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Ryan Howard: the Phillies’ seventh-best player

Aug 15, 2011, 8:50 AM EDT

Phillies' Howard smiles after scoring the game-winning run against the Astros during their National League baseball game in Philadelphia

I felt bad that the Phillies game got rained out, thus depriving you guys of obsessing over them in the ATH comments, so I’ll just throw this little link out there for you. It’s an article by Sean Forman — the boss of — from yesterday’s New York Times. In it he offers the totally sensible yet always-inflammatory argument that, hey, Ryan Howard isn’t anywhere near as good as you guys think he is:

Based on sabermetric stats, Howard does not appear to be the elite hitter that his R.B.I. totals imply … Among N.L. batters who have qualified for the batting title entering the weekend, Howard’s .831 O.P.S. was just 23rd in the league. Among N.L. first basemen, he ranked seventh, below average for the 12 qualifying players …  If we combine hitting, defense and base running, WAR (wins above replacement) rated him as the seventh-best player on the Phillies this year.

Of course you can just take the “la la la I can’t hear you” approach and discount Forman’s arguments because they’re based in statistics as opposed to moxie or whatever you prefer. And I assume some of you will.  You will defend Howard as an elite player because he’s your first baseman and he’s a very likable guy. And hey, it’s not his fault that his RBI totals, borne of way more opportunities than others due to his excellent teammates, give the illusion that he is a better hitter than he really is.

But it doesn’t change the fact that, year after year, Howard is probably one of the most if not the most overrated players in the game.

346 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. jerseybando - Aug 19, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    So… Howard knocks in a lot of runs with guys on base. Go figure.

    Just watch the players and forget the stats sheets. This team would not be as good without #6 in the lineup.

    • phillyphreak - Aug 19, 2011 at 9:52 AM

      Got it.

  2. childplease232 - Aug 19, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    Good Lord nerds have ruined sports…this sabermetric bullshit, fantasy sports..all of it. There is a difference between retarded nerd stats and some one actually numbers.

    2005 ROY, 2006 NL MVP, Fastest to 100, 150, 200, & 250 HRs ever, 1 of 4 players ever to have 4 consecutive 40 HR, 130 RBI seasons (Ruth, Griffey, Sosa), 58 HR in 2nd season (most ever), 2009 NLCS MVP, 1 RBI in 7 consecutive Playoff games in the same year (most ever), 1 RBI in consecutive Playoff games (tied Gehrig).

    He probably could have got the 08 WS MVP if Cole Hamels wasnt so good in the playoffs that year.

    Home runs arent opportunity, it’s skill. He strikes out a lot but so what…thats like saying since Favre threw so many INTs he wasnt one of the greatest QBs ever.

    Sorry if Howard doesnt compute with your nerd brain but some shit is just based off your eyes. Dumbass.

    • phillyphreak - Aug 19, 2011 at 2:24 PM

      You have opened my eyes with such an eloquent argument. I will forever forsake statistics such as OBP. I can’t begin to thank you enough for your keen observations.

    • bigleagues - Aug 21, 2011 at 6:10 PM

      Hang on a sec. I’m trying to follow yer argument . . . how do you calculate ROY? That’s Reprobatory Obtuse Yapping, right?

  3. icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 21, 2011 at 1:09 PM

    Haha this is the downfall of baseball: the abuse of numbers. Last time I checked, RUNS wins games. And I’m pretty sure Howard is T-2 in the Majors with 96. You really think this team would be where they are without him? We don’t know what we have till we lose it. That saying is appropriate for Howard’s (and Hamels’) relationship with the fans here in Philly. It’s ashame.

    • phillyphreak - Aug 22, 2011 at 11:11 AM

      Well, thankfully we don’t have to really take your baseball advice to heart. Howard has 96 runs BATTED in. He only has 67 runs.

    • bigleagues - Aug 22, 2011 at 1:33 PM

      If Hamels loves playing in Philly then $17-$18 Mil per should get it done. As for Howard . . . he’ll be 32 next year and his numbers appear to be on the decline. You can spend far less and get similar if not better total production from another 1B.

  4. mjay424 - Aug 21, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    I love Baseball Reference. Let’s be serious, when you call or infer Ryan Howard is the seventh-best Phillie, according to any formula, then you are abusing numbers.

    Remove Howard from the Phillies lineup and you’ve seriously injured it.

    Some, obviously, are taking for granted that Howard is composed at the plate, delivering repeatedly and is incredibly consistent.

    He’s a force, without question.

    Those in baseball, I’m sure, feel the same, as do the people who pay Howard.

    If the Phillies thought he was the seventh-best player on their team, they would surely take the trade offers other teams would offer (if they could afford that gargantuan contract).

    Rockies Prospects and Futures

    • bigleagues - Aug 21, 2011 at 8:08 PM

      The people who look gazingly past the rate of K’s and low Contact% toward gawdy and glamorous HR and RBI numbers are the same people who think Tim Hudson (12-7) has had a better season than Madison Bumgarner (7-12).

      The funny thing about K’ing too often is that as long as you are in a lineup with other productive hitters, and you put up gawdy power and RBI numbers, no one really seems to notice the liability of your low AVG and worst Swing Contact rate among regular 1B . . . until, of course, you get caught looking at a pitch right down the middle to send your team home from the LCS. Then . . . no one forgets how fortunate you are to be Ryan Howard playing in Philadelphia surrounded by very good to great players.

      So, let’s ask the question . . . which player in the following list is most easily replaceable:

      1) Halladay
      2) Lee
      3) Victorino
      4) Hamels
      5) Utley
      6) Rollins
      7) Howard

      1) The best SP in baseball? uh-uh.
      2) A Top 3 LHP, as well as, a Top 10 SP? uh-uh.
      3) Top 3 CF’er (and a legitimate MVP candidate)? uh-uh.
      4) Top 5 LHP and Top 10 SP? uh-uh.
      5) A Top 5 2B? uh-uh.
      6) A Top 5 SS? uh-uh.
      7) A Top 15 1B? BINGO!

      There are about 10-15 First Baseman that you could reasonably assume who could be swapped out with Howard and match or (likely) exceed Howard’s contribution to the team.

    • phillyphreak - Aug 22, 2011 at 11:12 AM

      But who can afford his contract (at least the one that starts next year)? New York- Tex. Boston- A Gonz…..who else?

      • bigleagues - Aug 22, 2011 at 1:36 PM

        Mets, Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers (as long as McCourt has been removed), Houston and since he’s approaching his mid-30’s – add the Giants :-0

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