Darin Ruf's on-base percentage through 23 games is .413, easily the highest on the team. (USA Today Images)
Prior to another Phillies loss on Sunday, Charlie Manuel spent time reminiscing about what the organization used to have.
That can happen during a 1-13 stretch.
A popular topic of discussion was getting on base, something Darin Ruf has done while his teammates haven’t.
With a single in the fourth inning of Sunday’s defeat, Ruf has reached base in 32 consecutive games for the longest active streak in baseball and the longest by a Phillie since Utley did so for 33 games in 2008.
“That’s a good sign,” Manuel said about Ruf’s on-base clip before Sunday’s loss.
The streak had the Phillies skipper remembering former Phils whom the club could certainly use now, given its .306 on-base percentage, the lowest for a Phillies team since 1991 (.303).
“What Jayson Werth and Pat Burrell brought to our team was on-base percentage and things like that,” Manuel said. “I think people forgot all about how many times they were on base, so the more runners you get on base, the more opportunities you have to score.”
In 77 at-bats through 23 games this season, Ruf leads the Phillies with a .413 on-base percentage. In 193 fewer plate appearances, the 27-year-old has just two fewer walks than Delmon Young.
“Nobody in the game teaches walking,” Manuel said. “We don’t teach walking. We teach get a good ball to hit, and if you don’t get a good ball to hit, you walk. But we also teach patience."
The Phillies never blew teams out of the water in the OBP department, but from 2007-12, the lineup consisted of guys who worked counts.
“Go back and look at those teams we had,” Manuel said.
“We had four right in the middle of our lineup. I remember because we (former Phillies GM Pat Gillick) used to argue, I used to always keep up with it. I didn’t want Gillick to get one on me — always wanted to be ahead of him,” Manuel joked.
The four Manuel referenced were Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth, the meat of the Phillies’ 2008 World Series champion order. Utley has four 100-walk seasons, Howard has two, Burrell had two and Werth has come close and owns a career .364 OBP.
Maybe Ruf is the next of the bunch.
“Numbers have to be there. If the numbers ain’t there, the strikeouts would be hard to accept,” Manuel said. “If he gets on base every game, I think he’ll have a good chance at playing.”
But can Ruf, a minor-league first baseman, be an everyday MLB outfielder?
“I think we still just got to let him play. This is a game where you got to be consistent, year in and year out and day to day,” Manuel said. “It’s not a game where you play good defense today and bad tomorrow or you hit good today and hit again the week later. Consistency starts everywhere about it.
“I love his swing. I like the way the ball jumps off his bat. The power is there.”
The 2013 Phillies can only hope Ruf’s on-base fortunes have a trickle-down effect.
“If you keep doing the same old thing at the plate and all of sudden you’re not improving at this level,” Manuel said, “well, more than likely that’s exactly who you are.”