Don’t Forget: Carlos Ruiz Exists

Last year, there were exactly three catchers who had at least 15 homers and a .390 on-base percentage: Miguel Montero, Buster Posey, & Carlos Ruiz.

Let’s look at those three again, but with a different number added: Montero (100%), Posey (100%), Ruiz (4.9%). That’s the ownership percentage for each of the trio in ESPN leagues right now, and the difference is clear. One of these things does not look like the others, and that’s obviously because Ruiz was suspended for the first 25 games of the season after testing positive for a banned stimulant.

Ruiz is eligible to return from his suspension on April 28, a week from Sunday, and he’s allowed to play in minor-league rehab games five days prior to the end of his ban. Considering that the current Philadelphia backstop duo of Erik Kratz & Humberto Quintero has a mere nine hits between them, Ruiz is more than likely to settle right into his old job as the everyday catcher. Considering the season he’s coming off of, that makes him valuable, and those in need of catching help should probably grab him a day or two too early rather than wait for him to make his debut.

Yet of course, we can’t simply assume that Ruiz, entering his age-34 season, is going to go out and repeat his 2012 breakout. Last year, he set career highs in batting average, runs, homers, and RBI, and now he’s got the cloud of suspension hanging over his head.

Obviously, it’s difficult to separate one from the other, as Dave Cameron noted when Ruiz was first popped with the suspension:

Ruiz had a breakout season in 2012, adding power to his repertoire for the first time at age 33. He’d been a quality player for the last few years, mostly based on his ability to make a lot of contact and occasionally drive the ball into the gaps. Homers weren’t really his thing. From 2006 to 2011, his career HR/FB rate was 6.3%, and he posted an ISO of .128.

Last year, his HR/FB rate was 15.1%, and his ISO was .215. Or, if you prefer pictures, here’s Carlos Ruiz’s slugging percentage, by year, compared to league average.

Yeah. It’s not hard to figure out which of these is not like the others.

I can’t argue with that, nor can I pretend that anyone should ever expect the 2012 Ruiz again; likely, we’ll never have a good reason to mention him in the same breath as Montero & Posey other than to point out that they’re all National League catchers.

Swing%
LD%
2008
37.4
16.8
2009
40.2
18.7
2010
40.2
20.1
2011
42.2
21.0
2012
47.3
24.0

Still, I think we’ve come far enough in the shady world of performance enhancers to know that you can’t simply peg things as “juicing = production,” because it’s rarely that simple. As you can see in the chart at right, Ruiz’ success wasn’t entirely a 2012 blip, because he’s been steadily increasing his swing percentage and his line drive percentage for years. Simply put, Ruiz has been swinging at more balls and hitting them well. Even if the fact that more of them went over the wall in 2012 — dig that wild HR/FB — doesn’t sustain, his SLG% in the previous three years was league average or slightly above.

For a backstop, that’s not bad, and those in two-catcher leagues or struggling along with someone like Jesus Montero may take notice. Ruiz is never going to repeat last year’s greatness, but he’s a nearly free option who many will have completely forgotten about when he’s available later this month.




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Mike Petriello lives in New York and writes about the Dodgers daily at Dodgers Digest, as well as contributing to ESPN Insider. He wrote two chapters in the 2014 Hardball Times Annual as well as building The Hardball Times and TechGraphs, and was an editorial producer at Sports on Earth. Find him at @mike_petriello.


15 Responses to “Don’t Forget: Carlos Ruiz Exists”

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  1. tennyson says:

    Yahoo’s ownership levels make more sense. ESPN’s leagues are littered with mediocre players and bad data.

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  2. shibboleth says:

    Ruiz could make a nice addition in OPS or OBP leagues as long as you manage expectations. As good a #2 catcher from waivers as you can hope for… ignoring the rookie phenom callup.

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  3. Johnny Come Lately says:

    2 catcher league that counts both AVG and OBP.

    Would you take Ruiz over Jaso? I’m kind of torn on this.

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  4. Eminor3rd says:

    My whole season depends on Ruiz, which is bad, I guess. But Ruiz slides into C, Mauer slides to first, Swisher slides to the OF, and then I have a real OF.

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    • Vegemitch says:

      This makes no sense. Essentially, you are replacing an OF bat with Ruiz. There are plenty of readily available OF bats that are as good or better than Ruiz. If you like Ruiz that much, then trade Mauer for an OF or 1B as you’ll be able to get a bat at those positions that can outproduce Mauer straight up.

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  5. godzilla70 says:

    Ruiz, McCann or Lucroy RoS?

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  6. Chummy Z says:

    His “performance enhancer” was Adderall. As in, the ADD drug. Not steriods. While age is a big factor, assuming a huge regression only because he’s not on PEDs anymore is a faulty line of reasoning because of the nature of the drug he tested positive for.

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  7. TheTinDoor says:

    2 C league. Jaso is off to a nice solid start, would you take Ruiz or Jaso? Amazingly, the offense around Jaso really appears to be a nice boost for him.

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    • Johnny Come Lately says:

      It’s quite the quandary! (see above)

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      • Pizzabox says:

        I’m right there with you guys. In my 10 man OBP league I drafted Santana early and Miguel Montero fell to me at a price to good to pass of. I later traded Montero + Perkins for Choo leaving me with a hole at C (I knew Jaso and Gattis were available). I picked Jaso up and he has been everything I had expected him to be… but with Ruis looming I wonder if I should switch up. I’m no expert, but the way factors I’m looking at are:

        A) The ball park advantage clearly goes to Ruiz, though Jaso doesn’t give that much power anyhow so the Colosseum isn’t terrible for his skillset. May actually help a couple balls fall in that wouldn’t normally.

        B) I’d have to say that I like the A’s lineup a fair amount more than the Phils’ but it’s certainly debatable

        C) PA’s will probably be roughly the same, though Jaso has health and youth on his side.

        D) As far as Jaso’s season to date, it seems as if he has changed his approach a bit. His Swg% has been increasing for the past 4 seasons jumping from 38% to 44% this season. That paired with the fact that his Z-Contact% has remained consistent while his O-Contact% has plummeted (71% in 2012 vs 54% in 2013) suggests that he has become more aggressive at the plate, while keeping his extraordinary plate discipline in tact. Furthermore, Jaso pounded FB for 12RAA last year and it seems as if teams are using more offspeed stuff against him this year (namely the changeup with a 7% increase) yet he has still adjusted to it. Pair all of this with a higher LD% and FB% and he should have a nice season, granted he keeps it up.

        Again, I’m no expert, just my two cents.

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  8. Mike Jones says:

    I have ridden the John Buck train which looks like it’s coming to a close, and also have Jesus Montero. Eyeing Ruiz in place of Buck, but is it time to drop Buck?

    What is the best telling stat that shows a regression for a player like Chris Shelton or John Buck in this case from a hot streak back to his mediocre self?

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  9. Steve says:

    anyone think Ruiz can maintain a wOBA of .350 or above? I’m betting on it…

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