Can Ruiz Maintain His All-Star Level Of Play?BREAKING NEWS, News, Phillies Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
Squatting behind home plate, flashing signs between his legs to a star-studded rotation, and managing the game as well as any catcher has in recent seasons, Carlos Ruiz has risen to fame in Philadelphia because of his defensive prowess and his ever-so-perfect moniker, “Chooch.”
Never before, though, has Ruiz garnered attention for his bat. Sure, he’s had a few nice runs at the plate in past seasons (including a .302 average in 2010), but he’s yet to make it on a national level in terms of his hitting.
That has rapidly changed in 2012. For some reason, Ruiz is peaking at the age of 33, and he’s providing the Phillies with a much-needed power surge in the batter’s box.
Batting well-above his career totals, the Panama native is hitting .347 with seven home runs, 29 RBIs and a .400 on-base percentage. All of which, aside from homers, lead the Phillies.
While Chooch has engrained his name among the Philly faithful, he’s beginning to finally get some recognition on the national scene. For the first time in his career, Ruiz is a legitimate All-Star nominee and quite frankly, an All-Star starter behind the plate.
Among NL catchers, Ruiz leads in average (.347), slugging percentage, OPS (.981) and RBIs (27). He’s tied for the lead in runs (21) and hits (43), as well as sitting in second behind Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis in on-base percentage (.400).
Going a step further, Ruiz ranks sixth in slugging percentage, seventh in OPS and RBIs, and 10th in average and on-base percentage among all qualified players in the MLB.
All of this for a guy previously dubbed as defensive catcher.
Now the real question is whether or not he can maintain his All-Star pace all season long. There certainly looks to be no slowing down for Ruiz as he’s batting .383 in the month of May, but there still is a lot of baseball left to be played.
Philadelphia fans are hoping he can keep this pace throughout the year, but some people doubt his ability to do so. One of these skeptics is Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, who recently published a story in which he examined ten players who are off to hot starts in 2012. Of course, Ruiz was one of those players mentioned in the piece. And to the repugnance of Phillies fans, Passan believes Ruiz won’t be able to sustain his numbers all season, citing, “Career years almost never come in age-33 seasons – especially the age-33 seasons of catchers.” While that certainly won’t bode well with the fans, his last comment will certainly put him in hot water among Phillies faithful, “He’s not even the best (catcher) in his own division – that would be Brian McCann – nor the best in his league this season (A.J. Ellis).”
Ah, the Phillies killer himself. McCann has certainly found ways to crush the hearts of the Phillies, batting .276 with 64 RBIs and home runs against the Phightins, but he hasn’t put up “McCann-like” numbers in 2012. He’s well behind Ruiz in average (.254) and is five behind him in RBIs. He’s also getting out-slugged by Ruiz, compiling a .423 slugging percentage compared to Chooch’s .581.
So by no means is McCann more deserving over Ruiz, so Passan’s point is irrelevant. As for Los Angeles’ A.J. Ellis, that’s pretty far-fetched as well. While Ellis has certainly emerged onto the scene along with the streaking Dodgers, he’s third in the league in average (.321) among catchers, and has driven in ten less runs than Ruiz. The lone category Ellis has Ruiz trumped in is on-base percentage, with the main difference being his 23 walks compared to Ruiz’s 14.
Passan can believe what he wants, but Ruiz has hit himself into the title of the league’s best catcher, all while being, arguably, the best game-manager behind-the-plate, too.
Be sure to vote for Chooch in MLB.com’s All-Star voting process. The polls are open!
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