During the 2008 World Series a few friends and I began calling Carlos Ruiz “Babe Ruiz”. The light hitting 29-year-old catcher in his second season was destroying the Tampa Bay Rays. He hit .375/.500/.688 in the five games compared to .219/.320/.300 during the regular season. We were miffed and upset that our beloved Rays were getting destroyed by Carlos F’ing Ruiz.
He’s come a long way since then.
The 2012 season was a breakout for Ruiz. He had been good the previous two seasons, hitting a combined .292/.385/.415, but never had much of an impact in standard 5×5 leagues outside of batting average. Last season he set career highs in all five categories: R (56), HR(16), RBI(68), SB(4), and AVG(.325) in just 114 games for a team that was in the bottom half of the league in runs scored. Those numbers were good enough to place him sixth (12$) in our end of season rankings. The question for Ruiz is, can he do it again?
Well, probably not. His HR/FB percentage was 15.1%, more than double what it was the previous two seasons, which helps explain some of his power surge. His LD% was also a career high 24%, though that’s risen steadily every season since 2008. It’s rare for a player to come into their peak at age 33, let alone sustain it through age 34 and beyond. What’s more interesting to me is his aggressiveness at the plate.
Putting it simply, he’s swinging a lot more. The league average Swing% has stayed the same from 2008-2012 (46%) but Ruiz’s has increased 10% from 37% to 47%. Like his LD%, his O-Swing% has risen every year since 2008, topping off at 28% last season which was three percent higher than 2011. Logically, his Z-Swing% has increased to league average levels as well. He’s swung more but has been able to maintain an above average contact rate which is one of his better skills. Only nine players had an O-Swing% of 32% or more and a contact rate of 86% or more, and Ruiz was one of them.
I’m not going to definitively state that an increased aggressiveness at the plate is the reason for his success this season, but it certainly hasn’t hurt him yet. If he keeps up the trend and increases his O-Swing% for a sixth straight season I’m guessing his contact rate will decline slightly. He’s a better real life player than fantasy player thanks to his outstanding on base percentage. If you’re in a league that counts OBP, as you should be in my opinion, then Ruiz’s value increases. I wouldn’t count on him to match last year’s totals, though. The batting average that was a big source of his value this season will almost certainly decrease and unless his HR/FB% is at or above 15% it’s unlikely he’s hitting 15+ home runs. He’s a nice complimentary player but not the star he looked like in 2012.