On April 6, Darin Ruf went 0 for 3 with a walk in Philadelphia’s 3-2 loss to the Reds in Cincinnati. The right-handed-hitting Phillies first baseman faced left-hander Brandon Finnegan in his first two at-bats. He later stepped into the batter’s box against righties Caleb Cotham and Blake Wood.
Ruf, who has a .943 career OPS against lefties, broke down his four plate appearances a few days later.
“Finnegan likes to throw a lot of fastballs, but I’d never seen him before, so I didn’t know exactly what it looked like out of his hand. I only knew the velocity. From video, I like to get a little bit of mental timing off of a pitcher. I try to see what his pitches do. For instance, is his slider a slider, or is it more of a slurve?
“Going into the game, I wanted to get a fastball middle, middle away. That’s something most lefties try to do. With guys like Kershaw and Bumgarner, who like to pitch on the inside part of the plate, I might have a different game plan. But against (Finnegan), I wanted to stay in the middle, opposite-field area.”
“I was looking to take the first pitch. I typically do that when I’ve never seen a guy. I like to at least see one pitch to see if my timing was there, or if I maybe need to start a little later or a little earlier.
“It was a fastball and a strike. I took it, and it actually would have been a good pitch to swing at. After that, he threw me a slider. It also would have been a good pitch to swing at. But I hadn’t seen it, and I wanted to track it a little bit, so I took it. That made the count 0-2. From there, I think he might have wasted a pitch. Then I fouled off a slider.
“He struck me out on a fastball that I swung through. I probably should have handled it. I think I might have been a little defensive, looking for something else, and I was a little behind it.”
“(Maikel) Franco led off the inning and swung at the first pitch, a changeup, and grounded out. Getting in the box, I thought Finnegan might try to get ahead of me with a fastball again, even though that time through the lineup he’d been going changeups to a lot of guys.
“After the first guy makes an out, you’re always reluctant to swing at the second pitch of the inning. But I thought if he throws that middle or middle-away fastball again, a pitch I know I can handle… sure enough, he did that. I put a really good swing on it, and hit it well the other way. If the wind wasn’t blowing in, it might have gone out. Unfortunately, the wind caught it and Jay Bruce was able to get under it.
“I’d have taken a breaking ball had he thrown one. The only way I was swinging first pitch was if he threw the pitch that he did. I executed what I wanted to do, but sometimes mother nature plays a role in deciding the outcome.”
“Finnegan was out of the game when I came up in the seventh. A righty was in; I think his name was Cotham. We didn’t really even know who he was, to be honest. I don’t know if we didn’t have a card on him, or what it was. Regardless, I was leading off the inning and didn’t get anything on him.
“Outside of watching his warmup pitches, I went in not knowing what to expect. I was going to be aggressive against him, though. With bullpen guys you don’t really want to get to their secondary stuff, because it’s normally pretty good.
“I took the first pitch, which was a ball. I ended up grounding out to short on a little cutter. I’m pretty sure that was on the 1-0 pitch.”
“I walked my last time up. It was against Webb. I’m not sure of his first name. Actually, I think it was against Wood.
“I knew he was a hard thrower, so I went in looking for a heater early in the count. He started me off with a slider, for a strike. Then he threw me a 90-mph splitter, that I didn’t know he had. I saw it out of hand, thought it was a heater, and it just kind of dove. I chased it. That put me down 0-2.
“From there, he tried to get me to chase the spitter again. Then he threw me a heater up. I worked it to a full count, then he threw me a slider for ball four. Once I’d seen all of his pitches, I was able to slow myself down and allow the ball to travel. I was able to track it a little better.”
“After the game, I was thinking that I was 0 for 3 with a walk, but overall I was happy because I had two quality at-bats. I got on base once, and I almost hit a home run.
“You have to look at the quality of your at-bats in a game, not necessarily what your numbers are. Two of my four at-bats were quality, and the more you can improve on the that, the more consistent playing time you have a chance to get. That’s the way I look at it.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.