Carlos Ruiz: Why Do the Philadelphia Phillies Waste Him in the No. 8 Hole?

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Carlos Ruiz: Why Do the Philadelphia Phillies Waste Him in the No. 8 Hole?
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What if you were told that the Philadelphia Phillie with the best on base percentage on the team was hitting eighth in the regular lineup?

Well, it would be a lie. Carlos Ruiz doesn't have the best OBP amongst Phillies' regular starters.

Just the second best.

"Chooch," as he has been affectionately dubbed by his teammates and the fans, has gained a reputation this season as a stellar clutch-hitter and key cog in the Phillies' nucleus.

However, manager Charlie Manuel still is not using Ruiz to his full potential.

 

Ruiz's Improvement

In 2007 and 2008, Ruiz posted OBPs of .320 and .340. Decent numbers out of the catcher's spot, but nothing about which to write home.

The 2009 campaign appeared to be more of the same from Ruiz. At the end of July, Carlos had an on base percentage of .325, in line with with career numbers.

But then August hit, and Ruiz apparently figured something out. In August and September, Ruiz posted .391 and .410 OBPs, respectively.

This improvement has carried over into 2010. Ruiz's .383 OBP is a career high, and the third-best amongst starting NL catchers.

Ruiz has been performing at this new level for the past 145 games. The "small sample size" argument no longer applies. 

 

The Problem with the Phillies Lineup

Despite Ruiz's new found ability to get on base, Charlie Manuel has apparently failed to notice.

Ruiz has played 53 games as the eight-hole hitter. He has played 41 games hitting seventh in the order.

In fact, in 2010, Ruiz has never batted higher than sixth in the order.

By batting Ruiz so low, the Phillies are wasting numerous run-scoring opportunities. With the pitcher often following Ruiz in the order, his .383 OBP is usually immediately followed by an out.

Of course, it is possible that Ruiz's numbers are slightly elevated due to the fact that teams may pitch around him in order to get to the pitcher. However, Ruiz's OBP is much higher than the average for eight-hole hitters, so it could be reasonably assumed that most of his skill would carry over to a different spot in the order.

 

A Shift in the Batting Order

So who should be moved down to allow Ruiz's OBP to flourish higher in the order?

Rollins is locked in as the leadoff hitter. Manuel is rightly concerned with team chemistry, and Rollins relishes his role as the table-setter of the offense.

Utley is the ideal three-hole hitter. Howard is an RBI machine, and Werth has an even better OBP than Ruiz.

Ibanez has hit well since the All-Star break. And Polanco's combination of high batting average and contact-hitting tendencies make him a solid No. 2 hitter.

But why is Shane Victorino consistently hitting so high in the batting order?

Previously a hitter with a solid OBP, Victorino's plate-discipline skills have dropped off a cliff in 2010. While his 16 home runs are a career high, his on base percentage has dropped from decent to horrific.

His .313 OBP is the lowest of any Phillies' regular, and the lowest mark of his career.

Despite his awful on-base skills in 2010, Victorino continues to hit higher in the order than Ruiz. In 101 games this season, "The Flying Hawaiian" has hit sixth or higher in the batting order.

Ruiz has hit sixth in the order in one game this season.

There is a 70-point gap between the on-base percentages of Ruiz and Victorino. Yet Victorino continues to get repeated opportunities at the top of the order, while Ruiz languishes at the bottom.

Victorino does bring more speed to the top of the order. But his OBP failings have made him a liability. Batters at the top of the Phillies' order should be getting on base and allowing mashers like Utley, Howard, and Werth to knock them home.

The Phillies would be a more efficient offense if Ruiz was slotted above Victorino in the batting order. In a fully healthy order, Ruiz could be placed in the seven-hole, in front of Victorino. And when Polanco needs to miss the occasional game due to his elbow, Ruiz should be placed in the two-hole.

There may be only a month left. But in a tight division race, every run helps. Ruiz has earned a higher spot in the order. He deserves it.

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