Why are Phillies giving Darin Ruf a chance?

Yesterday Corrine Landry forwarded this tweet to me.

The premise of the article coupled with all the comments bashing Amaro seemed to confusing to me, because I can’t figure out why the Phillies are giving Darin Ruf a major league roster spot.

The same furor over Darin Ruf reminds me of similar excitement over players such as Tagg Bozeid, Jake Fox, and Matt Rizotti.  This obviously has been said since 2012 when Ruf first broke into the majors.  In fairness to Ruf’s supporters, Ruf has a career major league line of .251/.339/.466 and 20 home runs, so he as surpassed all of them.  However, I should point out that Ruf hit a weak .235/.310/.402 in 2014.

It is often cited that the Phillies will run out a lineup in 2015 that both lacks in power and right handed batters and that Darin Ruf could be solution to that problem.  However, Ruf is not the power threat he once was.  In 2012 and 2013 he hit 17 home runs in 330 PAs with an isolated power of .232.  But in 2014 he hit 3 home runs in 117 PAs while posting a .167 ISO.  This spring it was more of the same as he posted a .143 ISO in 63 ABs while hitting 2 out of the park.  This is certainly more power than almost anyone else on the Phillies roster, it isn’t a huge power source in the context of major league baseball.  Here is how Darin Ruf stacks up against first baseman in 2014 with at least 100 PAs:

Batting Average – .235 – 42nd
On Base Percentage – .310 – 39th
Slugging – .402 – 32nd
Isolated Power – .167 – 31st
Walk Percent – 6.8% – 47th
Strikeout Percent – 27.4% – 13th
Batting Average on Ball in Play – .304 – 28th
Weight On Base Average – .316 – 34th

That puts him as a fringe top 30 first baseman, but the problem is he is not a Top 30 baseman trending up, he has actually gotten worse every year since his breakout.  He also has seen his other indicators drop as well.  His fly ball rate has declined each year, as has his HR/FB rate, additionally his infield fly ball percent keeps going up, as does his ground ball rate.  All of this point to a hitter with a decline in contact abilities.

Now I put this all in the context of first base for a reason.  Ruf can’t play the outfield.  Inside Edge Fielding breaks down fielding into likelihood of player making a play on each play and then sees what percentage of each type of play the fielder makes.  Darin Ruf makes 100% of the plays that fall in the 90% to 100% confidence range, but in 295 innings in left field he has only made one play outside that range, and it was the next bracket.  For context, Domonic Brown 99.4% of the 90-100% range plays and then made 14 plays outside of that range in 1041 LF innings last year, including catchers in the 1-10% range and 10-40% range.  Ruf has no chance to make a play on any ball that isn’t hit right at him.

Then we get to the potential for growth.  Right now Darin Ruf is 28 years old, and he will turn 29 on July 28 this year.  He is not going to find new athleticism or speed.  His numbers already show decline, and we have no reason to suspect that they are not the continuing trend.

The one ray of hope in all this is that Ruf was good against LHPs last year to the tune of a .295/.392/.525 line  (with a .341 BABIP).  So while he is absolute crap there is some hope he can play first and hit lefties.  This would make him at best a good platoon partner for Ryan Howard.

The question is why are the Phillies carrying Darin Ruf.  He is in the same situation as Ryan Howard (though he makes less).  He is a flawed first baseman who is in decline, too old to be part of the next Phillies team, and has no trade value.  So it would seem that if you have come to the conclusion that the Phillies should cut Howard, should they not also cut Darin Ruf.  Frankly the team would be better off giving their roster spots and at bats to other players.

If you think I am biased or prejudiced I will end with the same quotes that Bob did.

When two scouts were asked about Ruf recently they had their doubts and concerns.

“I’d say the game is getting a little fast for him,” one scout said. “I didn’t see the quick bat and the quick reactions I have in the past. I saw a slow body that looks thicker and a little heavier. Not a lot of first-step quickness. He didn’t seem to be in as good a shape as previous years. I think he’s on a team that is going to afford him the opportunity to play and it’s in his best interest to be ready when they do.”

The other scout said he sees Ruf as a designated hitter who should play mostly against lefthanded pitching. Told that Ruf has never made an error in 68 outfield appearances, the scout said, “he never gets to anything, either.”

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman
Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.

6 comments

  1. allentown1

    The answer to your question lies in doing the same analysis of Ryan Howard. Given a full opportunity to play virtually every game at 1B in 2014, how do his numbers stack up to Ruf and to the other 1B in baseball. Ruf got most of his numbers playing out of position — likely stress which impeded his offense, as did the play some, sit some mode of use. Do the same analysis for the last 3 seasons of Ryan Howard. So…. there’s your answer: Ryan Howard should not be playing. While Ruf isn’t great, he’s better than Howard. He’s also likely better than Sizemore with the bat, although he certainly isn’t adequate defensively in the OF. So… there, plus Francouer, you have 3 1B/corner OFs, in addition to the less questionable Ruf, who don’t deserve to be on the roster. Quite frankly, the OF/1B on our 25-man are really bad and there isn’t a lot of minor league strength at these positions either.

  2. The Original Will

    honestly, seems like a bunch of small sample size stuff being used to justify a position you have already taken. I can’t say that he will do much if given the opportunity, but I know with a lot more certainty how bad Grady Sizemore and Jeff Francouer are going to be (and this comment is about half an hour after frenchie hit his 3 run hr). Nobody in the scouting community likes fat, slow players, and it’s not like he hits enough to ignore that, but year after year a couple of those guys do enough to prove they belong. Odds are against it, but at least there are odds, unlike the players who might take his ABs.

    But for godsakes, if I were Darin Ruf, I would be in the best goddamn shape of my life coming into spring training this year, so that is definitely a strong strike against in my book.

  3. Just Bob

    Who else should they carry then right now with Brown on the DL?

  4. Romus

    IMO, Ruf would do adequately well in the AL as a p/t DH and p/t 1st basemen.
    A place and ballpark like Detroit, Texas, Jacob Field, Camden Yards and even Fenway could bolster his future revenue.

  5. ACCAP

    It seems rather silly to hinge your argument on his 117 PAs in 2014, while largely ignoring the larger sample. How does his 2013 line stack up against the league’s first basemen?

    You might argue that, based on scouting, he’s unlikely to replicate his overall line going forward, and I agree, but I don’t think you can reasonably extrapolate from last year to make that case.

    At the end of the day, Ruf looks like a 1-WAR first baseman, or a 0-WAR outfielder, which makes him about 2 WAR better than our current everyday first baseman. And he’s dirt cheap. A perfect stop-gap filler on a rebuilding team, and a nice story too.

  6. mwm

    Ruf is org filler who caught fire for one season. He’s old, in poor shape, below average with the bat, and can’t field. For some reason the talk radio morons love his “upside”. Hopefully they enjoy his independent league level skills with the river sharks in a few years. This team needs actual young talented players not glorified beer league softball chumps.