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Cameron Rupp is the Phillies' Starting Catcher

Over the last month, Cameron Rupp has gradually replaced Carlos Ruiz as the Phillies' starting catcher, indicating that the Phillies have finally accepted the economic principle of sunk cost. Rupp has out-performed Chooch and playing him makes the most sense for the franchise both now and going forward.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

While the big news yesterday and today in Philliesland regards the status of Chase Utley as the Phillies starting second baseman--something that hasn't been in doubt at any previous point in the last decade--another member of the 2008 World Effing Championship core has been quietly marginalized. Last month, I looked into the sudden decline of Carlos Ruiz and came away doubtful that he would be able to turn it around in his age-36 season. To that point, he had been unable to make solid contact and that seemed damning for an aging catcher.

The Phillies may have drawn a similar conclusion regarding Ruiz's ability to perform up to his previous standards and have quietly transitioned to establishing Cameron Rupp as their starting catcher. Check out the breakdown of starts at catcher by 20-game intervals:

Game Interval

Ruiz Starts

Rupp Starts

1-20

14

6

21-40

14

6

41-60

14

6

61-80

9

11

81-86

2

4

Since the first week of June, there has been a pretty clear shift away from starting Carlos Ruiz. Unlike the rise of Cesar Hernandez, Rupp's ascension to a starting role has not been formally announced by Ruben Amaro or manager Pete Mackanin; it just sort of happened.

Also unlike the Utley/Hernandez situation, there is no undercurrent of contract manipulation at play. According to Baseball-Reference, Ruiz is owed $8.5 to play baseball next season; the Phillies will presumably be the ones who will owe him the entirety of that; and, there's nothing they can do about it. There is a $500,000 buyout for 2017 that, if it wasn't clear entering the season, will be the route the Phillies pursue over picking up his $4.5 million option for that season. Obviously, that's all a sunk cost, but baseball teams--especially the Phillies--rarely operate rationally when it comes to sunk costs and that (~$13 million) is a lot of money to have sitting on the bench.

But that's enough about Ruiz. We discussed his 2015 performance a month ago and it has only gotten worse since. What of this other guy, Cameron Rupp? Coming into the season, he was seen as likely to end up as a career backup. He wasn't even guaranteed to make the team out of Spring Training as veteran Koyie Hill was also in camp, presumably as a strong candidate to back up Ruiz. So, even though Rupp probably has a place on a major league roster either now or at some point in his career, it's not as if the Phillies are replacing a declining Ruiz with Blake Swihart.

For the season, Ruiz and Rupp have produced similarly offensively, which is to say that they have both performed poorly. Rupp's 2015 line of .243/.302/.330 (77 OPS+) is only incrementally better than Ruiz's .225/.307/.280 (66 OPS+). If we look at the same 20-game splits we looked at above (granted, small samples with totally arbitrary endpoints), the improvement Rupp provides over Ruiz becomes a little clearer.

Game Interval

Ruiz OPS

Rupp OPS

1-20

.619

.345

21-40

.646

.641

41-60

.544

.911

61-86

.530

.662

These samples are admittedly tiny--fewer than 15 games for each player per interval--but the trend persists if we simply divide the season into the first 43 games and the next 43 games. Ruiz is declining to an extent that Rupp is clearly a better offensive option at this point. That's sad because Rupp is by no means a good offensive option, but, for the Phillies, being good is not a prerequisite for being the best available option.

Rupp has also been better than Ruiz at controlling the running game. While Chooch has always hovered around league average in throwing out would-be base-stealers, his ability to throw out runners has fallen off substantially in 2015. He has only thrown out 8 of 41 (20%) runners trying to steal. That's really bad. On the other hand, Rupp has been substantially better, throwing out 10 of 24 (42%) runners. While Ruiz has been very bad, Rupp has been very good in this aspect of the game.

Is Cameron Rupp going to be the catcher on the next good Phillies team? That's very unlikely, if not impossible. What is possible, though, is that he is the backup catcher on the next good Phillies team. Carlos Ruiz will fill neither of those roles. The Phillies have seemingly lacked a clear understanding of sunk cost in assembling lineups in the past (see: Howard, Ryan), but despite owing Ruiz approximately ~$13 million over the next season and a half, they are replacing him with a younger player who, unlike Chooch, may have a role--albeit a small one--in the Phillies (hopefully) successful future.

The remaining artifacts of the 2008 World Championship team are slowly being pushed off to the side. While that is certainly sad as fans of that team and those players, it is encouraging that the Phillies are no longer themselves sentimental about that increasingly distant memory.