Wrapping Both Sides of the Brain Around Chooch -- Part 1 (left brain)

Carlos Ruiz's main contribution to the Phillies has been, and will continue to be, his defense and handling of the staff, but there have been a slew of stories in recent days about Chooch, and particularly his hitting.  Of course we've been reporting on his offense throughout this season here at TGP (4/18, 5/5, 5/11, 6/3, and 7/11), and it's time for a more comprehensive update.

On August 15, 2009, Ruiz's career line looked like this (including the 2007 and 2008 postseasons):

          .240/.330/.362  -- a .692 OPS in 1,158 PAs

He was closer to 31 than to 30, and he had built a reputation as one of the best fielding catchers in baseball.  Any hitting was viewed as a bonus.

But in the period since 8/15/09, he has:

1) Along with Howard and Werth, led the Phillies 2009 playoff push

Many of the regulars were struggling at the end of '09.  From Aug 15 though the end of the regular season, only three of the starting eight had an OPS over .800:

           Howard 1.038, Ruiz 1.015, Werth .935


2) Had a great 2009 postseason, and solidified his reputation as Senor Octobre:

Phillies with the highest OPS in last year's playoffs and World Series:

           Werth 1.129, Ruiz 1.082, Utley 1.072, Howard .968, Victorino .917


3) Has been one of the Phils' top 4 hitters in 2010, with many of the team's biggest hitting performances

Partly because of the injuries, but also due to aging and slumps, only two of the eight starting positions have shown any significant improvement in offense over 2009: 1) Polanco vs. Feliz, and 2) Carlos Ruiz.  

Below is the 2010 ranking and comparison to '09 -- we'll use wOBA for this, as it's viewed as the better stat.

 

  2009 2010     %Chg
Werth .382 .389 2%
Utley .402 .376 -6%
Howard .393 .370 -6%
Ruiz .337 .365 8%
Victorino .354 .345 -3%
Ibanez .379 .343 -9%
Feliz/Pol. .302 .324 7%
Rollins .316 .319   1%
OVERALL .340 .328 -4%

Below are the top games by position players this season, in terms of Win Probability Added.  As a reminder, WPA is calculated for each at bat by looking at how that AB changed the team's probabilty of winning the game.  For example, for Werth's game yesterday, he recorded WPAs of -.042 and -.083 when he made outs, .048 and .100 on his singles, and .010 when he stole 3rd.  His walk-off HR then added .652 (it increased the Phils' probability of winning from .348 to 1.000) for a total of .684.

Phillies hitters have had 10 individual games with WPAs over .400:  Four of the 10 belong to Chooch:

1. Werth 9/19-Was .684 3-5, 3 RBI, walk-off HR
2. Rollins 6/23-Cle .601 1-5, walk-off HR
3. Howard 4/10-Hou .583 2-4, triple, HR, 3 RBI
4. Ruiz 8/12-LA .539 3-5, 3 RBIs, walk-off double
5. Ruiz 8/5-Fla .506 3-5, 2 2B’s, HR in 10th
6. Polanco 8/1-Was .473 2-6, game winner in 11th
7. Ruiz 5/4-StL .454 2-3, 2B, walk-off HR in 10th
8. Werth 4/24-Ari .451 2-4, 2 solo HR's, including go-ahead run in the top of the 9th in 3-2 win
9. Rollins 7/25-Col .441 2-4, drives in tying run, scores winning run on WP
10. Ruiz 5/10-Col .430 4-5, HR (after this game, he led the NL in OBP and was 12th in OP)

In short, since 8/15/09, Ruiz has been the 3rd best hitter on the team, with this line (including the '09 postseason):

          .309/.414/.484 -- a .898 OPS in 565 PAs

His counting stats are not overwhelming over this period, but a .309 average with lots of doubles and walks is a potent combination.  Extrapolated to 700 PAs, they start to look pretty impressive.

PA  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO
 565    468 57 145 37 2 13 74 82 61
per 700 580 71 180 46 2 16 92 102 76

 

Phillies' OPS since 8/15/09

1. Werth .926
2. Howard .918
3. Ruiz .898
4. Utley .845
5. Ibanez .792
6. Victorino .765
7. Rollins .698
8. Feliz/Polanco .686

 

Among all catchers in 2010

There are 20 catchers in baseball this year with 350+ PAs.  Chooch is...

- 5th in OPS: Posey .891, Soto .890, Mauer .880, Posada .846, Ruiz .843, McCann .842
- 6th in wOBA: Soto .385, Posey .381, Mauer.376, Posada .370, McCann .367, Ruiz .365

 

Among all catchers since Aug 15, 2009

I don't have wOBA over this period, but Chooch is...

- 2nd in OPS: Mauer .902, Ruiz .898, Posada .868, Posey .862, Soto .840, McCann .836

   (as an aside, in a previous draft of this post with data through 9/17, it was Ruiz .902, Mauer .901)

 
Caveats 

1) Sustainability: while it's been more than a year since 8/15/09, it's been less than a full season for Chooch because of his frequent days off.  It's reasonable to say that he's been as effective as he has partly because Manuel has kept him fresh by resting him every few days, but that's a topic for another day.

His BABIP through 8/14/09 was .256.  Since then, it's been .330.  So is it luck?  It's possible.  But it should be noted that in his last year in AAA in 2006, Ruiz had this line in 423 PAs: .307/.389/.505 (.894 OPS) and a .393 wOBA.  His BABIP that year was .324.

2) Is there selection bias here? Sure.  But last August I would have never thought that any amount of tortured selection bias would put Ruiz in the conversation as one of the best-hitting catchers over an extended period, let alone a year-long stretch. 

Bottom Line

He's been great this year, and in fact he's been great since turning it on in mid-August '09.  We don't know if he can maintain this level of offense, but if he can, he will have made himself one of the elite all-around catchers in baseball.

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