The Phillies' offense finally clicked over the weekend in New York and the starting pitching has been excellent the last two cycles through the rotation, making this the perfect time for Carlos Ruiz to return to the field.
From an offensive standpoint, the upgrade from Erik Kratz and Humberto Quintero is enormous. Kratz and Quintero combined to hit .209 with a .567 OPS, 168 points lower than league-average. Kratz drove in just 4 of 43 baserunners. He struggled to block balls -- Kratz had just one passed ball, but four wild pitches came with him behind the plate and on several other occasions he failed to cleanly field pitches.
Ruiz last season hit .325/.394/.540. Only 13 catchers since 1900 and four since 2000 have had that high a batting average, OBP and slugging percentage in a season. Ruiz was an elite performer with runners in scoring position, as he's been throughout his career.
Even if Chooch doesn't reach those high offensive levels again this season, he'll contribute with doubles power and plate discipline. He has 179 walks and a .380 OBP since 2009.
Behind the plate, Ruiz's impact is immeasurable. Say what you will about game-calling and the management of pitchers -- all of these starters routinely praise Ruiz's acumen behind the plate and their words mean more than any from an armchair analyst. And blocking balls has always been his best skill, long before he became an offensive threat.
It's an exciting time to be getting Chooch back. The Phillies desperately need to recapture the identity they had in 2010 and 2011 and, if last week was any indication, the starting staff is well on its way.