The Mets finally cut bait on what was easily their worst front office move of 2022, designating Darin Ruf for assignment today. With this move, it seems all but guaranteed that Tim Locastro makes the Opening Day roster.
It seems unlikely that Darin Ruf is as bad of a baseball player as he looked to be in the second half of 2022. After being traded to the Mets for J.D. Davis, Thomas Szapucki, Nick Zwack and Carson Seymour, Ruf simply hit the skids. He batted .152/.216/.197 with 20 strikeouts and just three extra base hits in 74 plate appearances.
His first half wasn’t exactly a revelation, either. For the Giants, Ruf hit .216/.328/.373 with 11 home runs in the first half. But Ruf had started to heat up a bit around the time of the trade, and his offensive profile is one that looked like a perfect pairing with Daniel Vogelbach on the weak side of the designated hitter platoon.
Ruf’s career 109 OPS+ isn’t exactly an eye-popping statistic, but against lefties, Ruf was a different player. A tOPS+ of 133 against lefties with a line of .272/.367/.523 shows that Ruf has been an incredibly useful player in a platoon split.
It makes total logical sense that Ruf is a better player than the second half of 2022 showed him to be. Ruf was just about league-average with the Giants in the first half, posting a 98 OPS+; when he came to the Mets, he put up a 20 OPS+.
But what lead to that terrible few months? For one thing, his walk rate plummeted from 12.8% in San Francisco to 6.8% in Queens. He also was making less hard contact, with both his hard-hit percentage and line drive percentage taking hits and his ground ball rate climbed nearly 5 percentage points.
The most interesting stat is that Ruf put up his highest opposite field percentage in his career while with the Mets, and by a significant margin: 27.1% of his contact went to right field, when he never had a rate higher than 19.8% before in his career, indicating that he was likely late on more pitches and unable to get around on pitches to pull.
Now, if Ruf had a league average spring, or even a slightly below average March, the idea of rostering Ruf wouldn’t be such a strange one; he’s a veteran with a track record of success, and you traded four pieces to get him less than a year ago. But this spring, Ruf has looked more or less like his second half self, hitting .185/.267/.259 across ten games.
A wrist injury that required a cortisone shot delayed the start of his camp, and with a limited defensive profile and no real offense to show for it, it seemed best for the Mets to not waste a roster spot on Ruf.
It will be interesting to see how the Mets handle the right-handed side of the DH platoon in Ruf’s absence.