As Delmon Young Experiment Begins, So Too Does Darin Ruf Watch

As Delmon Young Experiment Begins, So Too Does Darin Ruf Watch


Guest post by Matt Hammond

The Delmon Young experiment is off to a good enough start.

He
went yard in his first at-bat as a Phillie, a solo shot in the second
inning of his first start off the DL, the same day he’d been activated,
hours before his new club’s disastrous 14-2 loss to the Cleveland
Indians last night. Young went 2 for 3 with no walks or strikeouts, was
hit by a pitch and was the only one on the team to get multiple hits off
right-handed Indians starter Zach McAllister.

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But now, the clock
is ticking on him. How long does GM Ruben Amaro give his prized $750,000
"low-risk, high-reward" flyer-type move? One month? Two? Six? A handful
of weeks?

Until Darin Ruf is ready?

The interconnectedness
between Young and Ruf now is fascinating. Amaro admitted when he
introduced Young that it was likely he'd start the year on the DL, and
whether it was by design or accident created an intriguing timeline for
his corner outfield hitting options to shake out.

Young debuting
yesterday gave that timeline life. Now, Young will be evaluated --
likely against scouting reports of Ruf's progress at the plate and in
left field at Triple-A.

Of course, if Young excels, the point's
moot. Even if he's only the 21 or 18 home run-a-year guy he was in two
of three seasons prior, Jimmy Rollins is the only other current Phillie
not named Ryan Howard to rake for 20 or more in a year since 2009.
That's Young’s stay-alive pace, for sure.

What becomes interesting
is the middle ground. What's Young's deal-breaking production level?
(He's hit no higher than .270/.305/.415 his last two years, though he
also said he was "playing on one leg” thanks to an issue microfracture
ankle surgery should have corrected – assuming it doesn’t knock him
three steps backward before he can even begin thinking about inching
forward.) And if he dips below it, what does Ruf have to do at Triple-A
to justify a switch?

Whatever it is, the .256/.311/.476 line Ruf’s currently working at Lehigh Valley probably isn’t it. (And that, by the way, is with a
.321 BABIP.) Through 22 games, Ruf's had the same power slump as
Howard, with only three HRs and 12 RBIs. Then again, he only had two in
23 games in April in Double-A last year, and did well for himself as the
weather warmed.

But the same goes for Ruf: what’s his
deal-breaking defensive ability? In spring training, Ruf booted two
balls on 22 chances, and that doesn’t begin to account for the balls he
misplayed or couldn’t get to. In Lehigh Valley, he’s erred only once in
32 chances, and has displayed decent range (2.07 RF).

It’s worth
knowing, the Phillies have deployed some atrocious left fielders in
recent years. Of 211 player seasons over the last three years, only
three LFs cost their NL teams more defensive runs than did Raul Ibanez
in 2011 (minus-23). Over the span, Ibanez’s minus-18.9 UZR ranked
second-last. And if you think that’s bad: Pat Burrell’s minus-20.9 URZ
in 2007 was the worst of any Phillies LF in the Charlie Manuel era. His
minus-17 DRS was second-worst. As for balls he actually got to, his .948
fielding percentage ranked the fourth-worst of any qualifying NL left
fielder since 1970.

The difference? Burrell made $13.25 million that year, Ibanez $12.7 million.

Ruf, if he gets another callup, will be slated to earn $480,000 – less than even Young.

Ruf's
chances of making the 25-man roster out of spring camp were probably
steep anyway. But it's hard to believe that he struggled so poorly as a
left fielder without warning. Maybe scouts in attendance at his
Venezuelan Winter League games were overly optimistic with their reports
back to the general manager. If not, it's hard to believe 30 or so
exhibition games in February/March could've ever impressed enough to
make him a regular option. Decision-makers had to know that in advance.

It
makes you wonder: if two home runs in 19 Grapefruit League games with
.246/.328/.456 line clearly wasn't enough for him to hit his way on the
roster, what was? What about if he could've projected landing spots
enough to turn and run or, you know, caught balls when he got there?

It’s an interesting mix, and with Young’s debut yesterday, that timeline begins to move.

The next blip, of course, being the trade deadline.

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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USA Today Images

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.