2013 Player Reviews

Phillies Nation Player Review: Carlos Ruiz

(AP)

(AP)

If you attended one of the first 25 games of the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies season you may have noticed the absence of a familiar sound.

“Chooooooooooooooch”

The longtime starting catcher and fan favorite, Carlos Ruiz was suspended for the first 25 games of the 2013 season for testing positive for an amphetamine, Adderall. Ruiz wouldn’t make his debut until April 28 against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

His return wouldn’t last long, as he was placed on the DL on May 20 with a Grade 2 strained hamstring. Suddenly, his career year in 2012 felt like it was forever long ago, and people began to wonder if it was the banned substance he was taking that had to do with his 2012 season.

Ruiz struggled to get going in 2013 and he finished the year hitting only .268, his worst batting average since 2009. Overall, it was Ruiz’s worst offensive season since 2008 as he also finished with a .368 SLG percentage and a dismal .688 OPS. It was clear from his first game back that he was playing catch up and wasn’t seeing the ball. Ruiz was no longer the player keeping the Phillies alive in the 2012 playoff race, but rather another part of a disappointing 2013 ball club. Ruiz’s WAR dropped from 5.2 in 2012 to just 1.4 in 2013 according to FanGraphs’.

One area where Ruiz continued to excel was calling games behind the plate. There’s a reason why Roy Halladay loves pitching to him; Ruiz is arguably the best catcher in the league when it comes to calling games and is highly respected by his coaches and peers across the league. It’s not a complete coincidence that Cole Hamels began turning his season around after Ruiz returned behind the plate. Chooch could be partly responsible for the turn-around for the young pitchers such as Justin De Fratus, B.J. Rosenberg, Jake Diekman, and Ethan Martin. They all went on to have successful second halves in the bullpen.

Ruiz remained effective on defense as well, especially when it came to blocking pitches. Ruiz’s RPP (Passed Pitch Runs), which calculates the number of runs above / below average a catcher is at blocking pitches, was still well above average at 1.8 last season. Chooch’s dWAR remained around his career average at 0.9 as well. Ruiz was certainly not a defensive liability in 2013 for the Phillies.

The 34-year-old Panamanian, who recently signed a 3 year, $26 million contract to remain in Philadelphia, was able to close out the 2013 season strong, posting a .795 OPS in his final 43 games. By the end of the season it seemed as if Ruiz was finally able to “catch up.” Unfortunately, it was a little too late salvage what had been a miserable year.

The Phils brass are hoping that his strong finish carries over into 2014 and beyond, their belief being evident with the fresh contract.

Grade: C-:  The 2013 campaign didn’t start the way Carlos Ruiz would have liked with the 25-game suspension, and it never really seemed to get better. It was a sharp offensive decline for a man who was supposed to help the Phillies out with their woes against left-handed pitching. However, Chooch remained a leader in the clubhouse and continued to command the pitching staff as well as any catcher in the league. If Ruiz can continue to be that leader and build off of his final 50 games from last season than the chants of, “Choooooooch” may once again return in loud fashion in 2014.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. betasigmadeltashag

    November 27, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    I think Ruiz showed some signs offensively the last months or so. I truly think his numbers may be closer to 2012 then 13. Not saying he will bat 300 but more in the 275-80 range.
    And I would also like to wish all my fellow phillies nation a HAPPY THANKSGIVING

  2. Fat Joe

    November 27, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Chooch the best in the league at calling games? Whatever your smoking I’ll have some.

    Ever heard of a guy named Yadier Molina?

    It’s ok to be a little biased. But being delusional about something ain’t never good.

    • Double Trouble Del

      November 27, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      Exactly how many Cardinals games did you watch to make that call?

      • Fat Joe

        November 28, 2013 at 12:03 am

        I saw around 50 Cardinals games and 100+ Phillies games. Why you ask?

    • G7

      November 29, 2013 at 9:04 am

      I think there was an arguably in there, so your arguing..that’s fine, but he’s definitely one of the best as is Molina.

      • Jaron B

        November 30, 2013 at 4:11 pm

        Chooch has been compared to Molina & Mauer (now moving to 1B). There was another catcher Chooch is compared to, but I cannot remember his name.

        Yes, Molina and Chooch are a match defensively with Molina getting the edge on offense. The primary concerns for catchers are durability and defense, and if the offense is good, then that’s a bonus!

        Chooch will hit close to his 2012-plus-last-43-games-of-2013 the next few years with his WAR around 1.9-2.6 per year.

        The contract is good AAV-wise considering McCann’s deal, but it is a year long.

        RAJ hasn’t made too many big mistakes – only Lee to Seattle and Howard for 5-YR/ $125MM were the biggest. Yes, trouble putting together a bullpen and $100MM+ committed to ten players, but the farm system is starting to get us some young returns – Brown, trades for Revere, Biddle (soon). We’re not in the worst shape possible, yet I’ll admit we could be in better shape than we are now.

  3. Bart Shart

    November 27, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Ruiz was the best option available for the Phillies.

  4. Chuck A.

    November 28, 2013 at 9:12 am

    First of all, a C- is a dumb grade, simply based on the fact that I don’t feel you can factor in the suspension and DL stint. If you base his year on when he actually was on the 25 man roster I think the grade would and should be higher.

    Secondly, you wrote that he ” was able to close out the 2013 season strong” and that by the end of the year he was ” finally able to catch up.” …. But then, a few sentences later you wrote that the season “didn’t start the way he would have liked” and that it “never really seemed to get better.” ….. Not really sure what argument you are making…

    Also, Ruiz WAS the best available catcher for the price. McCann was too expensive and Salty is overrated even if he is younger. Plus both are lefties. The rest of the options are not impressive at all. D Navarro??? Please.

    • hk

      November 28, 2013 at 10:19 am

      Chuck,

      The suspension has to be factored in, no? It’s Chooch’s (or maybe his agent’s) fault that he didn’t get MLB approval to use the drug after the first failed drug test, but Chooch losing 15% of the season – and the impact of that loss on the team – is on him.

      • Chuck A.

        November 28, 2013 at 11:38 am

        hk – yes…to a point I suppose. But not to the tune of a C- grade. I’m not much for grades (they are so arbitrary) but if I had to give one for Ruiz I’d be more inclined to say C+ / B-

      • wbramh

        November 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm

        Addendum to my remarks below (or wherever they landed):

        I did read the Eric Walker article on PEDs you provided (under “Former Phils” comments for those who are interested) and it’s very interesting and informative (thanks) but even Walker seems to be asking the question at the end of his article, Why isn’t the league helping players – where is their league-supplied medical assistance?

  5. wbramh

    November 28, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Amen, HK!

    It was an easily avoidable transgression that required no more than a medical note.
    I’ll be generous and go along with the C- only because it was Chooch and I’m sure hurting the team was the last thing he wanted to do. Plus the use of Adderall should not even require a note – but unfortunately does.

    Still, you can’t dismiss Chooch’s role in the mess since it’s ultimately his responsibility to ask the right people, first before he tosses something down his gullet. But the Ruiz situation raises a question that maybe someone here can answer for me.

    What protections are in place to help a player avoid accidentally taking a banned substance????

    Beyond the player’s due diligence (which has its limits since he’s not expected to be a pharmacologist), what guidance is he getting from his agent, team management or more critically, from team and personal doctors? If I see a new doctor, one of the first questions on the form is “Do you have an allergies to medications?” Are ballplayers expected to automatically check the box and provide a written sheet of banned substances in their profession? Perhaps they already do that, which brings up another situation. What if the goof is on the doctor? I can’t count the number of times some doctor has prescribed Penicillin or a Penicillin derivative for me without first noticing that I’m allergic to it. If I don’t specifically read the word “Penicillin” on the script what are my responsibilities for facing a bad reaction… or facing a 25-game suspension?

    Seems that somewhere, what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnO9Jyz82Ps

    • George

      November 30, 2013 at 10:13 am

      There may have been no accident this time, perhaps, although an Hispanic person with somewhat limited English language skills, whose doctor is probably also Hispanic with limited English language skills certainly is a situation where misinterpretation of regulations could come into play. There are other times when the player has been totally unaware of what he was taking. The drug that got J.C. Romero suspended didn’t list steroids as an ingredient and even MLBs banned drug list was vague at the time. I read that Galvis’ suspension was due to a foot cream he had used.

      I’m completely with wbramh here. If there’s a policy against using something, there should be guidance as to what products contain that something, and it should list even those products that are only available in foreign countries. Laws and labeling are not the same everywhere, and what shows up on an American product label won’t always be the same as something packaged for use in Panama or Venezuela. One might hope that Hispanics learn English now that they’re in the U.S. But I doubt that even most Americans know what’s in the cold medicines and pain relievers and diet pills they take.

      • hk

        November 30, 2013 at 2:45 pm

        Good points, George. It does seem as though Hispanic players are suspended for PED’s at a disproportionate rate. What I don’t understand is why Chooch’s agent didn’t make sure he got approval from MLB after the first failed test.

      • wbramh

        November 30, 2013 at 3:31 pm

        I have a feeling that MLB was so anxious to respond to and eliminate doping that nobody really appreciated the can of worms they were unleashing Few doctors have advanced pharmacology knowledge and pharmaceutical companies often discover the complete list of their drugs’ contraindications after users report back with complaints.

        I’ve spent a great part of my professional career working as an outside A/V supplier to pharmaceutical companies. One day, we were recording an informational script for doctors on a new arthritis drug. The voice talent asked me how the name of the drug was pronounced. I didn’t know so I asked the reps from the pharmaceutical company who were sitting behind me. They didn’t know so they called colleagues in Sales at the company. They didn’t know so they asked the specialists in the manufacturing facility. They invented the crap and had no idea!
        We ended up telling the voice talent to pronounce it the way she preferred and that pronunciation became the defacto standard for the World.

        While the unknown pronunciation of a drug’s name might not seem all that important I think it’s a telling barometer of how little everyone knows about both helpful medications and the garbage we put in our bodies.

        I’m an A.D.D. sufferer who managed to learn to control it as an older adult but a concussion brought it back like gang-busters. Seven doctors later I found a pharmacology specialist psychiatrist who explained that concussions damage synapses in the brain and interrupt neuron flow. After 5 years of hell, he prescribed Adderall and it as good as saved my life. A drug like Adderall (what Chooch takes) can help get the synapses re-firie correctly. I’m reminded that a catcher (like a football player) must be far more susceptible to synapse damage than other position players in their sport. Perhaps Chooch’s need for the drug was due to a job-related injury(s). By the way, I don’t doubt for a minute that Dom Brown’s concussion could have affected his performance for the remainder of the season. Rather than giving Chooch an unfair advantage, Adderall probably does no more than offer him an even playing field. The ability to focus is not a superhuman trait but one A.D.D. sufferers struggle to maintain.

      • George

        December 1, 2013 at 10:16 am

        hk–The first failed test warranted just a warning, which was probably issued to the player directly, not through the agent. It’s likely the agent didn’t even know about it. But it does re-open the question about responsiblity and possible misinterpretation of the language and misunderstanding by a Hispanic doctor who may have unknowingly prescribed some other banned substance when Ruiz informed him of a failed test.

        But you are right about agents taking some responsibility, too. It’s their clients who are losing salary through fines, and their own pay is a commision or percentage of that salary. In other words, when a player isn’t paid due to suspension, the agent shouldn’t get anything, either.

      • George

        December 1, 2013 at 10:28 am

        wbramh–you make some excellent points about the “can of worms” that is the drug agreement, and some points everyone should know about pharmaceuticals in general. It’s pretty scary when a company doesn’t even know the proper name of their own product, and should make everyone wonder if even they know what they are putting in those little bottles.

        If the drug companies don’t know all the side effects, then surely MLB can’t. It took the FDA years to issue a warning about tendon ruptures caused by the drug Cipro. Certain diet pills were on the market for years before they were pulled, and there have been arthritis medicines that had to be yanked off the market due to increases in heart problems.

        The Joint Drug Agreement, to me, is not just a can of worms, it’s a can of venomous snakes, and by the time it’s straightened out even somewhat, it will resemble the U.S. tax code.

      • wbramh

        December 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm

        George, You’ve raised an interesting question about the agent’s role in helping to guide his client.

        I suppose a “smart” agent (“crafty” might be the better word) would build a stipulation into his agreement with the player that would guarantee the agent full reimbursement in the event the player’s salary loss is self-inflicted (liking breaking public laws or MLB rules). In fact, it would surprise me if the top agents (at least) didn’t all demand that safety net considering the obvious financial risk. Not to suggest agents would become callous minus personal financial risk but let’s just say their depth of involvement in a player’s off-field adventures might not reach Jerry Maguire levels – especially if their clients are always reinstated after forced vacations.

        In regards to the high percentage of Hispanic players who have had connections, or rumors of connections with juicing, I suspect much of that is perception due more specifically to the Biogenesis scandal. The clinic’s Miami base probably played into that imbalance as well as long-time off-field friendships between Hispanic players. Word probably spreads more quickly within any clique, be it common language, country or team. In the case of Biogenesis, the teams were pretty mixed. I believe the Yankees were the only team to have as many as two players on the list of 20. However,19 out of 20 were Hispanic and primarily Dominican. The odd men out appeared to be a Cuban, a Nicaraguan and Braun. The list of players cited in the Mitchell Report in the ’90s was heavily non-Hispanic. Having glanced through it again recently it appears as if Hispanic players at that time were somewhat underrepresented in the accusations and indictments.

      • hk

        December 1, 2013 at 12:33 pm

        wbramh,

        Wikipedia has a list of all of the MLB players who were suspended for PED use. In a quick count of those who were suspended before 2013, it seems as though ~25 of the 35 went to Hispanic players, some of whom were repeat offenders…and this was before Biogenesis.

      • wbramh

        December 1, 2013 at 1:16 pm

        HK,

        I wasn’t referring to just those suspended before the Biogenesis scandal. Some players who admitted PED use or were implicated in the Mitchell Report were pursued – others not, I assume in return for their testimonies. The list of non-Hispanic players on the Mitchell list far exceeds Hispanic players.

        For example, they include:

        Benard, Bonds, Sheffield, Velarde, Dykstra, Segul, Bigbie, Roberts, Cust, Laker, Hundley, (Hal) Morris, Carreon, (Matt) Franco, (Rondell) White, Clemens, Pettitte, Knobloch, Grimsley, Zaun, Justice, Hill, Vaughn, Neagle, Villone, Franklin, Donnels, (Todd) Williams, Hiatt, Pratt, (Kevin) Young, Lansing, McKay, Mercker, Platt, (Jason) Christiansen, (Mike) Stanton, (Stephen) Randoph, Hairston, LoDuca, Riggs, Miadich, (Kevin )Brown, (Eric) Gagne, (Mike) Bell, Herges, (Greg) Bennett, Parque, (Brendan)Donnelly, (Chad) Allen, (Jeff) Williams, (Howie) Clark, (Nook) Logan, (Ricky) Stone, Turnbow, Joyner, (Paxton) Crawford, Jorgensen, Bones, Caminiti, Ankiel, (David) Bell, (Paul) Byrd, Gibbons, Glaus, Holmes, (Gary) Matthews, Jr, Schoenwels, Matt) Williams, Woodard, Naulty, McGwire.

      • hk

        December 1, 2013 at 8:03 pm

        wbramh,

        I was strictly referencing the high percentage of Hispanic players who have been suspended for PED’s with my main concern being that something may be lost on the Hispanic players in the translation (e.g. maybe Chooch really didn’t understand that all he needed was a doctor’s note to get MLB approval to use Adderall). I suspect that the distribution of users across ethnic lines is probably very close to the distribution of players along those same lines. It just seems that the Hispanic players get suspended at a higher rate.

      • wbramh

        December 1, 2013 at 11:56 pm

        HK,
        I do agree with you that Hispanic players seem to get suspended at a higher rate – and yes before and after Biogenesis, yet implication in juicing has either been in line with the ethnic balance as you suggest or actually lower for Hispanics if you factor in the full wave of revelations since the 90s and the Mitchell Report. I’m not suggesting Hispanic players are now being targeted deliberately but rather, unscrupulous pushers like Biogenesis happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time for circles of primarily Hispanic (and mostly Dominican) players at the very moment the league dropped the hammer. The first wave of bad publicity centered around non-Hispanic like Bonds, McGwire, Pettitte and Clemens – of course, Sosa too, but Sammy was part of a more mutti-cultural group of equal opportunity cheaters (and maybe more than chance another Dominican).

        I’m not totally discounting the language barrier as causal to the problem for Hispanic players in general but it would surprise me if it’s at the center of the issue. I would think access to good Spanish-speaking counsel is pretty readily available these days – especially considering the high stakes involved for players, teams,MLB and super agents alike.

  6. Bob in Bucks

    November 29, 2013 at 7:39 am

    There was no accident here. Ruiz received a warning first but continued taking the drug.

  7. Bruce

    December 1, 2013 at 12:20 am

    I have no doubt that Bob McClure is grateful that Amaro signed Ruiz to a new contract, As an outsider hired to be the pitching coach,McClure needs to pick Ruiz’s brain for all his knowledge of the pitching staff.

  8. wbramh

    December 1, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Can’t hurt because McClure’s going to need all the help he can get – but I think McClure would be even more grateful if Amaro signed Masahiro Tanaka plus a middle reliever and set-up man who aren’t better suited for batting practice.
    I know I’d be more grateful.
    Come on, Rube. It’s Chanukah, doggonit!

  9. DavidE

    December 1, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    This is a quote from Richie Ashburn:

    “What does being good in the clubhouse mean?”

    • wbramh

      December 2, 2013 at 12:08 am

      For starters, not leaving your jock strap on the snack table.

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