No one will ever confuse Darin Ruf of the Philadelphia Phillies with the former great New York Yankees’ first baseman Lou Gehrig, but Ryan Howard has to feel at least a little like Wally Pipp after watching Ruf’s smooth start so far.
In a season where the Phillies have lost 14 of their last 15 games and now find themselves 16.5 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves, Ruf really has been the only highlight. Since taking over at first (and sometimes left field) for the injured Howard, Ruf has reached base safely in all 23 games in which he’s appeared.
Maybe Ruf will never become the modern-day Gehrig, who subbed for the injured Pipp and set a consecutive games-played record that would not be broken until Cal Ripken Jr. appeared on the scene, but at least he’s trying.
He’s hit .299 compared to Howard’s .266 with a .413 on-base percentage and a .494 slugging percentage. By comparison, Howard’s on-base percentage was .319 and his slugging percentage .465. Ruf has had at least one hit in 18 of his games, a walk in three more and was hit by a pitch in the other two, proving that he knows how to take one for the club.
Going back even farther, Ruf has never failed to reach base in a game that he has started. Across both seasons, Ruf’s 32-game on-base streak is the longest one currently in all of baseball and the longest the Phillies have had since Chase Utley’s 33-game streak over two seasons that ended at the start of last year.
Despite the relatively small sample, the most encouraging part to the Phillies brass might be that Ruf is doing it at a bargain-basement price. While Howard is in the middle of a seven-year, $125-million contract, Ruf is making the major-league minimum: $490,000.
His on-base percentage is easily the highest on a team of underachievers in that area (both Michael Young and the injured Ben Revere are sitting on .338 OBPs) and Ruf has become easily the smoothest part of an otherwise rough ride for the team this season.