CHOOCH!

admin Last updated on: February 17, 2024

Through the first 14 games this season and 59 at bats, Carlos Ruiz still had yet to drive in a single run.

A trip to Dodger stadium remedied what ailed Ruiz’s offensive production.

Ruiz came into Monday night’s series opener with an average of .204.  Despite that, manager Ryne Sandberg showed faith in Ruiz, batting him cleanup, sliding Ryan Howard to the fifth spot against lefty hurler Paul Malholm.

Ruiz rewarded his manager’s trust with a productive night.  He reached base four time in five at bats, scoring twice, knocking out three hits, driving in four runs, and registering his first big fly of the season.

In Thursday night’s series finale, Ruiz thrived again.  In the ninth inning of a tied ball game, Ruiz’s second double of the night knocked in two runs and ended up the difference in a 7-3 Phillies win.

Ruiz reached base all five times at bat, emblematic of his sterling plate discipline.  With three hits and two walks, Chooch improved his on base percentage to .395, a mark that’s second on the team behind Chase Utley and 29th in the league.

Being slotted higher in the lineup could be what gets Chooch going.  After his stint as the cleanup hitter Monday night, in a tight 3-2 win Tuesday evening, Ruiz hit fifth, reaching base twice and scoring a run.  Thursday night Ruiz hit second garnering even more success.

Ryne Sandberg likes to shake up the lineup, going with hot hitters and taking advantage of match ups.  Ruiz seems to benefit from his manager’s tendency of  changing up the batting order.

This off season, Ruiz signed a three year contract that will make him a 37 at its conclusion.

Unlike many of his veteran brethren, Ruiz’s best offensive days aren’t that far in the rear view mirror.

After batting .246 in his first four big league seasons, his average jumped from ages 31-33. Over that time, he hit .303 and got on base at a 38 percent clip.  His best season came in 2012 when he was named an All Star and posted career bests in batting (.325), home runs (16), and rbi (68).  Like fine wine, Chooch seemingly improves with age.

But in 2013, at age 34, the MLB suspended Ruiz 25 games for using adderall.  A month later Chooch suffered hamstring problems and went on the DL.  Fresh off his best season, many fans wrote off Ruiz, much as they had the Phillies.  Despite his slow start, Chooch hit well down the stretch.  For many critics, it wasn’t enough.  They balked at his three year contract. Suddenly the man who seemed to be improving with age hit the magical plateau  where age is always questioned, especially with all the wear and tear that comes with playing his position.

This season, however, Ruiz appears to still have plenty juice in the tank. As for two years from now, well, here’s some food for thought regarding catchers and old age.

In 1985, at age 37, catcher Carlton Fisk caught over 120 games, was DH in about 30 more, and hit 37 homers, driving in 107 runs.  After age 37, Fisk hit another 109 homers, playing until age 45.

Hopefully Ruiz continues to age like wine, and goes the the Fisk-ian route.  Only time will tell.  For now, Chooch is hot, and so are the Phillies.

Taking three of four games from the Dodgers puts the Phillies at 11-11 on the season.  Ruiz will more than likely sit out at least one game for the upcoming Diamondback series after catching four straight, but if he keeps swinging like this, it may be hard for Sandberg to rest his hottest hitter after a 7 for 14 performance in LA.

If they can take the Arizona series, Ruiz’s Phillies will come back to Philly for their next home stand carrying a winning record.  Chooch is an integral part of this team, and unlike in 2008, the Phillies’ new recipe calls for a run producer who can hit anywhere in the lineup.

If Chooch continues to hit like this, he will be a solid ingredient.

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