Carlos Ruiz has always been an underrated catcher both offensively and defensively, but he’s taken his game to a whole new level in 2012.
Ruiz has been the most consistent player on the Philadelphia Phillies, and he’s hitting at a .371 clip with an incredible .609 slugging percentage. Ruiz has nearly as many home runs (8) as he hit all of last year, and he’s leading the league with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage behind the date. He’s also handling a starting pitching staff that rates fourth in WAR (5.9) and leads the major leagues in xFIP (3.27).
The National League has a handful of catchers playing at a high level in 2012. Here are Ruiz’s top competitors for the starting spot in the All-Star Game.
Brian McCann is a perennial NL All-Star, having made six, so I included him but it’s obvious that this just isn’t his best year. Miguel Montero was just rewarded with a five-year contract extension (worth $60 million!), and he’s a fine catcher, but not deserving of the All-Star team. And Buster Posey has a slew of credentials already – Rookie of the Year and a World Series ring plus a .300 season at age 23, but he’s a little overmatched compared to the others on this list.
And Jonathan Lucroy – who is right in the mix for starting catcher – just broke his hand and will be out at least a month, so I think that makes it safe to remove him from the list.
That leaves three catchers competing for the starting spot on the All-Star team: Ruiz, A.J. Ellis, and Yadier Molina. Molina and Ruiz have the enormous edge on Ellis for the name factor, as Ellis is a relative unknown enjoying a truly remarkable season for a first place team.
Looking at the numbers, Ruiz leads in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS, which has in turn given him 2.8 wins above that of a replacement player, the highest total of any catcher in the game this season.
Defensively, Molina is renowned for his cannon of a throwing arm, which has helped him throw out 38.5 percent of would-be base stealers this season. But Ruiz isn’t too shabby himself, as he’s at 36.8 percent, and Ruiz has made fewer errors (2-1) which leads to a higher fielding percentage (.997-.994).
Ruiz has had a terrific career, but he’s never made an All-Star team. He’s helped the Phillies win a World Series and five consecutive NL East titles, he’s batted higher than .300 in six of 10 postseason series, and he’s caught both a no-hitter and a perfect game. He’s even stepped into the lineup as the cleanup hitter, with Ryan Howard rehabbing from a torn Achilles injury and Hunter Pence struggling in the role.
And soon, Ruiz can expect to have an All-Star added onto his resume.