To Chooch or Not to Chooch

Ruiz set career-highs in 2012 in eight offensive categories. Did Adderall aid that?

Ruiz set career-highs in 2012 in eight offensive categories. Did Adderall aid that?

Once the season ends, or perhaps even at the July 31 trade deadline, the Phillies will be forced to deal with harsh realities. Several players who were integral parts of the teams’ run to the 2008 World Series could be on the move. It’s not out of the question to think the 2014 Phillies could be without Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Carlos Ruiz.

Let’s focus on Ruiz. He’s was slowly working his way back to normalcy after a rough start following a 25-game suspension to begin the year. Then, he blew a tire going first-to-third in a game against the Reds last weekend and is now on the DL for 3-to-4 weeks.

The use of Adderall, for which he was suspended, tells me one thing; that he’s slowing down.  And inevitably, when a catcher slows down, it usually isn’t pretty. Ruiz was looking for an advantage and felt he could get one with the use of this banned substance. Without that aid, what does the future hold for Chooch?

For one, he’ll be 35 when next season rolls around. His .325 average last season appears to be an aberration, but we’ll know more about that after the year is complete. With 16 games and 51 at-bats under his belt this year, Ruiz is hitting .235. One thing Chooch has been known for is his ability to get on base and not strike out. His .361 career OBP is fantastic and would be sorely missed in a lineup that struggles with that idea. Even if his bat slows a bit, he still has shown to have a solid grasp of the strike zone.

What’s the alternative? The free agent landscape will not be kind to the Phillies, so forget that. If Ruiz does not come back, they’ll go in-house. Tommy Joseph is the clear heir apparent to the catching kingdom in Philly.

At Triple-A, Joseph is hitting just .209 in 21 games. His plate discipline is also a work-in-progress, as he’s whiffed 15 times times over 71 plate appearances. Joseph will display power – he has 52 home runs in four seasons in the minor leagues – but it is a sacrifice for consistency at the plate. Joseph’s durability has also been an issue this season, as he still has not been cleared to play after suffering a concussion on May 4.

The numbers say his bat is not quite ready, but again, we’ll have to see the full picture. According to scouting reports, he is a decent receiver, which can also make up for a lack of bat. However, this year, Joseph is dealing with a bout of passed balls. With eight all of last season, he’s got nine in 21 games in 2013. His caught stealing rate is also down to 22 percent from 48 percent a year ago. In Philly, if you don’t present the full package of goods, the fans won’t stand for it.

What that tells me is Joseph likely won’t be ready in the near future, so another year of grooming is possible. That leads us to 2014 behind the plate for the Phillies.

Money is an issue when it comes to Ruiz. What will he command? He’ll obviously want a multi-year deal, but I can’t even begin to assume what sort of money he would get. Two years, $10 million? Three years, $15 million? More? Less? It might be smart for the Phillies to offer him a one-year, incentive laden deal instead of getting themselves locked into yet another multi-year contract. Plus, you’d have to assume one of the catchers in the system would be ready after another year.

If Chooch demands more and won’t take a one-year deal, maybe the Phillies look into a platoon. It’s not idea, but it could save millions in the long run.

There’s still plenty of time for Ruben Amaro and his boys to figure this out. However, it’s another position where there could be turnover, and with the way this team is treading water, it’s something we need to think about and keep on the radar throughout the year. The possibility that someone other than the much-beloved Chooch behind the plate could be a reality.



  1. Chuck A.

    May 22, 2013 at 9:49 am

    One year contract with incentives to make it 2 years. Or a modest 2 year deal. But nothing more.

    I think we definitely need someone like Chooch for at least one more season as the #1 catcher. Maybe if Joseph is really ready in ’15 he and Chooch can share the catching duties or possibly Chooch becomes his backup.

    As for Utley and Rollins, I’d actually prefer that they keep Rollins and either shop Utley at the deadline if we’re out of it ..or just not bring Utley back. I think Jimmy is still the “spark plug” for this offense and is still a very, very good SS. And he’s really a steal when you think about it. His contract isn’t an albatross. Utley, on the other hand, would command too much I would think and plugging someone like Galvis in there would save the team a ton of money.

    • Keith

      May 22, 2013 at 10:46 am

      J-Roll’s contract is not an albatross? Let’s see. No other team offered Rollins more than 2 years (Phillies gave him 3 with an easily attainable vesting option for a fourth) and $8M a year (Phillies gave him $11M). His contract also cost the Phillies a reasonably priced corner OF named Hunter Pence. Oh, and don’t forget that the same off season had Galvis, a SS, named the best position player in the Phillies system. I don’t know about you, but I would take the production of Pence and Galvis over Rollins and Delmon Young. And we definitely wouldn’t lose anything in defense…

      • schmenkman

        May 22, 2013 at 11:18 am

        I suppose we can debate whether the Phillies paid more than the market demanded.

        But no, in no way is Rollins’ contract an albatross. It was a bargain last year when he was arguably the 2nd best shortstop in the majors. And even with his usual slow start, he’s been as valuable as Michael Young this year (Young has hit better, but Rollins has played better defense at a more difficult position).

        And while some may have been willing to go all in on Galvis based on only one good minor league season (when it wasn’t clear whether it was a fluke), the front office was not, and understandably so.

      • Chuck A.

        May 22, 2013 at 2:12 pm

        Keith – Just how exactly did J-Roll’s contract cost them Hunter Pence?

      • Keith

        May 22, 2013 at 2:49 pm

        Because by overpaying for J-Roll, the Phillies couldn’t afford to keep Pence.

      • Keith

        May 22, 2013 at 2:58 pm

        Schmenkman, many scouts already think Galvis is a Gold Glove caliber defensive player, and SS is his natural position. So going from Rollins to Galvis should be little difference in defense.

        Under what metric was Rollins the second best SS in the majors? He may have only been second best in his own division. About the only thing he was good at last year was popping out, which he did in nearly 1 in every 5 ABs.

        So to say it again, overpaying Rollins when the Phillies had Galvis ready has already cost them Pence, and he may well cost them either Chooch or Utley. Still think Rollins has a good contract?

      • schmenkman

        May 22, 2013 at 3:24 pm

        You’re right about the division — highest WAR among MLB shortstops in 2012, according to Fangraphs:

        5.0 – Ian Desmond
        4.8 – Jimmy Rollins
        4.2 – Jose Reyes
        3.9 – Elvis Andrus
        and so on…

        And this sentence is so far off, it’s just mind boggling that anyone actually thinks this:

        “About the only thing he was good at last year was popping out, which he did in nearly 1 in every 5 ABs.”

        You must be referring to his 19.9% popup rate. What this means is that about 1 out of 5 balls hit in the air were popups (NOT 1 in 5 at bats). He had a total of 42 popups last year.

        Out of the 16 NL leadoff hitters in 2012, Rollins had the…

        9th highest OBP
        6th highest OPS
        3rd highest walk rate
        2nd lowest strikeout rate

        Even if you include his popups with his strikeouts, the combination would still be among the lowest among NL leadoff hitters.

        Finally, Rollins was very clutch last year:

        .277/.364/.545 (.908 OPS) with runners in scoring position
        .262/.368/.523 (.891 OPS) with RISP and 2 outs
        .368/.397/.585 (.981 OPS) in high leverage situations

      • Chuck A.

        May 22, 2013 at 4:02 pm

        schmenk – I think you nailed it with that! For all you Rollins haters out there….do yourself a favor.. go to and compare his numbers to other HOF shortstops (Barry Larkin is a great example). We COULD be looking at a future HOFer in Jimmy if he plays for a few more full seasons.

      • Keith

        May 22, 2013 at 6:02 pm

        Actually, the stats you are mixing up are infield fly ball ratio and ABs per popup. The 19.9 you are quoting is ABs per popup. Rollins’ infield fly ball ratio is 22%. Considering the ML average since 1988 is 12%, that’s atrocious. Popping out every 20 ABs is also atrocious, especially for a guy who fancies himself as a leadoff batter. Couple that with a K percentage in the low teens (also above ML average), and we have an overpaid SS with declining seats.

        As for HoF comparisons, Rollins really doesn’t look that great. Of recent indictees, almost all of the basic stats, both offensive and defensive, are lower than others already in. Yes, Rollins had some peak years where he had HoF caliber production, but not that many, and not enough in my opinion.

      • schmenkman

        May 22, 2013 at 9:52 pm

        @Keith, you had inadvertently said nearly 1 popup every 5 at bats, so I’m glad you corrected that.

        Last year was Rollins’ worst year in the % of balls in the air that have been popups, and for his career he has popped out at about the league average (career avg 13% vs. MLB avg 12%, using the bb-ref stats).

        We’ve already covered that he has among the lowest strikeout rates among leadoff hitters, even if you add in the popups. And I suppose you know this, but he has always struck out less than the MLB average.

        I agree however that his HoF chances are probably less than 50-50, especially if advanced stats continue to gain traction over the next 10-15 years. I wrote a piece on this recently that might be of interest:

  2. TimEasterPants

    May 22, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Why no mention of Rupp or Valle?

    • Hittingforavg

      May 22, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      Rupp is only in AA and Valle has regressed this year

  3. USC

    May 22, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    You absolutely trade him at the deadline. At least one team will gamble on him bouncing back, which should get a decent prospect in return. Detroit, Arizona, and Cincinnati all have sub 600 OPS from catchers, which makes them potential trade partners. I’d also include LAD and TB on the list, so there are plenty of options.

    Joseph is indeed not ready for a full time gig, but fortunately the 2014 FA class is filled with ML starting quality catchers. If you sign one and have him start 90 games, you can still get Joseph more than 72 starts. Development is certainly possible at the ML level, especially for a team in transition.

    • George

      May 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      I think only “decent” is about all Ruiz would bring in a trade. He’s 35, he’ll be coming off an injury and will only have about a month to prove he’s healthy and able to hit. He’d also be a short term rental. I agree that some team would take a chance, but probably won’t give a ton for him.

      I’m also not sure that for the remainder of 2013 Kratz and Quintero would be able to do the job even adequately.

  4. Stu

    May 22, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Deal Utley, Chooch one maybe two years. He manages pitchers too well to let him go. Keep Rollins and let him finish his career in Philly. If that requires him to move to second to let Galvis slide in then so be it.

    • Chuck A.

      May 22, 2013 at 4:56 pm

      If anything, I’d rather see Rollins move to 3rd and Galvis play his natural position of SS. But that’s dependent, of course, on Cody Asche’s development.

      • Stu

        May 24, 2013 at 8:59 am

        Agreed on the Asche comment. At the time we decide to put Jimmy at second or third. Either way I’d like to keep him and I’d like to see Galvis at SS

  5. Lou

    May 22, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Why no mention of Kratz in place of Chooch (if it comes to that)? I think Kratz has been doing a great job so far!

  6. Lefty

    May 22, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    To Chooch or not to Chooch, whew that’s a really tough one. I try to stay emotionally unattached to individual players, it’s more about the team for me. But man, this is Chooch, it would be really tough to see him in another uniform.

    I don’t know, I guess you make a reasonable short term offer for a guy his age and recent injury history, and hope for the best. If he agrees, it doesn’t hurt the club. If he’s insulted, you gotta move on.

  7. bacardipr

    May 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Kratz is a backup catcher nothing else. If the Phils fail to stay in contention yes you can finish out the year with Kratz/Humberto. However if the Phils remain in contention do you want to go with Kratz/Humberto? The other options at the minor league level are not ready. FA looks like a wash at this point. Some of the options are just as old or older than Ruiz. I think a 2 year deal will be ok. The 2nd year they can then audition the other catchers they have in the minors. However i would not want to sign him past 2 years. This is all dependent on how he looks when he comes back from his injury. Tough Tough decisions await RAJ and company.

    • USC

      May 23, 2013 at 12:06 am

      The last thing that this club needs is to continue to overpay on years to free agents! John Buck is a free agent and a capable starting catcher. You offer him 1 year $8 M (he is currently making $6 M) instead of 2 years at $11 M. Of all of management’s biggest mistakes, the years overpay is what really kills the club.

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