Ellis v Ruiz [v Grandal]? Hard to Fathom

Don’t get me wrong – Carlos Ruiz has been a standout player for the Philadelphia Phillies for a decade. and even at 37 years of age, remains a valuable asset to any major league team. But so was A.J. Ellis a valuable asset to the Dodgers.

In support of the trade of Ellis plus prospects to the Phillies for Ruiz the first and really only argument is that yea, Ellis is hitting .194 and Ruiz is a better hitter. How superficial, not to mention slightly inaccurate. What is missing is the fact that throughout his career Ellis has been a slow starter and a fast finisher, on almost a yearly basis saving his best

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hitting for his team’s stretch run and for the postseason. Yes, he is currently batting .194, but his track record shows it’s time for him to get hot. One other point of importance is that Ellis’ lifetime batting average, while an undistinguished .237 is a mere two points lower than than starting cather Yasmani Grandal’s lifetime .239 mark.

But for the real respective values of the three catchers, how about looking at post season play and at last season’s stretch drive. Caveat - Ruiz, then with the last place Phillies had little to play for
and no prospect of a post season, as opposed to the Dodgers’ duo playing for not just the post season but for a World Series berth.

Last season, 2015, for the months of September and October, Ellis batted .270 on 17 hits in 63 at bats, hitting three home runs and driving in eight. Compare that to Grandal’s horrific numbers: three hits in 51 at bats for a .059 average, with one homer and three RBI. Ruiz, the the Phillies backup catcher, hit .172 over the final weeks, on 5-for-29, with two RBI and no homers.

As to post season play, Ruiz has had some good seasons, and lifetime is a .254 hitter over 142 at bats, with four homers and 15 RBI. Ellis, however, has been outstanding in the post season, compiling a .365 average, and in only 52 at bats – roughly one-third of Ruiz’ total – has hit two homers and driven in five, both similar rates to Ruiz’ numbers. Then there is Grandal, with his only postseason appearance occurring last season, and through which he continued his awful production, getting one hit in ten at bats for a .100 postseason batting average.

Also, of course, there are the issues that cannot be measured in stats. Again, Ruiz is a professional catcher with years of experience and success in the National League. But Ellis was ingrained in Los Angeles and in the Dodgers’ clubhouse, the closest buddy on the team of the Dodgers’ biggest star and most important player, Clayton Kershaw, and in a clubhouse generally described by the media as being full of difficult, surly and uncooperative players, Ellis almost alone was a stand up guy, always available to talk to the media, and above all, always friendly and respectful of the job reporters are there

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to do. Of course, that is irrelevant to the team and to the pennant race, but it does show that there are off-felid aspects to the trade that should not be ignored.

Is it a coincidence that after a great stretch of games, including beating Madison Bumgarner and the Giants in the first two games of their series, the Dodgers’ have
now gone oh-for-two since the trade? Probably, but these facts remain: The Grandal trade was not of benefit to the Dodgers, despite their delight in ridding the team of Matt Kemp’s own surly attitude, and of his contract. Grandal, despite his recent power showing, has been a major disappointment, and as I wrote way back, was significantly over rated as a catcher. The reality is that Dodgers’ pitcher hate throwing to him, and almost to a man preferred Ellis, and hopefully now Ruiz. While Grandal has hit some homers, he still remains a bad hitter overall, with numbers that do not lie: He is a .239 lifetime hitter who has hit higher than the .230s once in his career, who is currently hitting .231 and who has struck out 87 times in only 303 at bats. For comparison, Corey Seager leads the team in strikeouts with 101, but he has come to bat 499 times.

With supposed future catcher Austin Barnes having struggled significantly at every major league opportunity that he has been given (.130 in 14 games this season after .207 last season in 20 games), the future of Dodgers’ catching looks bleak. I do not expect to see Gandal with the team too much longer – he currently is on a one year deal – Ruiz is clearly a backup for the reaming time of his career, and other than Barners, there is a giant void.

While I hated to see Ellis go, Ruiz is a fine replacement. Dodgers’ catching problems began and end with Grnadal. Clubhouse problems may have begun with Ellis’ departure. We will see.

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