Look, before you all hammer me with a deluge of eye rolls and snide comments, let me state for the record that I am aware of Darin Ruf's shortcomings as an outfielder.
He is not, as the kids would say nowadays, "good" out there. I get it. He is not a good defender and I will not try to convince anyone that he is. But as the team plays yet another September of meaningless baseball (at least as far as competing for the playoffs is concerned) there are a few guys that I want to see play as often as possible.
One is obviously Maikel Franco. Another is Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.
And another is Darin Ruf. I don't care if it's in the outfield or at first base, Darin Ruf needs to be in the lineup on a daily basis from here on out.
After hitting an RBI single and adding another hit in last night's 4-0 victory over the Braves in Atlanta, Ruf is now batting .344 with a 1.050 OPS in the 15 starts manager Ryne Sandberg has seen fit to give him this season. Overall, since being called up from Triple-A on July 22, Ruf is hitting .313/.414/.500 with a wRC+ of 159 and a wOBA of .403, with two homers, three doubles, five RBIs and eight runs scored in 59 plate appearances.
For the season, in 70 PAs, he's hitting .276/.377/.483 with a wRC+ of 143 and a wOBA of .379, with three home runs. And in 400 career plate appearances, Ruf has hit .260/.353/.488 with a wOBA of .365 and a wRC+ of 133. He has walked in 10.3% of his career plate appearances (the league average is 7.7%).
Of course, he is strikeout-prone, with a career K-rate of 30.3% (it's 25.7% this year and the league average is 20.3%), and has had mixed results against right-handers at the Major League level (with a .807 OPS in 254 career PAs against righties but a .304 OPS in just 23 plate appearances this season).
Look, where Ruf is concerned, we're still dealing in the land of small sample sizes, which is kind of my point. We need to see more.
I am willing to live through the defensive shortcomings in left field. You may not be, and that's totally understandable. But given the lack of young offensive production on this team, I'm willing to live with a substandard defensive left fielder in exchange for a guy who has shown the ability to get on base and hit for power.
In an ideal world, Ruf would be making a scant number of starts in the outfield. Really, he should be the starting first baseman from here on out, where his defense is much better than Ryan Howard's (although that's not an admittedly high hurdle). Of course, the Phils are doing everything in their power to get Howard his 100 RBIs so they can try and spin him in a trade to an American League team in need of a DH, which could limit Ruf's at-bats the rest of the way.
I'm not interesting in re-litigating the Darin Ruf debate. At this point, both sides have made camp on their respective positions and are preparing to form a government based on Ruf's pros and cons as their party platform. This is a personal preference. He intrigues me, and I want to see more.
Do I think Ruf is a future All-Star? I do not. But all he's done at the Major League level is hit, get on base, strike out a bunch and play lousy outfield defense. That essentially describes many of the power hitters who already play every day.
Ruf's true value probably lies as a pure platoon first baseman, but I'm willing to play him every day, in the outfield, at first and against righties and lefties, from here on out.
Really, there's nothing to lose in doing so.