Unsurprisingly, there haven't been a lot of positives to take from the Phillies' play as of late. When you lose 13 games in 14 tries and find yourself ten games further out of first place--ten games!!--than you were just a couple weeks ago, the cloud's way too big for you to find where any kind of silver lining might start. It's been a miserable, deadening slog that only got worse when the trade deadline passed and we were still stuck with the same exact crappy team that had already tanked the season beyond repair; going nowhere and unlikely to find direction anytime soon.
But yeah, there's been one good thing. It's probably been the only one, with Chase Utley and Cliff Lee slumping and the rest of our good players either injured or not really that good in the first place. But no doubt, Darin Ruf has been a find for this team. Stepping in for Ryan Howard upon the Big Piece's likely season-ending injury, Ruf has provided production that by nearly any measure has been superior to what the $125 million man was giving us, hitting at an impressive .299/.413/.494 clip, compared to the .266/.319/.465 RyHo was giving us.
The really impressive thing, though--and the only fun subplot of the Phils' post All-Star rock-bottoming--has been his on-base streak. 23 games into this season, and Ruf's yet to go a single game without safely reaching base in some manner. He's had a hit in 18 of his 23 games, and in the five hitless ones, he drew a walk in three of them and got hit by a pitch in the other two. (He already has as many HBPs as three-time league HBP champ Chase Utley this year, one of the season's more remarkable statistical feats.)
Bill Evans of the South Jersey Times even points out that going back to last year, Ruf has never failed to reach base in a game that he started, hitting safely in eight of his nine starts last year and drawing a walk in his ninth. Across both years, the streak is the longest of its kind running in baseball, and the longest for the Phils since Chase reached in 33 straight, a streak Ruf can tie tomorrow night against Chicago. And even fun streakiness aside, Ruf's ability to get on base is pretty impressive--his .413 OBP is easily the highest on the Phils (Michael Young and Ben Revere tie for second with mediocre .338s), and would be good for third in the whole NL if he qualified, which of course he doesn't in just 92 PAs.
Even with all this, Phils fans are wise to keep expectations tempered with the 26-year-old sophomore, who like his predecessor at first, also strikes out a metric ton (38 times in 35 games for his career) and plays pretty sub-par defense (worth -.3 wins already this year according to Baseball-Reference), and whose mediocre performance at Triple-A this year suggests his pro numbers may come down a bit before year's end. Still, we owe Ruf some gratitude for giving us a reason, any reason to still give the slightest of cares to this team's performance, to have something to watch for every night, no matter how trivial. It's not the same as Dom Brown's May dominance, perhaps, but we'll take what we can get on this friggin' team.