While Chase Utley and Ryan Howard began the season on the disabled list, players such as Hunter Pence, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino were expected to guide the Philadelphia Phillies offense until the team’s lineup was healthy.
Instead, Carlos Ruiz and his .350 batting average during the first-half of the regular season led the Phils and earned him his first trip to the All-Star Game.
Now that the Phillies have seen these players return to the lineup, a run at the postseason during the second half may not be out of the question.
However, an injury to Ruiz would certainly put a damper on any optimism.
As an article by Matt Gelb on philly.com explains, Ruiz currently has mild plantar fasciitis. Gelb writes that the injury began affecting him during the team’s recent series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, which started nearly two weeks ago. Ruiz has sat in two of the Phillies' past three games.
The article notes that Ruiz has seen improvement with the injury. But could its timing have implications on the Phils' attempt at a postseason run?
For the month of July, the Phillies' team batting average is the lowest of any month this season, and ranks as the second lowest average in the National League.
Ruiz’s batting average in July is also his lowest in any month this season. Furthermore, in the past week, Ruiz is batting .267. His average has been on the decline since the Phillies' final game in their series against the Dodgers.
Ruiz’s injury may be the cause of the recent decrease, but that doesn’t make its timing any better.
Despite playing one of the most demanding positions on the field, Ruiz has still played in the third highest number of games for the Phils this season. With Brian Schneider already on the disabled list, the Phillies have had to rely on Erik Kratz as of late in Ruiz’s absence.
Although he played large roles in the team’s recent four-game win streak, he’s also already eclipsed his previous career high for games played after appearing in 11 games this season.
However, the Phils may not have as solid an injury fill-in for third base.
Placido Polanco is currently on the disabled list with an injury to his back, which means Ty Wigginton has continued to see playing time at third base.
Although he’s played in one-third the amount of games at third base this season as he did last year, he’s already made twice as many errors.
Mike Fontenot has also made two errors in nine starts at the position, including one recently against the Atlanta Braves that led to a run in a Phillies loss.
According to fangraphs.com, Polanco’s UZR of 2.9 ranks third among NL third baseman who have played in at least 600 innings this season.
Despite batting well below his career average this season, Polanco’s defense at third base could be what the Phillies miss in his absence.
Between Ruiz attempting to play through injury and continue to lead the offense, and Polanco’s missing glove at third base, the Phillies have been hit by two more injuries at an inopportune time.
Of course, they’re not nearly as detrimental as the injuries to Utley, Howard and Roy Halladay.
If rest doesn’t help Ruiz’s foot injury and he lands on the disabled list, the Phillies could be forced to use Erik Kratz and Ty Wigginton as starters at catcher and third base, respectively, as they try to make a run at the postseason.
If the Phillies were having a difficult time making up ground in the standings prior to more injuries, chances are they will have a harder time if Ruiz and Polanco are out for an extended period of time.
At 11.5 games back in the wild card standings, the Phillies need their starting lineup healthy now more than ever.
Although making a run at the postseason will be difficult either way, missing a crucial part of their offense and defense for an extended period of time would only make things harder down the stretch for the Phillies.