I thought it might be nice to take a break from hoping for the Phils to get new players to hope briefly that some of the players they do have put up better numbers next year. In that spirit I would like to offer a personal plea to Carlos Ruiz: For the love of all things sacred, please, please, please stop swinging at the first pitch.
Ruiz often swings at the first pitch and, at least this season, his results when he does are just miserable. Ruiz was 7-for-50 (.140) with a .220 slugging percentage when his plate appearance ended on the first pitch. He posted a .393 OPS in those 55 plate appearances. In his 191 plate appearances when he got behind in the count 0-1 he hit 267/300/400 (a .700 OPS). In the 183 plate appearances he took ball one and got ahead 1-0 he posted an .880 OPS.
If you’re going to compare the OPS on the first pitch to the plate appearance to the OPS overall, it’s critical to remember that you can’t walk on the first pitch of the plate appearance (thus improving your on-base percentage and OPS). That said, Ruiz’s numbers were still miserable. He walked 42 times this season and posted a 259/340/396 line overall — if he hadn’t walked once all year his line would have been 259/267/396. That’s still a .663 OPS, significantly better than the .393 in his plate appearances that ended after one pitch.
For the 11 Phillies that got at least 200 plate appearances this season, here’s a look at their overall OPS, the number of plate appearances they had that ended in one pitch, the percentage of plate appearances that represented, their OPS in one-pitch plate appearances and the difference between that and their OPS overall.
% 1 p
In the chart above, 1p PA is the number of plate appearances that ended on the first pitch, % 1 p is the percent of the player’s plate appearances that ended in one pitch, 1p OPS is the player’s OPS in his plate appearances that ended in one pitch and OPS DIF is the difference between his OPS on plate appearances that ended on the first pitch and his overall OPS. For example, the chart suggests that J-Roll got 778 plate appearances last year overall in which he posted an .875 OPS. Of those plate appearances, 65, or 8.4%, ended after one pitch and in those 65 plate appearances he posted an .815 OPS, which is .060 lower than his overall OPS for the season.
Ruiz’s numbers are the most dramatic. He put the ball in play on the first pitch more than anyone else in the group except Nunez, who is someone else’s problem now, and with miserable results.
On the other end of the spectrum, Jayson Werth was almost always watching the first pitch.
Ryan Howard was just a monster on the first pitch but didn’t put the ball in play as frequently as most of the rest of the guys on the list.
Victorino is a table-setter, but he’s not going to hang on as a full-time player unless he gets his offensive numbers up. He had a lot of success compared to his overall numbers when he put the ball in play on the first pitch.
Jimmy Rollins has trouble drawing enough walks to please some people, but, at least compared to the rest of this small group, it’s not because he’s putting the ball in play on the first pitch of his at-bat more often than other hitters. In the group above, only Utley and Werth were less likely to have their plate appearance end on the first pitch.
Tad Iguchi will sign a one-year contract to play second base for the Padres.
This says that the Astros wanted Carlos Carasco or Josh Outman for Luke Scott and the Phillies weren’t willing. It also says the Phils are now interested in switch-hitting outfielder Bobby Kielty. Kielty, who has a career 254/348/408 line, isn’t the answer for the Phils. He has slugged over .400 once in the last five seasons. He does hit lefties hard, but the Phils need someone who hits righties hard. Or at least a little.