Thursday, February 11, 2016

Choochaganda: All-Star? MVP? Presidente?

All-Star? MVP? Presidente?

Choochaganda: All-Star? MVP? Presidente?

Carlos Ruiz leads National League catchers in most major offensive categories this season. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Carlos Ruiz leads National League catchers in most major offensive categories this season. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

All-Star? MVP? Presidente?

OK, you can probably rule out the last two, although Carlos Ruiz is playing so well that comparing him to other catchers no longer does him justice. Heading into today, Senor Octubre ranks in the Top 10 among all National League hitters with a .965 OPS (9th), .340 batting average (7th) and .583 slugging percentage (10th). As long as California does not break off and float away into the ocean, leaving Matt Kemp unable to play baseball, Ruiz will not be the NL MVP. And he cares way too much about getting stuff done to be president. 

So let's focus on the All-Star Game. Generally speaking, I care as much about All-Star Game as I do about October hockey and Major League Soccer and the vast majority of CBS' primetime programming. But even a jaded, cynical, loveless lump of unemotion like myself has to admit that it would be cool to see Ruiz take the field as the starting catcher for the National League All-Star team. It would be even cooler to see him catch one of his pitchers. Right now, Stephen Strasburg would appear to be the heavy favorite to start the game. But there is a long time between now and whenever the All-Star game is. 

Of course, that means there is a long time for perennial candidates like Brian McCann and Yadier Molina to overtake Ruiz. But by no means is this current run a fluke. We have seen this building ever since 2008, when Ruiz's strong postseason helped propel the Phillies to a world title. The guy can hit. He used to struggle with breaking balls, but he has improved that facet of his game, as he has every facet of his game. He came to spring training in remarkable shape this spring. It looked like he'd added a layer or two of muscle. I talked to him after a game in Dunedin and he said he'd doubled down on his conditioning this offseason in an attempt to stay healthy, which is the one thing that has given him problems over the past few years. 

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As of today, Ruiz ranks first among NL catchers in home runs (6), average (.340), slugging percentage (.583), OPS (.965), RBI (23) and traiils only A.J. Ellis in OBP. 

In addition, Ruiz has thrown out 11 of 29 would-be basestealers, a .379 percentage that ranks fourth among NL catchers and leads the rocket-armed Yadier Molina. He is one of six catchers in the majors that has been charged with fewer than two past passed balls. He has helped turn four double plays, which leads all major league catchers, and his 20 assists rank fourth in the National League. That last number is pretty irrelevant, but whatever. 

Long story short, the biggest barrier between Ruiz and the All-Star game is probably health. In 2010, Ruiz hit .345/.472/.472 with two home runs in the Phillies' first 27 games, but then went into a prolonged slump that was exacerbated by some injuries. That being said, nothing compares to the start he is off to this season. The biggest difference is the aforementioned strength, and the power into which it has translated. In 2010, Ruiz had seven extra base hits in 106 late appearances through 36 games. This year, he has 13 in 115 plate appearances.

Staff Writer
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