that isn’t possible. So you need to grade a player’s value, as opposed to his absolute ability. So maybe Ruf is 70% (or maybe a 50%) of the ability of a Trout, but he’ll cost only 15-20% of a Trout.

    There is a curve, and it factors in a player’s cost.

  13. Mike B.

    October 26, 2013 04:57 PM

    Eric, you are a generous grader.

  14. Joecatz

    October 26, 2013 07:53 PM

    I’d like to point out in defense of these fine gentlemen scoring here, that over the course of a 162 game season Ruf would have ended up with something like a 260/360/490 line with 32 HRs and around a 360 wOBA.

    Say what you want and think what you want about Darin Ruf future, career path, role or whatever, but I four nutting him up against other 1B in the league those numbers are near elite when you factor in the the grades out at about a zero defensively, and no 1B in baseball with qualified innings had a positive defensive grade in 2013.

    Whether he repeats that, where it was babip induced, or luck or whatever is irrelevant.

    Ruf was easily a B, probably an A, and you can make a case for Eric’s A+ in many ways too.

Next ArticleCrash Bag, Vol. 77: Max Pentecost