Monday, January 18, 2010

Take it Ruizy

One thing I'm guilty of repeating ad nauseam is the old "don't believe anything you see in April or September". I still espouse this school of thought for my own good reasons. The level of competition is lowered as are the energy reserves and motivation levels of players, for a variety of reasons. When a handful of Jays regulars strung together impressive Septembers, hitting for power and padding their otherwise lackluster stats, I was skeptical. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion hit many bombs in September but, under my intense scrutiny, neither man's accomplishments quite passed the smell test. Not that their home runs and power numbers came cheaply, I'm simply less than moved by their combined efforts.

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.

ScumbagHandFIPHR AllowedHR/9HR/FB
Jason BerkenR5.31191.4311.7
Tim WakefieldR4.58120.835.9
Manny DelcarmenR4.6250.756.4
Ryan PerryR4.5271.0210.4
Andy PettitteL4.15200.928.9
Tommy HunterR4.40131.048.3
Dan WheelerR4.48111.7212.2
Josh BeckettR3.63251.0612.8
A.J. BurnettR4.33251.0910.8
Joba ChamberlainR4.82211.2012.4

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.


  1. Sliders? Changes? Knucklers? Randy Ruiz will hit whatever you've got.

    And you've nailed it in terms of the worst case let him play (and not languish on the bench), and you see what he gives you. And if he gives you anything, you reward him with at bats.

    (I realize that what I just wrote sounds totally cliché and obvious...but somehow, those notions elude The Manager.)

  2. The Manager runs hot and cold with rationality.

    This exercise legitimately converted me into a Randy Ruiz Truther. Clean Up hitter Raaaaannnnddy

  3. If there is a god Ruiz will make the 25 man roster

  4. I don't understand why the Jays were so reluctant to give him time at first base last year. He only played one game there despite playing there All the time in the minors, and while I'm sure he's not some kind of defensive wizard, he appears servicable enough that I see no reason not to give him a shot at starting there this season (assuming, of course, that Overbay's gone). Does anybody actually know anything about RRR's defensive skills?

  5. I can somewhat understand their reluctance to use him. If they dismissed him and his numbers, as I did, using somewhat conventional thinking without doing a little legwork he might just appear to be another fall mirage.

    I think this information supports that Randy Ruiz can hit. Anything and anyone.

  6. "Anybody who can put good wood to Tim Wakefield is either doing something right or something very, very wrong."

    Comments like that are why I read this blog.

  7. Well I'm running down the road trying to loosen my load, I've got 7 Blue Jays on my mind. Four that want a spot in the rotation, two that hit 30 home runs and one that could says a friend of mine.

    Take it Ruizy!

  8. This may be stupid of me, but I'd like to see Lind play left with Ruiz as DH on a regular basis. I know Lind's not good in the field, but if the season's a writeoff anyway, why not give him a shot to improve out there?

  9. Yeah, I really don't understand why they don't go with Lind in left, Snider in right, Ruiz as DH, and Bautista off the bench. Assuming, of course, that Overbay might not be going anywhere.

    If someone really starts to screw the pooch, then you throw in a stop gap guy like Bautista.

    I should be manager!

  10. I second the notion mentioned above - Ruiz for full-time DH!

  11. I imagine Ruiz wouldn't be so bad in left. He moves pretty good for a big man. I recall that he's played there quite a bit in his career.

  12. More great work, Drew. I believe in Randy Ruiz.

  13. Cito will screw him, I think Ruiz could be capable of 850-900ops if given a chance.

  14. As with all good news, this was awesome. Obviously a longer look is in order - and, yes, maybe the league will figure him out. But my question is: figure WHAT out - that he hits anything? I hate to be anything but cautiously optimistic, but I'm bordering on slightly-more-optimistic-than-cautiously-optimistic after this.

  15. Click to enlarge the image. It won't be the only thing getting bigger.


    Raaaaaaaandy. Raaaandy. likes. to. devour. off-speed. piiiiitches. Aziz Ansari jokes aside, you've made me a believer, Drew. I too just wrote off his HRs as a free-swinger going wild but the ability to hit off-speed pitches is highly impressive. But there must be something that kept him in the minors for so long and it's not defense. He couldn't even get a ML AB after OPSing 1.074 at AA. So what are your guesses?

  16. Here are the major league projections for Ruiz (avg./obp./slg):

    Chone in 502 PA's(.255/.315/.448)
    James in 194 PA's(.294/.352/.517)
    Marcel in 272 PA's (.277/.347/.475)

    I can't say I disagree with any of them, I think the more PA's he gets, the worse his overall line will look. I think he is a nice guy to start and come off the bench against lefties, but not much more. He will not make or break the Jays season, and I'd prefer playing time to go to someone that could have high deadline trade value or has a chance to be with the team in 2012 when they may compete.

    Ruiz will be 35 in 2012, and it is very unlikely his trade value will be much higher because even if he does well, other teams will take his numbers with a grain of salt and discount his defensive liabilities.

  17. "But there must be something that kept him in the minors for so long and it's not defense. He couldn't even get a ML AB after OPSing 1.074 at AA. So what are your guesses?"

    My guess is that he was stuck in the minors because he doesn't "look" like a ball player.

  18. "My guess is that he was stuck in the minors because he doesn't "look" like a ball player."

    The more likely reasons are as follows:
    - because he was suspended for testing positive for PED's
    - because he is an old man playing against players 10 years younger than him
    - because teams prefer someone with major league experience to be their DH rather than an unproven rookie who's been with 9 organizations.
    - because of this scouting report "Strikes out far too much and doesn't walk nearly enough to maximize his power stroke. Is a limited defender. "

  19. Ruiz will be 35 in 2012, and it is very unlikely his trade value will be much higher because even if he does well, other teams will take his numbers with a grain of salt and discount his defensive liabilities.

    Can't say I agree Peter. While their track records are quite different, think of how many times Matt Stairs has been traded for. The Phillies gave up something (not much) to get him in 2008, a season in which he couldn't do anything.

    Any team with a right handed hole on their bench could use a power bat down the stretch.

    I think some of Peter's later comments kept him down for so long. If teams don't see him as a worthwhile investment long term, they don't want him blocking people in their system. That's he hits right also holds him back. For the Jays he would be an exciting stop-gap. Not a real piece for the future but a decent showcase for the season.

  20. Who do you think teams will be willing to give up more for come the trade deadline assuming all have similar stats (.260-.280 avg., 12-15 Hr, .800 OPS)
    - Lyle Overbay
    - Randy Ruiz
    - Jose Bautista
    While I think it's a greater stretch for Bautista to put up these numbers his position flexibility and defense would put his value above Ruiz, Overbay's experience and defense also put's his value ahead of Ruiz. Therefore I put them both in the line-up ahead of Ruiz in hopes that they can bring a greater return.

    We can't forget what the goal for this team is, and that is to build for the future. I believe playing Ruiz regularly puts too much focus on the present rather than building for the future.

  21. Randy Ruiz doesn't have (in minimal Plate Appearances) the difficulty with same-handed pitchers of those other two guys. He also makes peanuts, even compared to Bautista's relative walnuts.

  22. According to the TSN Randy Ruiz scouting report (take it for what it is):

    "Has displayed prodigious power at lower levels. Does his best damage against left-handed pitching"

  23. Ruiz has raked everywhere he went in the minors. He came across the water (cortez, cortez) at age 21 to play in the GCL. Ever since, he's raked but been old for his level.

    There comes a time - MLB - when "old for his level" doesn't matter.

  24. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing I'd like better than to see Ruiz hit 30 bombs for the Jays this year and make me look like a jackass for suggesting he's not the best option.

    However, I've seen this story a hundred times, Fringe major leaguer X deserves playing time, and if only he was given the opportunity he would excel. Usually he doesn't get the playing time, and even if he does, he usually fizzles out quickly. Now Ruiz, Dopriak, McCoy, Hoffpauir, etc. may be the exceptions to the rule, but history tells me that the odds are stacked against them and the team would be better off going with a known commodity than taking a long shot.

    These guys are nice back up plans. but I for one don't expect much from any of them.


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