Esteury Ruiz and Discovering Slugging in Velocity

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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports activities

On Sunday in Oakland, with the A’s trailing the Phillies 3-1 and lefty José Alvarado on the mound, A’s supervisor Mark Kotsay despatched the right-handed Esteury Ruiz to the plate to pinch hit for lefty Seth Brown, hoping to make use of a platoon benefit to mobilize some kind of comeback. After falling behind 1-2, Ruiz turned on an Alvarado cutter and despatched a 94.1-mph grounder previous the third baseman and into left area, giving his staff some hope:

Ruiz would come round on a Carlos Pérez single, however the rally would finally fall quick because the A’s prolonged a dropping streak that has since run to eight video games. However Ruiz had completed all he was given the prospect to do.

It was Ruiz’s third double in as many video games and his 18th of the season, and it regarded acquainted. The rookie outfielder has made a behavior of dumping batted balls down the baselines, giving himself an opportunity to make use of his pace to seize additional bases. Right here’s a sprig chart of these 18 doubles:

I discover this spray chart superb. Of his 18 doubles, 16 have gone down one baseline or the opposite, with 11 headed to the pull aspect and one other 5 touchdown inside ft of the fitting area line. Simply two have bucked the pattern and landed within the different possibly 85 radial levels of accessible truthful territory: a gapper in Houston that he solely managed to stretch into two with the assistance of a swim-move slide (and video replay), and a 381-foot blast into the prolonged outfield in Baltimore that may’ve been one in every of two dwelling runs on the season in 21 out of 30 ballparks. Ruiz has a mean hit distance of simply 160 ft on his doubles, the shortest common out of 167 main leaguers with no less than 10 doubles this season – simply three different hitters are averaging lower than 200 ft on doubles.

To place it bluntly, Ruiz wants each additional level of slugging share he can discover. Nearly midway into his rookie season, Ruiz is final amongst qualifiers in common exit velocity with a mark of 83.2 mph, a full tick decrease than the next-lowest determine. His 20.0% hard-hit price can be the bottom in baseball, whereas his barrel price, xSLG, and xwOBA are all within the backside 5%. He’s been an excessive groundball hitter to this point this 12 months, placing 50.6% of his batted balls on the bottom and simply 28.9% within the air. So far as energy goes, he’s among the many lightest hitters within the league. With that sort of batted-ball profile, you need to discover different methods to generate worth.

In fact, Ruiz primarily makes a dwelling along with his legs. He leads the massive leagues with 39 stolen bases in simply 75 video games, placing him on tempo – thanks partially to the Massive Bases – to turn out to be the primary participant to swipe 80 bases since Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman each did so in 1988. His 29.8 mph dash pace is within the 98th percentile, and his 6.2 baserunning runs above common (BsR) path solely Corbin Carroll for the major-league lead. He’s the kind of participant who impacts video games along with his pace in quite a lot of methods:

Esteury Ruiz’s Baserunning Stats

Stat Worth Rating
SB 39 1st
BsR 6.2 2nd
Dash Velocity 29.8 mph tenth

SOURCE: Statcast

A kind of methods – which isn’t accounted for by BsR – is by stretching singles into doubles, and Ruiz is ready to make up a few of what he lacks in energy by turning a handful of baseline grounders and tender liners into doubles. This isn’t distinctive to Ruiz, after all – he didn’t precisely invent the down-the-line double – however I might argue that it’s a uniquely essential a part of his offensive manufacturing given how sometimes he will get successful over an outfielder’s head or by way of the hole. Though BsR received’t account for this added worth, slugging will.

One solution to illustrate how pace might have an effect right here is by contemplating the “surplus” worth on Ruiz’s doubles. His 18 doubles have had a mean xSLG of .584. As a result of slugging share is simply whole bases per at-bat, all doubles have a SLG of two.000, that means Ruiz has gotten 1.416 extra factors of slugging share than would’ve been anticipated on these 18 batted balls. That’s the second-highest distinction amongst those self same 167 hitters with 10-plus doubles. There are an entire bunch of things that go into the anticipated slugging values of these batted balls, but it surely’s definitely conceivable that Ruiz’s pace helps him flip extra batted balls into doubles that Statcast would anticipate to be an out or a single:

Highest SLG-xSLG on Doubles

SOURCE: Statcast

Min. 10 doubles

These 18 hits are contributing to the distinction between a .317 xSLG and .278 xwOBA – each within the backside 5% of the league – and a .343 SLG and .298 wOBA, which, regardless of not being superb in their very own proper, are bit greater than anticipated, and sufficient that along with his baserunning worth as excessive as it’s, Ruiz has been price 1.2 WAR in 75 video games. Ruiz is so productive a baserunner that even with a .298 wOBA – one hundred and thirty fifth out of 158 qualifiers – and below-average fielding within the outfield, he might be an above-average main league producer.

If sneaking hits previous the third baseman is an enormous a part of Ruiz’s recipe for producing extra-base hits, he seems to have the fitting swing to do it:

Ruiz is driving a ton of groundballs and line drives to the pull aspect. That’s a harmful recipe, however has so far led to a .266 batting common and given him loads of alternative for singles to show into doubles. Some 44% of his groundballs and line drives go in the direction of left (in comparison with simply 12% of his fly balls), and the tougher he hits it, the extra concentrated to that scorching nook they appear to get. Right here’s the identical spray chart, however just for balls hit at 100 mph or tougher:

Ruiz has fared higher than most on these pull-side grounders. Amongst 134 right-handed hitters with no less than 25 groundballs to the pull aspect, Ruiz’s .302 wOBA – which is greater than his general mark – ranks 18th. On line drives to the pull aspect – the place 41.7% of his line drives have gone – he has a 1.100 SLG and an .819 wOBA.

The principle problem of being a participant that leads along with his legs is that you need to do sufficient on the plate to get alternatives to generate worth as a baserunner (or batter-runner, even). Whereas Ruiz is successful that battle proper now, it may be a fragile titration. In 2022, Ruiz was an on-base machine on the higher ranges of the minors between the Padres and Brewers organizations, however that means has but to translate to the majors, the place he’s strolling at a meager 3.9% clip. With the kind of baserunner he’s, there’s a kind of amplifying impact on the power to get on base – the extra occasions on base, the extra worth he generates and the extra alternative he creates for extra worth era.

It’s early in his profession, and whereas there’s a lot to study from his virtually 250 batted balls this 12 months, we might definitely see a few of his patterns shift as he settles in. I lean in the direction of considering that grounding the ball to the left aspect as typically as Ruiz does is probably not a sustainable solution to produce. However for a participant on the other extremes of pace and energy, it’d take an unorthodox method to stay within the majors. Thus far, Ruiz is making it work.

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