The Phillies Suck But At Least This Darin Ruf On-Base Streak Is Fun

The Phillies Suck But At Least This Darin Ruf On-Base Streak Is Fun

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.

Pro athletes react to Donald Trump's inauguration

Pro athletes react to Donald Trump's inauguration

A look at some of the reaction around the sports world as Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday:

Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Richie Incognito on Twitter
"Today is the first day on the road to Making America Great Again #Inauguration2017"

Memphis Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green on Twitter
"Hope these 4 years fly by ? #TimeToPray"

Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Huston Street on Twitter
"Today we start a new chapter, let's work together, and remember only saying negative without an idea is creating divide, it does not help US"

Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee on Twitter
"Inauguration Day.. Some folks happier than they've ever been.. some folks madder than they've ever been.. what a time to be alive"

Former USWNT soccer player Lauren Holiday , to her infant daughter, on Instagram
"I may not be the president, baby but I'll promise to be your Mom. I'll teach you that your brown skin is beautiful. I'll show you that being a girl and a woman is a privilege. How being incredibly powerful means serving those around you and fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves. I will tell you about Jesus and how he taught us to love unconditionally. We will have many talks about equality and I will always encourage generosity. One day if you ask me what you can be, I will smile and say absolutely anything. I'll tell you whatever it is you choose, be kind. I'll fight for you, I'll cheer for you and I'll love you along the way. But most of all, I'll make sure you're hopeful. So today, baby, I'll choose hope."

Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum on Twitter
"Appreciate you Mr. 44"

Atlanta Hawks guard Thabo Sefolosha on Twitter
"The only President my 2 daughters have known. Feels strange going from them to the new guy. Thanks for the class act Barack and Michelle !"

Former Texas and NFL receiver Jordan Shipley on Twitter
"Heard God's word in the inauguration speech. I care about our country being under God a lot more than I care about politics or parties."

Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul on Twitter
"Thank You!!! #44"

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady when asked on Friday if he called Trump to congratulate him.
"Let's talk about football."

Shayne Gostisbehere was right: Let's not forget the big picture

Shayne Gostisbehere was right: Let's not forget the big picture

Shayne Gostisbehere spoiled us.

In 64 games last season, we were spoiled by his 17 goals, most by an NHL rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf scored 20 over a full 82 in 2005-06.

Spoiled by a historic 15-game point streak, the longest ever for a first-year blueliner.

And spoiled by four overtime winners, an NHL rookie single-season record.

With it all, Gostisbehere created a mighty and somewhat unfair challenge. He exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations and perhaps made for even greater ones as an encore.

So, naturally, questions and doubts have swirled around his quiet sophomore season. Speaking to reporters last week after a 4-1 loss in Buffalo, Gostisbehere, for the first time, expressed just a hint of frustration. In the midst of his current 22-game goal drought, he wanted to make a point.

Astutely, he did.

“I’m doing my job,” he said. “I mean, I’m a defenseman, I’m not a goal scorer.”

It served as a reminder of what many wanted to see improve in Gostisbehere’s second NHL go-round — a more sound game in his own end by honing in on the defensive skills to his position.

Yes, he can change a game offensively, but could he be reliable and responsible defensively?

After all, Gostisbehere is a defenseman, like he said. We’ve already seen the offensive potential. From the onset, defensive growth is what head coach Dave Hakstol wanted to see.

“Consistency every day,” Hakstol said in early October. “Just be an everyday worker who is pushing hard to really improve himself as an NHL defenseman.”

Now, not only is Gostisbehere in a malaise offensively with four goals and 15 assists through 43 games, but he also hasn’t been sharp or consistent defensively. That certainly is a part of the concern permeating through the Delaware Valley. The 2015-16 Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up has been benched twice because of it and is a team-worst minus-17 on the season.

However, the positive here is he’s focused on it. Forget scoring goals for a moment. Even with Gostisbehere’s struggles, Flyers defensemen have provided offense among the league’s best. And for a stretch of 20 games following his first healthy scratch on Nov. 17, Gostisbehere was cleaner and more active with 17 giveaways and 24 blocked shots just partially telling the story. In the 17 games prior, he had 19 giveaways and only 20 blocked shots.

“I’m here to help the team in any way possible,” Gostisbehere said last Sunday. “Right now, it’s just getting back to work and doing the little things. It’s not going to come easy. That is something that me personally, and a lot of us have to look at.”

Even some of the all-time great defensemen went through the proverbial sophomore slump. Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom went from 60 points and a plus-36 rating as a rookie to 41 and a plus-7 in his second season. Brian Leetch, also in the Hall of Fame, saw a dip in production across the board in Year 2 after winning the Calder Trophy.

But let’s not draw crazy comparisons. Let’s just understand the important thing here, which is Gostisbehere’s understanding that defense is paramount. He’s learning through his lumps, starting at the end of his breakout rookie campaign in which he looked spent from the NHL grind. He underwent minor offseason surgeries on his hip and lower abdomen, suffered a nasty face cut in the season opener, then a bone bruise on his right hand in December.

We’re just over halfway through the 2016-17 schedule. Gostisbehere is only 23 years old, a 2012 third-round pick with a cap hit less than 16 other Flyers in a season that looks more like a continued rebuild than a jump to contention.

Really, Shayne Gostisbehere should be some of the least of our worries.