The next player on our 2021 San Francisco Giants season reviews is outfielder and first baseman Darin Ruf.
117 games, 312 plate appearances, .271/.385/.519., .904 OPS, 143 OPS+, 16 home runs, 2.9 rWAR, 2.5 fWAR
It’s rather remarkable to reflect on how differently we view Darin Ruf than we did two years ago. When the Giants signed him to a Minor League deal in 2020, he hadn’t played an MLB game in four years. He hadn’t had an above-average hitting season in the Majors in seven years.
And the Giants were coming off a 77-win season.
If I’d told you then that the Giants were only a year away from having Ruf play a core role for a team that would add 30 wins to that tally, I’m honestly not sure which part would be more surprising to you.
But Ruf’s KBO renaissance held firm in his first year with the Giants, albeit in a tiny sample size. There were still plenty of reasons to think he wouldn’t be a contributor in 2021.
And then he was. In a big way.
Ruf’s wRC+ of 144 was ninth in the National League among hitters with at least 250 plate appearances, and one need only look at the eight names ahead of him to realize what an accomplishment that was: Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, Brandon Belt, Ronald Acuña Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Jesse Winker, Corey Seager, and Tyler O’Neill.
And for anyone who wants to dismiss his numbers as being inflated by the Giants matchup-heavy platoon party, here’s a fun fact: Ruf had more plate appearances against right-handed pitchers (172) than lefties (140), and his OPS against righties (.824) was better than the full-season OPS put up by Nolan Arenado, Randy Arozarena, or Ozzie Albies. Sorry, that was two fun facts. Forgive me.
He was legitimately a superstar bat.
Ruf was responsible for many of the Giants biggest moments and baddest home runs, including a game-tying late-inning dinger to center field in Game 5 of the NLDS, which would hold the same place in Giants lore as Michael Morse’s home run against the St. Louis Cardinals had the Giants managed to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Every at bat of his was fun, and you couldn’t take your eyes away, lest he hit a 450-foot bomb when you weren’t looking.
He can hit.
Role in 2022
Due to his stint out of the Majors, Ruf still has two years of team control remaining, so he’ll certainly be on the Giants in 2022 when they agree to a deal and hopefully avoid arbitration.
Given his success against righties — something the Giants started to explore more and more as the season went on — it seems he may be due for an even larger role going forward. The likely implementation of a universal designated hitter may be heartbreaking for fans of baseball, but it’s a great shift for fans of Ruf. While he’s shown some improvements with his glove, he’s always going to be a negative defensively, so the Giants having more avenues for getting him into games is surely something they’re excited about.
Expect him to play a lot, and hit a lot.
How do you grade Darin Ruf’s season?
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