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July 3, 2012 at 10:46 am ET
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Justin Ruggiano Is Out of His Mind

Statistics, models, metrics are all quite valuable tools for the modern baseball analyst and fan. (Of which I am the very model of the modern baseball analyst and now you have that Gilbert & Sullivan song in your head and my work is done…)

But those models take time and need a lot of data to prove out. Meanwhile, we have small sample size wonders abounding which usually leads into crashing thuds when performance normalizes.

However, as baseball fans, we should enjoy those small sample size rides when we can. Right now, Marlins fans are enjoying the hell out of Justin Ruggiano’s mind-bending performance.

When the powers that be decided that Emilio Bonifacio could be the full-time center fielder for the Marlins, I cringed since Bonifacio may have had an outlier of a year last year, and he didn’t have much experience in center field. Well, he stunk and now he’s hurt, and yes while he did steal a ton of bags they don’t help if you can’t get the hell on base to begin with.

Since Bonifacio’s been hurt, center field has been helmed by the npn-sublime (Bryan Petersen and Scott Cousins) to the ridiculous (Chris Coghlan). And now, it’s Ruggiano’s turn and he’s just gone plum insane.

Last night he went 2-4 against Zack Greinke of all people and is now hitting a cool .397 with a insane .741 slugging percentage and an OPS of 1.212. That’s a mother of a hot streak.

Of course, the Marlins should just let it ride for now, but they also should know he’s got to come crashing to earth like a achrondite meteorite. His current career numbers in 277 plate appearances now lie at an OPS+ of 105 and nine career dingers. Yes, it has taken an OPS+ of 216 this season to get his OPS+ to an acceptable career level.

This also may fool the Marlins into counting on Ruggiano as more than a stop-gap. He’s 30, older than Cousins, Bonifacio and Petersen. He’s probably best suited as a bench guy and not a regular CF and really, as a bench guy I like Cousins and Petersen better because of their speed and defensive potential. In fact, Ruggiano’s too-hot streak may spell the end of Gaby Sanchez as a Marlin once Bonifacio is activated. (The wags are thinking that Ruggiano will move to left (even though he’s a better CF than Bonifacio but never mind that Bonifacio looks like a CF so there) which will then move LoMo back to first and Gaby far far away from harm).

But crap, the Marlins just better enjoy the Ruggiano show while they can. It’s bound to end soon and the replacement show won’t be as fun or thrilling. Well, unless the show is watching Hanley throw the ball everywhere from third base.


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