When the Philadelphia Phillies found out that second baseman Chase Utley would be joining first baseman Ryan Howard on the disabled list to begin the 2012 season, they knew that someone would have to pick up the slack at the plate.
Through 40 games, that player hasn’t been two-time All-Star center fielder Shane Victorino, who is batting just .244. It’s not Hunter Pence (.253 average) and it certainly hasn’t been Jimmy Rollins (.232).
But one player has stood out well above the rest of the team this season.
That would be catcher Carlos Ruiz, who is on pace to enjoy the finest season by a catcher in Philadelphia Phillies history.
Through 40 (and a half) games, Ruiz is batting a ridiculous .368. That’s the third best mark in all of baseball. He has seven home runs, and is on pace to shatter his previous single-season high of nine. He’s driven in 27.
Perhaps the most important statistic of Ruiz’s incredible season is that the Phillies have been slowly raising Ruiz’s spot in the batting order. He’s been batting fifth a lot recently, and if he keeps hitting like this, he’ll probably move into the number two or three spot in the lineup.
Pretty impressive for a guy who hit .219 in the eighth spot the year the Phillies won the World Series.
Ruiz is so important to the Phillies that the 33-year old catcher has played in 36 of a possible 41 games this season, easily his highest mark ever.
The Phillies are 20-19 and in the middle of a five-game winning streak. They’re still in last place in the National League East, but if they keep playing like they have been recently, and if Chooch keeps hitting the cover off the ball, the Phillies are going to be legitimate contenders for their sixth straight division title.
And if they do win the division, expect Carlos Ruiz to earn some serious MVP votes. He would need to do a lot to overtake Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he could find his way into the top three or four of the voting for sure.