I don't think I've given Randy Ruiz a fair shake. I downplayed his success as a free-swinger; running into errant fastballs. A basic one-trick pony. I was reluctant to devote the time for the type of "analysis" I did for EE and JoeBau as I didn't believe Ruiz warranted a second look. But when word of his raking in the DR broke and reader AndyMc requested I take a look, I figured I would. And am I glad I did. How wrong I was on Randy Ruiz.
Before I shower Randy Ruiz with effusive praise, let's remember a few important details: he strikes out. A lot. Which isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but he strikes out a ton while only walking a little. Randy Ruiz hit home runs at an ungodly rate last year, sporting the highest home run per fly ball rate of any player with 100 PAs. That might be tough to sustain, considering his rate of 31.3% is 7% higher than JIMJAM Thome. The rest of the HR/FB list reads like a who's who of big time sluggers. Can Ruiz stay in their elite company? Let's get to the facts.
Uh, wow. Very, very few shitballers in that mix. Not a single shot off Jeremy Guthrie either!! Only Berken, Wheeler and Joba surrender homers at steady rate, though Josh Beckett coughed up a few in the second half of 2009 (five more in the second half over the first, in 30 fewer innings.) But the rest of the list is pretty legit. Tommy Hunter is a ground ball machine who turned in a decent 2009, Manny Delcarmen throws hard and keeps the ball in the park. Anybody who can put good wood to Tim Wakefield is either doing something right or something very, very wrong.
If I was to quickly don my skeptic's hat again, I'd see a lot of flamethrowers on this list and assume Ruiz saw a bunch of thigh-high fastballs from guys who didn't know enough about him yet. Guess what? I'd be dead wrong. Click to enlarge the image. It won't be the only thing getting bigger.
That, my friends, is impressive. A wide variety of pitches, thrown in every single zone imaginable. What the fungus is going on here!! Compare that to EE and Bautista's graphs. The difference is remarkable. Only two fastballs up and over the plate. Golfing sliders and driving change ups. Crazy.
Even crazier? Randy Ruiz's approach. Ruiz hits home runs no matter the count. In fact, five or Ruiz's ten home runs came in 0-1 counts. Get cheated on your own time bitches! He knocked two out of the park facing 2-2 counts, including an eight pitch battle with Tommy Hunter. Awesome stuff.
Want a little more boner fodder? Remember when I got all up in the pants about Travis Snider's plate coverage? Ruiz more than holds his own, but you'll have to wait for another day to see the proof. Trust me.
What does all this mean then? Randy Ruiz is some sort of hitting savant. There is NO reason he shouldn't see consistent at bats during a throw-away year like 2010. Worst case scenario, the league figures him out. The Jays scuttle him sooner rather than later to prevent AB deprivation among their future studs. Best case? He hits like a maniac all summer long, providing entertainment and perhaps a reasonable prospect at the deadline? He figures into the plans moving forward if he suddenly turns himself into a left field worth mentioning? His solid performance against right handed pitching all but eliminates him from platoon consideration, meaning that is exactly what will happen. Ruiz will grab a few at bats here and there while Bautista gets run out there 4 days a week. Ugh.
As always, praise to Brooks Baseball for pitch f/x data, Fangraphs for the pitcher numbers, Hit Tracker Online for all things tater tot. Reuters Image courtesy of Daylife.