May 9, 2013, 3:33 PM EDT
Carlos Ruiz picked a good time to nab his second base stealer of the year. If not for this rifle to get Gregor Blanco at second for the first out in the bottom of the ninth, Marco Scutaro gets walk-off winner with next at-bat, a double to center. The Phillies don’t even get a chance.
Still, style points don’t change Ruiz’s concerning caught stealing line so far: 2 for 10 (.200).
That’s worth watching. When you look back the explosion in Ruiz’s production last year, when he failed a drug test for Adderall that triggered a 25-game ban, a significant uptick in his CS% was right along with it.
Before 2012, Ruiz had only once in his career gotten more than 30% of base stealers — in 2007. His six-year career average was 26.3%. In 2011, he only caught 23.0% of 100 who tried.
Last year: 34.0% of a nearly identical number of attempts.
In relative terms, that was the difference between the worst of 11 qualifying catchers (Brian McCann) and cracking the top 5 in all of baseball.
How does that translate? Take away 13 base runners in scoring position, where on average ML teams drove in a run in about 35.1% of at-bats, and Ruiz arguably saved 4.5 more runs on SB attempts alone.
That doesn’t even begin to factor in the difference of 10 extra outs, whether they ended in an inning, changed a strategy or killed the mojo of a rally. Clearly a big deal.
Ruiz hasn’t said how much amphetamines helped his game. But when you consider what they do — heighten focus, in some cases enough to create “tunnel vision” — it stands to reason that a little extra concentration could go just as far behind the plate as it does at it.
Still, stolen base attempts don’t occur in a vacuum. The pitcher (his handedness, delivery, even what pitch he’s throwing) often determines whether the catcher even has a chance.
You could argue that for most of the eight steals on his record this year, Ruiz was toast from the start. Four came in the two starts when Roy Halladay realized things in his shoulder were fraying like twine. Two others were with rookie Jonathan Pettibone on the hill. Another, with the lumbering Phillippe Aumont.
In other words: 70% of Ruiz’s stolen base equation this year weren’t factors last year.
With rookie righty Tyler Cloyd joining the rotation Friday, and with lefty John Lanann likely out for at least another three weeks, Ruiz’s help isn’t likely to get better any time soon. So even if the company mattered more than the chemicals last year, Ruiz needs to be sharp as he can be moving forward.
And yeah, breaking his 4 for 29 slump at the dish would be nice, too.
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