Monday, October 19, 2009

The Man Behind the Iron Mask

Despite the clear cut story of the day being that the Detroit Shock are relocating to Tulsa, I would like to take a moment to talk about a player who is quickly becoming a folk hero in Philadelphia. The man they call "Chooch" (get it right TBS) could be most accurately described as an offensive liability all year. It was safe to say that he was in there for his defense, and the way he can handle the pitching staff. Yet somehow, in the postseason he has become a hitting sensation while still playing great defense and calling great games. If the Phillies win this series, Ryan Howard will probably garner most of the attention for his amazing RBI streak, but in my opinion it is Chooch that has been the most valuable player for the Phillies.

During the regular season in 2009, Carlos Ruiz batted a mediocre .255 with 9 home runs, 43 RBIs and 32 runs scored in 107 games. It is safe to say that in the postseason, the expectations of him were to play great defense and to control the pitching staff. So far, Ruiz has gone well above and beyond those expectations. In 7 postseason games, Ruiz is batting a robust .429 (.538 OBP) with a homer, 7 RBIs (one less than A-Rod), 3 runs scored and one stolen base. His 3 run tater off of Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of the NLCS set the tone for the series and took the wind out of the Dodgers' sails right away. And as usual, he has played wonderfully behind the plate, keeping the Dodger bats in check and gunning down would be base stealers. Chooch has certainly been a huge surprise in the postseason.

By no means do I want to sell Ryan Howard short. His 2 out two run double in game 4 against the Rockies to tie the game was the epitome of clutch hitting and playoff heroism. Moreover, his streak of RBIs in 7 straight games is unbelievable. He will certainly be a leading candidate for NLCS MVP should the Phils move on to the World Series. However, RBI production and power hitting are what we have come to expect from Howard. Is anyone really surprised that he is doing this? Maybe a little surprised at the magnitude of his success, but quite frankly, that is what Howard does. He is an RBI machine. In that regard, I would throw my vote in for Ruiz as MVP. He is doing things that nobody thought he was capable of.

Never before have I been excited at the thought of the batter in the 8 hole coming up to the plate. Chooch has given the bottom of the order some serious clout and has given the opposing pitchers no breaks in the order. Carlos Ruiz was worthy of playing everyday even when his offense was mediocre, but now he is invaluable due to his clutch postseason hitting. Don't believe me? Just listen to the crowd at CBP when he comes to bat.

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