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The Darin Ruf era begins
by Scott Butler 9/11/12

He is finally here.  The Great Dambino, The Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruf.  We have now entered The Darin Ruf era.

Last night, September 10, 2012, Darin Ruf’s Major League Baseball career unofficially officially began.  Two months ago, 99 out of 100 Phillies fans could literally bump into him in wearing his Reading Phillies uniform with the name Ruf stitched on the back and still not recognize him. But now, Babe Ruf, as his teammates now call him (apparently they, too, just noticed him) is now a household name in Philadelphia.

The 26-year-old first baseman made a name for himself when he tied Sammy Sosa’s professional baseball record with 20 home runs in August to cap off an incredible season in which he broke Ryan Howard’s Reading Phillies record with 38 regular-season homers.  His 38 bombs and 104 RBI’s were tops in the Eastern League and his .317 average fell 24 points shy of earning him a Triple Crown. 

It bares repeating.  Darin Ruf tied a PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL RECORD FOR HOME RUNS IN A MONTH and NEARLY WON THE TRIPLE CROWN.  So, why have we not heard of this guy before?

Ryan Howard’s name leaked into minor league discussions years before he stepped foot on the Citizens Bank turf, so why not Darin Ruf?

I compared their stats and discovered they are closer than you might think.  Check it out.

Howard Career vs. Ruf Career
  G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB
Howard 515 2180 1875 285 565 110 11 112 404 253 588 .301 .389 .551 .940 40
Ruf 458 1886 1632 257 498 136 7 67 283 185 337 .305 .386 .520 .907 4

Their career averages and on-base percentages are nearly identical, but Howard separates himself in the home run and RBI departments.  Ruf hit 45 less homers and 121 less RBI's, but he also notched 26 more doubles. Replacing many of Howard’s homers with two-baggers explains why their slugging percentage is close but their RBI’s are not.

A similar story plays out when comparing Howard’s 2004 season and Ruf’s 2012 season.  Folklore would suggest that Ruf was Howard's equal since he bested Howard’s Reading record of 37 home runs.  But his “record” is nearly as misleading as anything you will hear from the upcoming Romney/Obama debates.  As Ruf himself mentioned, “I think he (Howard) had 30 fewer games and had just as many (homers) as I did, then he went to triple A." 

Pretty close, Darin. Howard’s 37 homers came in 37 less games and the Big Piece went on blast another 9 more in AAA and two more in the big-leagues for a total of 48 total home runs in 2004 compared to Ruf’s 38.  Ruf is also two years older than Howard was in 2004.

Howard 2004 vs. Ruf 2012
  Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Howard 2004 24 131 560 485 94 141 28 1 46 131 60 166 .291 .380 .637 1.017
Ruf 2012 25 139 584 489 93 155 32 1 38 104 65 102 .317 .408 .620 1.028

This is not to belittle the accomplishments of Darin Ruf.  38 home runs in 102 games is great in any league and 20 home runs in a month shows the potential power this kid could provide.  But it’s important to point out that Ruf hit more homers in that one month than he had in any entire season prior to that.

So, why was Ruf a ghost until this season? Because chicks dig the long ball, that's why.  Ruf only hit 29 home runs in his previous three seasons combined (all in single-A), making him more akin to a Raul Ibanez than a Ryan Howard. Doubles are nice, but they won’t get you on as many Wheaties boxes as 38 homers.  Ruf might set a rookie home run record next season, but if history means anything, he is just as likely to hit 40 home runs as he is to hit 10.

Regardless of how he remained hidden in the minors, a few Citizens Bank Park moon shots will quickly erase his life of anonymity.

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