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Ryan Howard was hardly the Phillies’ biggest problem

Oct 25, 2010, 11:19 AM EDT

Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard struck out a ton in the playoffs, including watching a called third strike to end Philadelphia’s season in a spot where just about everyone can agree that he should have swung, but the increasingly repeated notion that he’s primarily to blame for the NLCS loss to the Giants seems to be ignoring one very crucial point:

Ryan Howard had the Phillies’ highest OPS in the playoffs and hit .318 with a .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage in the NLCS.

If his hitting .303/.395/.424 in the playoffs supposedly sunk the Phillies, then what about Chase Utley hitting .212/.325/.333 with some ugly defense at second base? Or how about “table-setters” Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco combining to go 14-for-66 (.212) with a .570 OPS so that Howard rarely had anyone on base to actually drive in? Or what about Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez going 14-for-65 (.215) with a .550 OPS behind him?

Howard had a .303 batting average in the playoffs and no one else on the entire team had a batting average above .230. Howard had an .819 OPS in the playoffs and no one else on the entire team had an OPS above .760. Or, put another way: Howard hit .303 overall in the playoffs, including .318 in the NLCS, while the rest of the Phillies’ lineup combined to hit .203 in the playoffs overall and .202 in the NLCS.

Should he have swung at that 3-2 slider from Brian Wilson? Absolutely. Is he primarily responsible for the Phillies missing out on their third straight World Series? Not even close, unless you don’t mind ignoring facts to support your Howard-bashing argument. Sadly, it seems like an awful lot of Phillies fans and media members are all too happy to do just that.

  1. BC - Oct 25, 2010 at 11:22 AM

    Utley, Victorino and Rollins were awful. I gotta wonder at this point if Rollins might be close to done. He’s a walking injury and plays a lot older than he is these days. Ibanez is 137 years old. Howard was out for a fairly long stretch. If anything I think they’re lucky they got as far as they did this year, it was their pitching going beserk for 2 months that carried them.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Oct 25, 2010 at 11:24 AM

      Not that this has much to do with the post, but I think Rollins’ all-star days are far behind him as well. They would do well to get 1-2 solid utility guys for the left side of the diamond.

  2. cintiphil - Oct 25, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    They all were ready for a fall. Too hot at the end of the season. How did anyone feel they could just continue without a fall? Utley and Rollins were poor performers, but Howard, was the worst. Who thought he would not have ONE RBI in a 7 game series?

    • skipperxc - Oct 25, 2010 at 12:30 PM

      You do realize that your statement is exactly the opposite of what the numbers show, right? RTFA please.

  3. T.R. Goyne - Oct 25, 2010 at 11:34 AM

    I agree wholeheartedly, as I’ve written elsewhere, that Howard is not to blame, by any means, for the series loss. Having said that, wouldn’t you say the his strikeout percentage was just plain unacceptable?

  4. The Dangerous Mabry - Oct 25, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    You have to remember, though, that the only stats a lot of people tend to look at for Ryan Howard are HR and RBI. It’s those two stats that have convinced them (insanely) that he’s the most valuable player in all of baseball, and their steadfast refusal to look at the rest of his numbers is the reason they’re going to be so disappointed with his playoff performance. If someone’s going to recognize that he had a pretty good playoffs, they’re also going to have to realize he’s not as spectacular as they’d like to believe he is the rest of the time.

    So everyone else’s awful performance will get a pass, and Howard will be looked at as a goat. Fair? No. But neither is the level of praise that’s heaped on him most of the time, so I guess maybe it balances out.

    • cintiphil - Oct 25, 2010 at 11:41 AM

      No one said the Howard was the goat. He was just the poorest of poor performers. He did not lose the series, the team did.

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Oct 25, 2010 at 11:49 AM

        Actually a lot of folks are saying he’s the goat despite there being 8 other goats that were on the line-up card with him. The Phils are one big baaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…

      • Utley's Hair - Oct 25, 2010 at 11:56 AM

        People all over, but especially here, have said that he’s the goat. In fact, yes, he is a goat. But he’s just one in a herd of goats. Managerial, offensive and defensive failures wasted all-but-stellar pitching performances.

        Sorry, Cholly, but you were not at your best this postseason–after you made more than you should have been able to out of a regular season which was decimated by injuries every time you chewed your gum. Would Oswalt have given up the two runs if he hadn’t pitched three days before to give him his first postseason loss? Who knows. But the offensive and defensive efforts were seriously lacking and inconsistent, at best. Ugh. Now JDub will most assuredly be gone–unless the Phightins can work out some sort of Bobby Bo deal or take some contract-writing lessons from the NHL.

        All I can say is GO EAGLES!!!!! What? Really? 27 unanswered in the fourth? WTF?!?!?!? Oh, crap…. All about the headlines, isn’t it Birds?

        GO FLYERS.

    • Kevin S. - Oct 25, 2010 at 11:46 AM

      It’s like bizarro-Howard debate, this time with the stat-heads defending his performance and the flat-earthers ripping it.

  5. Jonny 5 - Oct 25, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    I don’t pay any attention to anyone blaming Howard. He didn’t make everyone else fail. My brother in law wanted Charlie to be fired. Ho hum… Fire Cholly? okayyyyyy…….

    • Utley's Hair - Oct 25, 2010 at 12:00 PM

      Chuck wasn’t at his best in the Pinkos and Dwarves series, but not to the point where he should be s***canned. Especially after what should be a MOTY performance in the regular season. I say you ban your brother-in-law from your newly tiled house and powder room (you Jeter, you) until he admits he was wrong and it was just a knee jerk reaction.

      • Jonny 5 - Oct 25, 2010 at 12:11 PM

        I’m thinking more along the lines lifetime ban from my house. Kinda like Rose has from the HOF. He can say he’s sorry all he wants…… My luxurious powder room, where only the likes of Jeter can afford will never have to deal with his butt again!!! Hey man, Going to see “get the Led out” Dec 11th at the electric factory. Should be a great time for me and some old folks. I never got to see the real Led Zeppelin being i was kinda too young back then ,So I figured this has to beat seeing Robert Plant, who’s pretty terrible now.

  6. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 25, 2010 at 12:59 PM

    Just to be fair to the stat guys, I went through every single Ryan Howard at bat, to make sure I wasn’t crazy to think that Howard was just plain awful in key spots throughout the NLCS. Here’s the facts…

    Ryan Howard came to the plate 25 times in the NLCS:

    With nobody on base, he went 5-12 with 3 doubles and 5 Ks
    With a man on first, he went 1-4 with 1 double, 1 BB, and 2 Ks
    With a man on second, he went 1-1 with an IBB
    With a man on third he was 0-0
    With men on first and second, 0-2 with 2 Ks
    With men on first and third, he was 0-1 with 1 BB and 1 K
    With men on second and third, he was 0-2 with 2 Ks

    All 4 times he came up with a man on third, there were less than 2 outs. He walked once and struck out the other 3 times.

    5 of the 6 times he came up with two men on base, there were less than 2 outs, and he struck out all 5 times. The sixth, as well all know, was the last at bat of the NLCS when he was rung up with the bat on his shoulder.

    He came to the plate a total of 13 times with men on base. He went 2-10 with 3 BBs and 7 Ks.

    So when Aaron writes “Or how about “table-setters” Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco combining to go 14-for-66 (.212) with a .570 OPS so that Howard rarely had anyone on base to actually drive in?”, should we conclude that 13 of Howard’s 25 at bats constitute “rarely”?

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Oct 25, 2010 at 1:26 PM

      Who’s Ryan Howard? Who are these Phillies? Finally, what the f&ck is the internet?

      • Utley's Hair - Oct 25, 2010 at 2:55 PM

        Well, it’s not like a truck where information is dumped…it’s a series of tubes.

    • iranuke - Oct 25, 2010 at 3:28 PM

      Ryan Howard was his typical self. Feast or Famine. Hit the ball a long way or strike our. That is the type of player he is, and I hope the Phillies are happy with him for the next six years that he is under contract.

    • Reflex - Oct 25, 2010 at 3:37 PM

      I don’t know, thats a .384OBP with runners on base. Most players, indeed most stars, would take that in a heartbeat. Sure he K’d a lot, and few got driven in, but his performance was hardly awful, and it was far better than his teammates.

      I don’t put a lot of weight on lineup support, but if you do then surely Howard’s ability to hit anything for power had something to do with how unthreatening the guys in front and behind him were, and despite that he managed to hold his own, getting on base at a very good pace and not being an inning ender.

  7. frankvzappa - Oct 25, 2010 at 1:19 PM

    did anyone stop to think that maybe the Giants pitchers were just too good? they only had the best ERA in the league, Matt Cain threw a freakin 3 hitter, and their bullpen was simply dominant…they Phillies didnt fail, they just got beat repeatedly by an awesome pitching staff, at the same time their own awesome pitching staff happened to show some mortality…if Sanchez hadnt tanked the two games he pitched, and had pitched like he did down the stretch, the Phillies could very well have been swept…

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Oct 25, 2010 at 1:29 PM

      I stopped. I thought. Therefore, I was. In mathematical terms: Giants > Phillies.

  8. IdahoMariner - Oct 25, 2010 at 7:05 PM

    I tremendously enjoyed a great NLCS (saying something for this American League fan)…it wasn’t Howard’s bat or the rest of the Phillies’ bats (or relative lack thereof) that drove me nuts, though — it was Howard’s defense. My god…if you boot a ball or have a ball bounce out of your glove, don’t just stand there with your hands open gaping at where the ball should have been (like some cartoon character), get on your damn base for the throw from the guy who backed you up. When the pitcher can beat you back to your base (when you are standing 6 feet away from it) to cover it for you, you officially stopped contributing to your team right there. His bat was the only reason to keep him in the game, because out in the field he was a huge (Giant) waste.

  9. schmedley69 - Oct 25, 2010 at 9:09 PM

    The Phillies fans/media who watched Howard play every day for the whole season are a lot more qualified to pass judgment on him than you casual observer national media types are. We’ve seen this from Howard all season. The guy psyches himself out in big spots, swings at slop, and lets hittable pitches go right by him. Even if Victorino and Utley had gotten on more, I doubt that Howard’s run production would have been much different. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that he was going to strike out to end the game. No doubt at all. I was never more sure of anything in my life. I have seen it too many times before. Earlier in his career, Howard was a clutch hitter, but he was not one this year. I watched every game, and the guy is a complete mess in big spots. My guess is that he was putting too much pressure on himself because of the big contract. It didn’t help that he showed no accountability afterwards and tried to blame the umpire. Howard needs to see the same sports psychologist that Hamels saw last offseason. It did wonders for him. Howard needs to look in the mirror and admit that there is a problem, because regardless of what you national media types think, there is a big problem with Howard. You can massage the statistics anyway you want to, but we Phillies fans know the truth.

    • haligert - Oct 26, 2010 at 4:18 PM

      schmedley69 – You got it right! And as long time Phillie fan I agree with you completely!!! Hopefully he will see a sports psychologist in the off season. Is it February YET!!!

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