Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Dodgers / Phillies Series: Battle Of The Backstops?

I stumbled upon this piece late, but John Fisher over at ESPN.com says the Dodgers / Phillies' four-game series will come down to how AJ Ellis and Carlos Ruiz perform. First, the theory:

[T]he most intriguing matchup this week will be the one between the two catchers who are playing like they’re headed to the All-Star Game.

Ruiz vs Ellis

Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz has a World Series ring and has caught a postseason no-hitter and a regular-season perfect game, but this season he’s become a legitimate MVP candidate with his work at the plate.

His counterpart, Dodgers backstop A.J. Ellis, has nearly been Ruiz’s equal, an on-base machine who stops a team’s running game in its tracks.

Ruiz is not just the team MVP and one of baseball’s best catchers, he’s one of the best players in the majors.

He’s in the top five in all of baseball in batting average (.371), on-base percentage (.420) and slugging percentage (.609).

After hitting six home runs and driving in 40 runs last season, he’s already got eight homers -- one away from his career high -- and 32 RBI in a little more than a quarter of the at-bats.

Ruiz has taken a more aggressive approach, which has paid dividends, as he’s swinging more often and making more contact.

And he’s improved an already impressive performance against fastballs, hitting .435, slugging .667 and missing fewer than five percent of his swings against the heater.

Ellis, who has already set a career-high for at-bats in a single season, is the only catcher in the bigs this season with a better on-base percentage than Ruiz. His mark of .430 is fourth-best in the majors.

Ellis, who brings a seven-game hitting streak into the series, is in the top four in hitting and slugging among catchers.

He's proving his worth behind the plate as well, throwing out 42 percent of attempted base-stealers, the second-best mark in the big leagues. Ruiz, at 37 percent, is fifth (minimum 25 SB attempts). And Ruiz is one of only three catchers with more Defensive Runs Saved than Ellis among those with at least 250 innings.

So let's look at the tape from last night's game 1 of the series. Ruiz went 1-for-4 in the cleanup spot for the Phillies. Ruiz caught Dee Gordon stealing (more because Dee decided to end his slide five feet past second base, rather than Ruiz making a great throw), but Elian Herrera and Andre Ethier both picked up SBs (and came around to score). Ruiz also had a passed ball in the first that didn't lead to any runs.

Ellis went 0-for-3 with 2 Ks; not the best night. However he did not have anyone steal a base off him (nor did anyone attempt).

Let's see how the two catchers perform over the next three games.