In the 12 games in September, Ryne Sandberg has penciled in the names Asche, Ruf, and Hernandez together 10 times. The Phillies have won 6 of those games with the three names I mentioned scoring 20 of the Phillies 50 runs (40%), knocking in 19 (38%), and accounting for 35 total runs (70%).
Are these three (along with Dom Brown) the core of the future? Are we witnessing stars before they become stars? Or is it Steve Jeltz all over again? Nobody knows for sure yet, but that shouldn't stop us from looking, so let's take a closer look at Asche, Ruf, and Hernandez. At the very least, it might provide a little incentive to watch these last few weeks of Phillies baseball.
The numbers for all three are pretty good. Asche is hitting .260 with 5 HR and 20 RBI, Ruf is hitting .250 with 13 HR, 24 RBI, and a .833 OPS, and Hernandez is hitting .290 with a .368 OBP. Here’s what those numbers would look like over a full season.
Asche, Ruf, Hernandez 162-game averages
23 homers for Asche and 36 homers for Ruf plus a .295 average for Hernandez ain't too shabby.
That’s a decent start to a career for each of these guys, but they would not be the first to perform in a pressureless September and later escape into oblivion. What matters to Phillies brass is what they will do rather than what they have done. That’s why we should dig a little deeper to find out.
Let's begin with what they are doing at the plate.
Asche, Ruf, Hernandez Plate Discipline
Cody Asche is the least selective of the three, with his swing rate, contact rate, and swinging strike rate all above the league average. For a player with a similar skill set to Chase Utley, you would like to see all of these figures improve.
A great sign for Darin Ruf is his patience and ability to work the count. His swing percentage is below the league average and his pitches per plate appearance are extraordinarily high. In fact, his 4.24 pitches/PA would be tops in baseball if he had enough PA's to qualify and it even approaches Jayson Werth's career 4.43 rate. Ruf's low contact percentage and high swinging strike rate is acceptable for a power hitter, and both figures are better than Ryan Howard's.
Cesar Hernandez is showing excellent potential for a youngster. He is a selective hitter and sees a decent amount of pitches, but for a player with his speed he should try to improve his contact rate a bit.
Here now are some of their hitting ratios.
Asche, Ruf, Hernandez Ratio Batting
Asche's ratios are very encouraging, as all of his rates are better than the league average. Like Utley, he appears to be the ideal number three hitter in a lineup, offering production, power, and patience, yet still striking out less than average.
Darin Ruf is making a strong case for an everyday role next season with his ratios. He offers great power, the ability to work a walk, and a reasonable strikeout rate. His RBI rates are curiously low, and whether that makes him a victim of circumstance or raises a red flag remains to be seen.
Hernandez' numbers are just fine for now. Through just 19 games, he is already striking out less and walking more than most players, and we should expect those rates to only improve over time. And don't worry about that blank in the AB/HR category - Cesar gets paid by getting on base and the two guys above him get paid to knock him in.
I always find it interesting to look at how guys do with two strikes, as it can sometimes tell something about a hitter. Here are their two strike statistics:
Asche, Ruf, Hernandez Two Strikes
Don't ready too much into this, but it is interesting to note that nearly half (6) of Ruf's 13 home runs have come with two strikes.
And finally, we get to their distribution of hits.
Asche, Ruf, Hernandez Batted Ball
One of the more important stats to look for, in my mind, is a player's line drive percentage. Line drives generally indicate the best contact and they fall in for hits at a greater rate than ground balls and fly balls. More line drives means more hits and often mean more extra base hits. Asche and Hernandez are way above the league average, while Ruf is slightly below average.
Ground ball and fly ball percentages mean something different depending on the type of hitter. A high ground ball rate is positive for a player like Cesar Hernandez, similar to Willie Mays Hayes from Major League, whose goal is to utilize his speed. But a lower ground ball rate is perfectly expectable for a player with limited speed and higher power potential like Ruf. Cody Asche, who has slightly above average speed and slightly above average power, has an ideal distribution of hits.
Welcome to a new September, folks. One lacking in intensity but filled with hope. At the very least, Asche, Ruf, and Hernandez offer a glimmer of hope for the future. The Eagles play three times before the Phillies season ends, so hopefully these young ballplayers give you a reason to keep watching the other 13 Phillies games.
Previous article: Will Roy Halladay become Jamie Moyer or Steve Carlton?
Next article: Ryne Sandberg and the Phillies lineup