To steal the famous line from former NFL head coach Dennis Green, “we are who they say we are”, 2015 proved Darin Ruf is what the Phillies have long said he was.
On the surface, Darin Ruf’s 2015 season looks like a guy who was deserving of more of a chance at an everyday opportunity. Although his batting average was low, .235, his overall production was quite high. Twelve homers and 39 RBI, in just 297 plate appearances, the 29-year old played a significant role off the bench this year. But in most cases, the numbers aren’t always what they say they are.
A 20th round selection out of Creighton, Ruf was not expected to be more an organization depth. Even solid campaigns in Williamsport and Lakewood in 2009 and 2010 respectively did not overly excite the Phillies brass that they had a potential everyday regular on their hands.
In 2011, Ruf spent his second season in Clearwater and at age 24, wasn’t likely to see the show as member of the Phils organization. But in 2012 Ruf was promoted to Double A Reading and it all came together, hitting .317 with 38 bombs, and 104 driven-in. The Phillies were in the process of ending the best five-year run in team history and headed toward an 81-81 season, an infusion of fresh young blood was sorely needed and Ruf looked to be the answer.
Ruf saw a cup of coffee with the team in September, but very few could understand why he wasn’t handed the everyday LF job and placed between Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the lineup for the next several years.
Former GM Ruben Amaro had his detractors and more than a few questionable decisions, but his hesitation to hand Ruf and everyday job was right on the money, not only offensively, but, most importantly, defensively.
Amaro thought Ruf was a man without a position. As long as Ryan Howard and his gross national debt like contract were on the roster, he wasn’t going to play his natural position of first baseman on a consistent basis. Hiding him in left wasn’t an option either since he the organization thought good right-handed pitching would expose him. Looking inside his 2015 statistics, he couldn’t have been more right.
Of Ruf’s 12 jacks, eight of them were vs. left-handed pitchers. Twenty-two of his 39 runs batted in came against southpaws, 12 of his 21 walks, were against left-handed pitchers. And finally, his batting average when a lefty took the hill was a Ty Cobb-like .371, against just .158 versus right-handers.
In the short bursts of opportunities that Ruf has had, nothing has seemed to indicate he can handle the everyday grind. Howard’s dramatic decline has opened up a platoon role for him at 1b and that will continue in 2016. He has a place on a 25-man MLB roster. At first base or designated hitter, with a very rare appearance in left field, he will have a fine major league career as an extra man.