Carlos Ruiz returns to the Phillies today and he will do so without his long lost friend Aderall. Although it might be a fun drug at parties or to cram for a big exam for college students, Aderall doesn't exactly scream baseball.
Aderall doesn't improve bat speed, it doesn't add distance on home runs, and it doesn't help players rebound quicker from injuries. But what it does provide might be the biggest benefit of all for a catcher: it improves concentration.
Think about the life of a catcher for a moment. They need to crouch down for 140 to 150 pitches on average every game. They need to know scouting reports on all hitters, understand the tendencies of their entire pitching staff, and think along with the pitcher on every pitch. They need to pay attention to baserunners, prepare for balls in the dirt, and they need to run down the line to backup throws to first on ground balls. They also encounter foul tips off their body and need to take equipment on and off after each inning.
And, oh yeah, they are then expected to hit with the same expectations as a DH who sits on the bench all day.
It is the most mentally and physically draining position in baseball and requires an obscene amount of focus, so it is easy to see why it might be an appetizing "performance enhancer" for a catcher.
So Chooch turned to his good friend Aderall. But now, for the first time in who knows how long, Ruiz will play baseball without his buddy at his side. He will surely feel the effects in all parts of his game, but what kind of impact will it have on his hitting?
One thing it will not do is affect his natural ability to hit the baseball, but don't lose sight of the fact that much of the game of baseball is played upstairs. Hitting is much more than see the ball, hit the ball. A good hitter sees how the defense is set up, notices how many runners are on base, knows the at-bat's place in the ballgame, understands the pitcher's tendencies, and is aware of the count.
Aderall may or may not have an effect on everything on that list, not to mention the ability to focus on the spin of the baseball or the arm slot of the pitcher.
Aderall has no direct effects on any particular facet of hitting, but there are a couple things we can pay attention to.
Ruiz might be the most susceptible to a dip in on-base percentage. Ruiz has a career .363 OBP, which is well above the league rate of .319. And over the last three seasons, Ruiz has the seventh highest on-base percentage (.388) among players with at least 1,300 plate appearances.
Even when his average wasn't particularly high, he still managed an OBP of at least .320 in all six of his full major league seasons.
That was particularly the case when he batted eighth in the lineup during his first few seasons. From 2007 to 2009 Ruiz had batting averages of .259, .219, and .255, but had OBP's of .340, .320, and .355.
Here is how his average and OBP compare during his career.
We can also focus specifically on his walks, since that is the main component of OBP after hits. Ruiz has a career 10.4% walk rate, which is above the 8.0% league average and nearly double the Phillies 6.6% walk rate in 2013.
If Ruiz is suffering from a lack of concentration, he will probably also be more impatient and see less pitches. Ruiz over his career sees 3.84 pitches per plate appearance, which is slightly below the league average. That number could also drop this season.
Aderall or no Aderall, it will be difficult for Ruiz to replicate his .325 average, 16 HR, 68 RBI, .394 OBP, and .935 OPS in 114 games last season. But the good news is that we don't need to compare Chooch to last season.
If we instead compare him to Erik Kratz, who is hitting .191 in 21 games, Ruiz can't possibly disappoint. Leave your "focus" there.
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