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Ryan Howard: the Phillies’ seventh-best player

Aug 15, 2011, 8:50 AM EST

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 Baseball-Reference.com — 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. halladaysbiceps - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    I have neither the time or the fortitude to read through these 139 comments and counting on how good or bad Ryan Howard is. Once again the Sabermaticians are screwing everything up. Good for you. You won. I can’t debate the metric guys any longer. You win. Howard sucks.

    • stlouis1baseball - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:00 PM

      Hahahaha! I appreciate your frustration Roy. White Flag!

      • cliffleesbeard - Aug 16, 2011 at 11:56 AM

        I’ll take Howard being ranked 7th best on the team with the best record in baseball, that’s the Phils, no white flags being waved here.

  2. cleverbob - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    I’m an engineer by trade. Numbers and statistics are fun. But at some point you really need to put the calculator down and back away…

    • bigleagues - Aug 18, 2011 at 2:10 PM

      Do us all a favor and give us a list of the projects you have worked on . . . so we can back away . . . far away.

  3. spindervish - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    I think the most distasteful aspect of the standard “anti-advanced stat” screed is the dismissive attitude that tends to accompany it. It’s a decidedly anti-intellectual bent that seems pervasive in many other areas of the culture these days, and it’s both frustrating and depressing, particularly when viewed on a larger scale than that of sports analysis.

    Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t automatically render it meaningless or evil. Believe it or not, there are actually people in this world who are smarter than you. And it would be nice if, in this small context, people could at least consider the possibility that these “stat geeks” who are “ruining baseball” are in fact operating in good faith and motivated by a love of the sport that is just as genuine as your own.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:25 AM

      spindervish, you will never get an “anti-stat geek” comment from me that they are ruining the game or anything like that. I know my friend bicept can be a bit harsh, but I think he is a little older and more hardened than me. Maybe someday, like it did for me, he will open up to stats like BABIP and OPS and OPS+.

      Now, that being said, the anti-Ryan Howard thing in the stat geek community is just insane and I don’t see a good reason for it at all. Sean’s article in the New York Times is just a complete hack job done for one reason…to point out Ryan Howard’s flaws from a sabremetric viewpoint. I could see if he were looking at a specific article and refuting it…like one that had the headline “Ryan Howard for MVP” or “Ryan Howard is the best player in baseball”. But he doesn’t. He simply begins with the fact that Ryan now leads the league in RBI and then proceeds to explain why it is meaningless and why Howard is overrated.

      Again, I will ask the simple question that nobody wants to answer…WHO THE !%#$#%@$#^@%$#%@$#% OVERRATES RYAN HOWARD??? He didn’t make the All Star game, so the fans/players/managers don’t overrate him. I can’t find that article that asks whether he is the MVP…or the best first baseman in baseball. So answer that simple question somebody anybody please!!!!!

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:30 AM

        I know next to nothing about the Philly sports newspapers, but does anyone take Bill Conlin seriously? You could say that Foreman was responding to this article?

        http://articles.philly.com/2011-07-13/sports/29769357_1_ryan-howard-phillies-fans-yada

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:33 AM

        I don’t take Bill Conlin seriously nor does anybody I know. Only baseball writer I take seriously out of Philadelphia is David Murphy.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:36 AM

        Church, had he linked to or mentioned a single article…or even if he just said “Some people in the baseball media overrate Ryan Howard” I’d see what the point of the article is. He isn’t refuting anything or anybody. He’s just pointing out the flaws of the league’s RBI leader. Why? To be a dick? To show how smart he thinks he is? Or because he hates Philly? Or to get some clicks on his webpage and some of his buddies at the SABR convention to high-five him when they read it in the NYT?

      • spindervish - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:43 AM

        Well, Chris…you do, for one. Perhaps the guy was responding to a general vibe he gets that fans at large think Howard is a little better than he is. Perhaps he was responding to the massive contract which he probably doesn’t quite deserve.

        Or maybe, just maybe, he’s a thoughtful guy with an interest in statistical analysis who thought writing about how RBI are overrated using Howard to illustrate his point would make for an interesting article. Maybe he doesn’t need to be responding to anyone in particular. Maybe you’re not the best judge of what is and isn’t fit to print.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:47 AM

        Are you saying that being the third best RBI % in baseball the last 5+ years doesn’t make him one of the best run producers with runners on base? Because if you are going to refute that, then why would I even bother to debate you? I didn’t say he is the best…but the %’s say he is the 2nd best run producing 1st basemen in baseball since 2006. See my link below and it will show you what I mean…now, if you want to do all around 1st basemen, then he is not that. He isn’t one of the best players in baseball. But as far as knocking in runs, the %, and NOT JUST THE RBI TOTALS, show him to be one of the 2 best.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:57 AM

        Yeah, but then Howard wouldn’t be the greatest example of over rating the RBI. The statistics presented today have shown that Howard drives in runs on a percentage basis at an elite level.

      • Maxa - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:01 PM

        I’m a little tired of reading Howard deconstructions myself, but I don’t have much of a problem with the article.

        You suggest that few people really overrate Howard, but he has finished in the top-10 in NL-MVP voting for each of the past 5 years, and the average fan almost certainly does overrate him. If it seems like Howard is always getting picked on, I think that’s mostly because he provides the most dramatic example of a player whose RBI numbers are misleading–and, of course, RBIs are a paradigmatic case of old thinking which sabermetricians dispute. So I’d guess that Howard, over and above his individual merits, has a kind of symbolic value for broader debates.

        Also, the New York Times understandably does not report on baseball with the same depth as sites like this one; most of the baseball pieces that go up on NYT would strike readers here as old news. It may seem like Sean Forman is beating a dead horse, but I suspect that his argument is novel to many NYTimes readers; because the average NYTimes reader is very different from the average HBT or Fangraphs reader.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:05 PM

        But Howard’s RBI totals aren’t misleading. He gets a ton, because he has a ton of opportunities. However, over the past several seasons his percentage clip is 3rd in all of baseball. He is an elite RBI guy because he knocks them in at an elite level. Maybe the national media or common fan over rates him, I don’t know. I am from the Philadelphia area and if anything he is under rated around here. Rest of your points are completely valid.

      • sforman71 - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:05 PM

        Who overrates Howard?

        Well MVP voters for one. (and I suspect most fans align with MVP voters).

        In the last five years he has finished 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 5th and 10th in MVP voting.

        Do you believe that Howard has been the 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 5th, and 10th most valuable player in the National League the last five years?

        Do you think he will do better or worse than 10th if he ends up with 130 RBI and worse slash stats this year.

        Phillies Management for another. They are going to pay him $125m minimum for the next five years.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:32 PM

        Sean, you quoted total number of runners on base and NOT the % of runners knocked in. Maybe that was because he would be in the top two or three first basemen whether you looked at just this year or since 2006. Using a total number instead of the percentage is not something I would expect from someone affiliated with the NYT or baseball-reference.com which I use at least 40 times a day. It’s basically misleading journalism any way you look at it.

      • thefalcon123 - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:21 PM

        “Again, I will ask the simple question that nobody wants to answer…WHO THE !%#$#%@$#^@%$#%@$#% OVERRATES RYAN HOWARD??? ”

        Let’s see:

        Howard and the MVP vote (WAR rank next to it)
        2006: 1st (7th in WAR)
        2007: 5th (41st in WAR)
        2008: 2nd (40th in WAR)
        2009: 3rd (13th in WAR)
        2010: 10th (57th in WAR)

        I’d say a pretty influential group of people (sportswriters) overvalue him a lot.

      • rhandome - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:30 PM

        I love how people are quoting “RBI %” like its a legitimate stat in any way. Yes, I’m sure Ryan Howard has a special ability to try EXTRA EXTRA hard with runners on base. Gimme a break.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:37 PM

        WAR is a “stat” that gets entirely too much credibility.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:17 PM

        WAR is a “stat” that gets entirely too much credibility.

        Probably, especially year to year comparisons. But take out the defensive component, or even the baserunning one, which leaves you just with offensive performance. Is that better?

      • phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 9:22 PM

        No proeblemo. While I think WAR is a pretty good stat that includes a lot, it should always be looked at in conjunction with other factors, particularly when discussing the offensive contribution of a player.

      • bigleagues - Aug 18, 2011 at 2:15 PM

        Which stat is a more complete picture of player performance: the RBI or WAR?

        Everyone I have brought this topic up to (Ryan as 7th best on the Phillie’s) goes right to the RBI when responding. The fact is none of those people have familiarized themselves with WAR.

        Is WAR the be-all and end-all? No way. But it is a more reasonable assessment of player performance than picking a glamorous counting stat (like RBI) and hitching your argument to it.

    • thefalcon123 - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:54 PM

      I agree. If player A has a 5 war and player B has a 4.8 WAR, it’s foolish to say player A is better. On the other hand if player A has a 9 WAR and player B and a 3 WAR, it’s foolish to say their just as good.

      Guess which scenario Ryan Howard fits? (hint: it’s the 2nd one).

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:27 PM

        It is not something that can be calculated with a remoteness of statistical certainty to make it a plausible form of measurement. Use it if you like, I am not fond of it.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 15, 2011 at 3:32 PM

        It is not something that can be calculated with a remoteness of statistical certainty to make it a plausible form of measurement. Use it if you like, I am not fond of it.

        WAR is a record of what has happened, assigning weights to every action taken by a player. There’s no subjectivity to it so not sure why you are worried about statistical certainty.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 3:59 PM

        I’m always worried about statistical certainty. :)

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 15, 2011 at 4:04 PM

        touche :) But what is it about the stat you don’t like? Batting runs is just a linear weight ascribed to each batting action. I personally don’t like the defensive component* because you need at least 3 years of data to be comfortable, if not more on the conclusions that are drawn. Not sure how reliable baserunning is.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 4:48 PM

        As you stated, I don’t like the defensive portion or the baserunning portion. I don’t like positional adjustments and I don’t like applying things to non-specific game situations.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 15, 2011 at 6:20 PM

        You can take those all out. Per fangraphs, it’s just a combination of everything and dividing by 10 (10 runs = 1 win). So basically you are looking at batting runs above replacement. However, if you want to go down that route, it’s probably best to check with Baseball Prospectus as I think they do a more indepth look.

        Or just look at wOBA (my fav) or wRC (park adjusted).

      • phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 7:02 PM

        Baseball reference has an offensive war component.

        Howard has a oWAR of 2.2 which is good for 67th overall.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 7:49 PM

        See, that is part of the problem for me…the equation of 10 runs equals 1 victory. I understand why it is not, but unless things are game and situation specific then it doesn’t hold much credence to me. For example, it seems as though creating or saving runs with a 7 run lead is given the same weight as creating/saving runs in a close ball game. That doesn’t jive with me. And phillyphreak, this isn’t about Ryan Howard right now, this is about my misgivings about WAR.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 7:51 PM

        And phillphreak…if you read my post above, one of my misgivings is about positional comparisons. Citing his offensive WAR does not address the concept of positional comparisons.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 9:08 PM

        Dr. 1) I was just using him as an example, like almost all the comments have. 2) I was addressing one (not all) of your concerns. You don’t have to like or use WAR if you don’t want to. I think positional adjustments are necessary- without them it’d be really hard to compare the offensive value of a SS to that of a 1B. The more important question I think is how much they get adjusted- you could probably tinker with that.

        Have you checked out WPA (or even better WPA/LI)? It (WPA/LI) tries to determine how many wins a player directly contributes to- essentially by how they performed at the plate and factors in situation. I’m just getting into this stat but it seems to be a good tool to compare players.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 9:20 PM

        I think that would be an excellent tool. I will have to look into that. Thank you for steering me into that direction. I don’t mind people using WAR in conjunction with other stats…as a tool. It just bothers me a tad when people use it as the end all and be all of stats.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 9:23 PM

        No problemo. While I think WAR is a pretty good stat that includes a lot, it should always be looked at in conjunction with other factors, particularly when discussing the offensive contribution of a player.

  4. stlouis1baseball - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    Ryan Howard is a very good player. But in reading these posts it seems some people are actually trying to compare him with AP. Really? Again…I like Ryan Howard. He is a very good player. But right now…I would take Joey Votto and/or Prince Fielder if given the choice. And I am not even going to comment on the AP comparisons because that is laughable. You pitch around AP and Joey (and to a lesser degree…Prince). Ryan Howard swings and misses so much you can actually pitch TO him. Again…very good player but be serious people.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:26 AM

      I don’t think anybody is saying that he is better than AP. At least I didn’t get that vibe.

      • stlouis1baseball - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:34 AM

        I thought I read a few posts where people where comparing the two. I am obviously biased but if given the choice to field my team my 1st pick would be AP. So when I see things like that I want to scream. Howards a damn fine player who gets a lot of flack for some reason (my guess is the strikeout totals primarily). He is definately a top 5 – 8 1st Baseman. Easily top 10 (but what do I know?).

      • FC - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:42 AM

        Pujols is the better overall player no doubt. But this year at least (what with his slump and injury- err sorry unscheduled mechanical maintenance) he’s not been as good as Howard in driving in runs according to the RBI%. But that’s the only thing, everything else in terms of AVG and OBP and defense Pujols continues to shine brighter.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:43 AM

        Albert Pujols is right now one of the ten best players to ever play the game of baseball. By the time he is done, he may be in the top 5.

        Ryan Howard is not in his stratosphere, but nobody playing today is…not even A-Rod. Howard, though, does do one thing as well as Albert Pujols and that is drive in runs. Since 2006, Pujols has a 17.71 RBI %. Howard has an 18.41 RBI %.

        There are only 2 players who have better % than Howard since 2006…Votto and Hamilton. And those two have come up with half the amount of runners as Howard. You want to say they would keep that % if they had as many at bats as Howard, OK. Then what this means is that he is the 3rd best run producing player in baseball…and the second best 1st basemen in producing runs. Period. End of story. Does that make him the 2nd best 1st baseman? NO. Is he better than Pujols? NO. But he does drive in runs just as well if not better…and the % shows it.

        http://www.baseballmusings.com/cgi-bin/RBIPCT.py?StartDate=03%2F30%2F2006&EndDate=08%2F14%2F2011&SortField=1.0*%28OnRBI.RBI-OnRBI.HRs%29%2FOnRBI.RunnersOn&SortDir=desc&MinPA=1000

    • FC - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:26 AM

      Let’s see, based on RBI%

      Ryan Howard 18.40
      Joey Votto 17.97
      Prince Fielder 17.92
      Albert Pujols 16.03
      Jose Bautista 14.63

      None of those guys you prefer would actually knock more RBIs than Howard given the same number of men on base to work with.

      • stlouis1baseball - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:41 AM

        Yep…he’s a very good RBI guy. In fact…one of the best. I don’t necessarily put much stock in the additional attempts he is the beneficiary of as a result of being on a very good offensive club. Sure…he gets more attempts so he should have more ribbies. I am not a Pete Rose fan at all. He had far more attempts than others as well. So naturally, he should garner a few more hits. BUT YOU STILL HAVE TO DO IT. It’s pretty simple for me. More opportunities or not…you still have to do it. The way I see it…Howard knocks in runs. He also strikes out at an alarming rate. His defense sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. But the Man knocks in runs. He is an RBI machine. Buddy Ryan said the only thing Chris Carter did was catch Touchdowns. I pretty sure Touchdowns are crucial. Also pretty sure RBI’s are crucial. With this in mind…other than Bautista…I would still take the other guys you so kindly listed above. Based upon the TOTAL PACKAGE.

      • FC - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:46 AM

        And that’s a fair choice. For Philly, Howard is the best fit because they need a great run producer more than a high contact guy or great 1B defense or a great OBP guy. For other teams, understandably, Howard may not be as good a fit.

      • sforman71 - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:19 PM

        Of course, that stat is runners driven in / runners on base. What about all of the outs that Howard soaks up that prevents his teammates from driving in runs?

        If we instead look at the percentage of runners who eventually score we see a different story. Howard is an RBI hog. He takes them for himself and takes them away from his teammates.

        Here are some comparisons. I show Howard as 52nd in the majors in the % of runners on base who score at some point in the inning. Meaning driven in by him or scored on a subsequent play. Here are the top five and some notables.

          Batter               PA    runners   RBI-HR  Rnrs who event. score  % of runners that event. score
        | Joe Mauer         | 3148 |    1982 |    356 |               824 |                   41.6 | 
        | Albert Pujols     | 3827 |    2530 |    448 |              1031 |                   40.8 | 
        | Joey Votto        | 2405 |    1410 |    261 |               569 |                   40.4 | 
        | Bobby Abreu       | 3877 |    2443 |    442 |               975 |                   39.9 | 
        | Josh Hamilton     | 2346 |    1482 |    289 |               590 |                   39.8 | 
        | Chase Utley       | 3558 |    2173 |    361 |               864 |                   39.8 | 
        | Chipper Jones     | 2951 |    1941 |    318 |               771 |                   39.7 | 
        
        | Mark Teixeira     | 3923 |    2697 |    453 |              1044 |                   38.7 | 
        
        | Lance Berkman     | 3448 |    2192 |    383 |               845 |                   38.5 | 
        
        | Ryan Braun        | 3005 |    1902 |    347 |               729 |                   38.3 | 
        
        | Miguel Cabrera    | 3886 |    2588 |    472 |               954 |                   36.9 | 
        
        | Ryan Zimmerman    | 3435 |    2201 |    348 |               785 |                   35.7 | 
        | Shin-Soo Choo     | 2214 |    1450 |    233 |               518 |                   35.7 | 
        | Shane Victorino   | 3349 |    1783 |    250 |               636 |                   35.7 | 
        | Carlos Guillen    | 2427 |    1659 |    258 |               592 |                   35.7 | 
        | Ryan Howard       | 3886 |    2825 |    520 |              1007 |                   35.6 | 
        
      • halladaysbiceps - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:32 PM

        Sean,

        I see your chart and the stats don’t lie. That’s not Chris, mine nor anyone else’s beef. What we don’t understant is the purpose of your article. Why are you comparing a known RBI machine with other elite players? Is your purpose to say that Howard isn’t as good as those players on your chart? Is it to demean the guy? Is it a fantasy league thing? As Phillies fans, we feel that your motives are less than honorable being that you are a New York guy. Why not write an article about how great Miguel Cabrera is with %, etc.?

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:38 PM

        “RBI hog”….grasping at straws a tad now. Wouldn’t that also account for the ineptitude of those who bat behind him? Unless you adjust for that, the “stat” is kind of meaningless. For example, last season Werth hit .186 with RISP, Burrell .234 and .258 in previous seasons. Ibanez .233. Also, Victorino being poor down in the line-up in previous seasons…

      • sforman71 - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:44 PM

        “New York Guy”?

        1) I’m typing this from my office in Mt. Airy and have lived in Philly for 11 years. I was at the Blanton WS game and have had season tix for I think 9 years now.

        2) Howard has finished in the top ten for MVP voting each of the last five years and IMO should not have been there for all but one of those years. He is nowhere near that value.

        3) I’m writing for the Times so it is a general audience and a general audience wrongly believes that RBI’s are an indicator of a great hitter. Howard is the most egregious example of this belief, so I chose him. Just like I pick Jeter when talking about defenders whose reputation doesn’t match their numbers. He’s the perfect example for that type of thinking.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:53 PM

        Sean,
        This is where you and I disagree. I think Howard has far more value than you believe. His job is to drive in runs, it is not to simply work a walk and leave it to the next guy to deal with. He drives in runs at an elite level…as evidenced by the percentage of runners he drives in.

      • FC - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:59 PM

        First you argue that runners in front of Howard have little to do with his ability to drive them in and now you blame Howard for the lack of ability of the hitters behind him to drive him in. So which is it?

        To me run producer means driving runs in, he’s great at it and you’ve basically conceded that argument. This isn’t based on raw RBI #s but on the %, we’ve already established that many other great first basemen would not produce the same # of RBIs given the same number of opportunities to drive runners in. And this comes from a stat sheet someone was trying to use to prove Howard wasn’t as clutch as many folks think he is, it turns out that many of the other guys who had higher % had comparatively much less fewer opportunities so they weren’t really comparable. When we compared to the top 10 guys in opportunities to drive runners in Howard STILL came up second. When asked to compare him to other 1B he STILL came up third.

        He’s a great run producer… according to your stats. The argument that came up was that RBIs do not denote greatness. We examined the rate at which he converts runs per opportunity and he’s still comes up in the top 10%. Now you’re trying to argue something else about “RBI Hog”. That is the very definition of moving the goalposts.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:02 PM

        FC,
        That is exactly what I was trying to say, only you put it much better. Nice work.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:03 PM

        I actually agree with Sean. Is it Howard’s job to drive in runs because he hits 4th in the order? Is it his job to drive in runs because there are runners on in front of him? If it’s the latter, then it’s technically anyone’s job to drive in runs when there are runners on base- so then everyone should criticize Rollins for not having a ton of RBI. Getting on base is the most important thing a hitter can do, even if there are men already on (it’s better to take a walk then to swing at a pitch in the dirt).

        If Howard was on SD or KC or a lesser offensive team, would he have these numbers? Probably not.

      • halladaysbiceps - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:03 PM

        Fair enough, Sean. We come from two different schools of thought. I don’t value a guy based upon runners on bases (chances) and how many of those chances the top run producer in the league knocks in. I look at the game from a different perspective, which is results. I assume you have seen a lot of Ryan Howard since you have been in the area for this many years. So, I will let that stand for itself. I know how good Howard is because I watch him play everyday. I will leave it that.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:05 PM

        Actually KC has a pretty good offense the past couple seasons, so yes. Nobody is arguing about the raw data. His percentage of runners driven in is elite…super elite even. His job on the Phillies is to drive in runs, not to walk and hand it off to (before Pence) Ibanez and Ruiz.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:29 PM

        FC can you prove to me again that if other 1B were in Howard’s situation that they wouldn’t have the same number of RBI? I must have missed that…..

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:34 PM

        I think that goes back to the percentage of base runners driven in. Obviously, it cannot be concretely proven, but it can’t be proven the other way either as others were suggesting.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:36 PM

        LOL at Sean’s argument that now, Howard is responsible for making outs that soak up the opportunities that his teammates would have. Give me a break man.

        Know what…we’ll agree to disagree, although again, I don’t think we are disagreeing at all. I think Ryan Howard is one of the best RBI guys in baseball. He gets to bat most often with men on base, and he knocks them in at one of the highest %’s. Period. Exclamation point.

        Thanks for the thoughtful article. Maybe next time, instead of writing a negative, you can write a positive…like the great year Shane Victorino is having. Or how great Utley is. Or how having a .330 and .339 OBP guy hitting in front of you is something so special.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:50 PM

        It just seems like a circular argument to me. Arguing that he is a good RBI batter because his RBI percentage is high. Since percentages are based on raw data (the lots of RBI part) of course his percentage is going to be high. That doesn’t dispute the argument that his RBI totals can be, at least in part (?), due to the numbers of runners on base for him. See Victorino’s career year- 14th in OBP in the ML -hits mostly 1st (30 times) or second (36 times) but occasionally 5th (20times) and has been driven in by Howard 20 times this year.

        But that doesn’t prove that another player (perhaps with a higher AVG/OBA/wOBA/OPS) in that position wouldn’t have that many RBI. There are 12 1B with at least 450PA with a better avg , 10 with a better OBP, and 9 with a better wOBA than Howard. I would be willing to bet that a lot of those players would equal Howard’s RBI numbers this season.

        And I think for clarity I need to say that no one is arguing (at least I’m not) that he wasn’t at one point a real good player. But Howard today is not the same player he was in 2006 or even in 2008. By looking at all of his numbers (not just RBI) it’s easy to see he is starting to decline. And that’s a lot of money in a declining player the Phils have tied up.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:57 PM

        It’s not circular reasoning. Percentage of base runners driven in adjusts for the differences in total amount of baserunners on base when one comes to the plate. He drives in more because he gets more opportunity, yes….but also, he drives them in at an elite rate. For example, if Howard comes to bat with 100 runners on base and drives 20, that is a 20% clip. If player B comes to the plate with 50 runners on base and drive in 13, that is a 26% clip. Although Howard would have more RBI than player B, player B’s percentage is greater. Howard has the 3rd highest percentage overall and 2nd among 1B over the past 5 seasons.

      • FC - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:02 PM

        FC can you prove to me again that if other 1B were in Howard’s situation that they wouldn’t have the same number of RBI? I must have missed that…..

        (Ryan Howard 18.40)

        Based on Paperlions link, these guys would NOT have more RBIs than Howard THIS year:

        Joey Votto 17.97
        Prince Fielder 17.92
        Albert Pujols 16.03

        Basically that’s the rate at which those guys (Famous guys, MVP Material guys) are driving runs in given the opportunity to do so (2011). This is regardless of the total number of men on base. Howard has had many more men on base than these guys true but based on that particular % he’s still driving them at a higher rate than them. Put another way, there is an argument to be made that Howard in THEIR lineups would still drive in more runs than them given less opportunities.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:02 PM

        But it’s still based upon RBI raw data. It would have to be normalized somehow to get a better handle on it. I just don’t know how…..

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:05 PM

        But philly, when you compare BA OPS or whatever with RBI% you are comparing apples and oranges.

        i.e. For the last 5 years, Howard’s % is 18.41 and Pujols is 17.71. Howard’s (RBI-HR) is 520 or 2825 to give that 18.41%. Now extrapolate that to Pujols RBI% during the same timeframe. If Pujols had the exact same # of men on base as Howard, the % would say that he would have an (RBI-HR) total of 500, which is 20 runs batter in less over the same period.

        Again, 20 RBI is not a lot. And Albert Pujols is a far superior all around player than Ryan Howard. However, the fact that he has knocked in more runs than Pujols on a % basis has to be good for something, right? I mean, EVERYTHING RYAN HOWARD DOES CAN’T BE OVERRATED CAN IT? The guy has a knack for knocking in runners when they are on base in front of him. Can’t you people give him credit for SOMETHING?

      • sforman71 - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:08 PM

        Yes, he drives them in at an elite rate, but the point that I’m trying to make is that he does this at the cost of additional runs lower in the order because he makes so many more outs than elite hitters should make.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:13 PM

        Sean,
        But how is that an argument one could make unless factoring in the performances of those hitting behind him in the order? That seems like quite the variable that is being ignored in your chart. That is my question.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:23 PM

        “Yes, he drives them in at an elite rate, ”

        Thank you Sean. He drives in runs AT AN ELITE RATE. That’s the point.

        “but the point that I’m trying to make is that he does this at the cost of additional runs lower in the order because he makes so many more outs than elite hitters should make.”

        Who said anything about him being an ELITE HITTER? Certainly not me.

        And for all those MVP voting results you want to quote, we both know that the writers have overvalued things like RBI and Pitcher Wins for decades. Yet I have NEVER seen the vitriol spouted about Ryan Howard from guys like you, who even admits that Ryan Howard “DRIVE THEM IN AT AN ELITE RATE”

        A teensy weensy itsy bitsy little tiny little bit of fair and balanced reporting when it comes to Ryan Howard would be nice once a year is all I am asking for from ya, Sean. Took me 4 hours to begrudgingly have you admit that he drives in runs at an elite rate…of course, with a caveat that means nothing to me because I never said he was an elite hitter.

      • FC - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:26 PM

        But that doesn’t prove that another player (perhaps with a higher AVG/OBA/wOBA/OPS) in that position wouldn’t have that many RBI. There are 12 1B with at least 450PA with a better avg , 10 with a better OBP, and 9 with a better wOBA than Howard. I would be willing to bet that a lot of those players would equal Howard’s RBI numbers this season.

        That’s an interesting argument PhilyPhreak but remember that all these things only contribute indirectly to bringing the runners home. AVG for example also includes singles with guys on first that don’t result in runs. OBP includes walks, which, unless you’re walking with the bases loaded won’t push a run across the plate, OPS includes OBP skewing the numbers again and so on.

        What I like about the RBI % is that we’re trying to streamline the situation: how many opportunities has a batter had an to drive in runners and how many runs were actually plated as as result at each opportunity?

        Here is another element that I think can skew data when looking at AVG with RISP. Keeping it simple: Player A has 20 at bats with RISP, and successfully hit 10 times out of 20, each time plating a run. Player B has 20 at basts with RISP and successfuly hit 8 times of out 20 but in each case drove in 2 runs. RBI totals: Player A = 10, Player B = 16. But Player A has better RISP, but it seems Player B has been more clutch. I’m sure many will argue A is better than B or B better than A.

        The whole RBI notion is worth further study.

      • sforman71 - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:30 PM

        So Chris, my article was titled.

        “An R.B.I. Leader, but Not an Elite Hitter”

        Does this mean you agree with the statements made in the article?

        We agree he’s an RBI leader. We agree he’s not an elite hitter. It appears we have agreement, so why were you so negative towards the article again?

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:40 PM

        I had a problem with this particular line, which made me ask about Ryan’s RBI %:

        “This is not just a recent phenomenon. Since 2006, Howard had 2,815 runners on base, well ahead of the runner-up, Mark Teixeira, with 2,689. ”

        You could have added the following and made someone like me perfectly happy because it would have been a fair thing to write…

        “However, since 2006, Ryan Howard also has the HIGHEST RBI % of any player who has come up with 1500 or more men. To put this into context, Albert Pujols’s RBI % is 17.71.”

        But that wouldn’t have matched the theme of the article, which is not just that Howard is not en elite hitter, which is definitely is not. The theme of your article is that Ryan Howard’s RBIs are overrated and that is just not true when you look at the totality of his run producing ability.

        Albert Pujols is an elite hitter. Ryan Howard is not. But Ryan Howard IS an elite run-producer and no amount of #’s you show are going to prove otherwise. And his RBI totals are NOT overrated because of his RBI %.

    • FC - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:28 AM

      Howard’s big flaw is that he’s very one-two dimensional, he’s probably expensive as a run producer, other guys will steal more bases, get more walks or hit for higher average. In this specific statistic of driving runs in, he seems to excel at it.

  5. sasquash20 - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    Howard Rules and you all suck it!

    • stlouis1baseball - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:28 AM

      Hahahaha! Sometimes….less truly is more and your comment made me laugh out loud. While I may not agree it certainly made me laugh.

  6. phrontiersman - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    I spent a lot of time over the past couple of seasons expressing my concern/frustration with Howard and his apparent decline and subsequently massive contract. I raged against the machine for a while, but in the end it didn’t really accomplish much.

    Is the guy overrated? I think so. Am I happy to have a guy of his abilities as – says this article – seventh-best? You bet. I can’t control the contract, and I’m finding fewer reasons to get so gnarly and bent out of shape about it as we go along.

    Really, you could have bigger problems than having five or six players on your team better than this one.

  7. phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    This has been an argument raging on sports talk radio airwaves in Philly lately. There was even an article in the sports section of the local paper that defended Howard….but I think the article in response to it was even better….

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/795349-fjmd-of-the-week-naysayers-are-wrong-on-ryan-howard

  8. chadh88 - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Overrated as he may be I would take him in St Louis when we lose Albert. Too bad he will be with the Phillies until he has to jump leagues to DH.

    • stlouis1baseball - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:14 PM

      Come on Man. Bite your tongue. He isn’t gone yet. Prince will also be a FA…and Joey V. in a couple of years. Howard is very good ballplayer….but we still have a 1st baseman.

  9. phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    But the bottom line is that the sabermetrics group will never convince the non-saber group, because a) the non-believers haven’t taken the time to understand the stats and/or b) every box score/sports highlight show/fantasy league uses RBI and HR as a way to analyze the value of a player. WAR, OBP, wOBA, wRC/wRC+ etc are all excellent stats to evaluate players and it’s a shame when people dismiss them so angrily.

    Is there clutch? I don’t know. It’s been debated even in the saber community for a long time. Generally speaking players tend to hit better with RISP anyway (no shifts, pitchers in the stretch etc).

    I’m a Phillies fan and I root for Howard. He’s one of my favorite players. But I know that there are 1B who I would much rather have for the next five years.

  10. stlouis1baseball - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    Why can I reply to some posts but not others?

    • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:40 PM

      You can’t reply to a reply of a reply…but you can reply to a reply.

      • stlouis1baseball - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:45 PM

        Well then…that explains it. Thank you. Kinda’ stinks though cause Chris and FC made a couple of really good posts (“replies” to a “reply” of a “reply” apparantly) that I wanted to “reply” too. On separate note…I bet you had to proof read your “reply” 3 or 4 times prior to sending huh?

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:48 PM

        I did actually. I find that if I want to reply to a reply of a reply, I just mention the person by name in a letter format. Example:

        Chris,
        Excellent point..etc, etc,

  11. stlouis1baseball - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    Monkey:
    Thanks for the tip.

  12. macjacmccoy - Aug 15, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    He produces thats all that matters.

  13. stlouis1baseball - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    It’s been an interesting debate people. Gotta run!

  14. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    I’ll start another thread, since that other one got long and I went to lunch.

    If Sean wants to reply, he can. But it is really quite simple…

    Ryan Howard has come to the plate with more runners on base since 2006 than any other player in the game. And in that same timeframe, only two other players have knocked in the runners on base in front of them…Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto. Both of those guys have come up with half the # of runners, but I won’t punish them for that.

    What does that mean? Well, it means that while YOU, SEAN want to call Ryan Howard the poster child for RBIs being meaningless, I’ll say to you that he should NOT be on that poster because, again, as a % of knocking in the runners in front of him, he is third best in the last 5+ years and 2nd best 1st baseman.

    Now, find some stats to make that sound like something bad.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:47 PM

      He posted that chart above…did you see that? I guess that was his response to the data that doesn’t support his claim.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:55 PM

        dr, I am simply amazed at the levels to which people will go to try to massage the #’s the way they want to see them.

        “Oh, Ryan Howard’s RBI totals are overrated because he comes up with so many men on base.”

        But when you point out that he has the 3rd BEST % of knocking those runners in, they don’t want to hear that.

        Like I said before, I’m not anti-stat. If a stat makes sense, I’ll like it. BABIP makes sense to me. OBP+ and ERA+ make sense to me, although a little subjective. This stat makes simple sense to me.

        Since 2006, he has come up with 2825 runners on base, and he has knocked in 18.41% of them. To me, that means since 2006, he is the 3rd best at producing runs when the opportunity arises…when men are on base. If he were at 15%, then yeah, I’d see the point that his RBIs are overrated because his % is so much lower. Even at 17% I would say he may be a bit overrated. His 18.41 is 3rd best…2nd for 1st basemen. If you want to look at it any other way, then you are looking for something that just isn’t there.

        Or, you’re hating.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:01 PM

        I’ve noticed this as well…when a point is made that counters their argument such as the numbers you brought up below and have been brought up repeatedly during this marathon thread, you can’t get a response.

      • Jonny 5 - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:13 PM

        Chris you kinda hit the nail on the head, I just wish you had earlier when the place was hopping with the Howard “Haterade”. I never get too involved in the Ryan Howard hate game, it’s tiring because too many stats point out his flaws. When you look at numbers such as % of RISP driven in by him the truth comes to the top. He’s one of the best clean up hitters in the game. Plain and simple.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:18 PM

        J5, I said I wouldn’t get involved in this nonsense, then my 10 o’clock meeting got cancelled and I found myself with a few hours to kill. Besides, we had some fun with a guy from baseball-reference.com and I love that website so I debated him a little bit. Obviously, I kicked his butt in that one, because he had to resort to calling Howard an :”RBI hog” or something because his out affect the guys behind him. Or some nonsense like that. Mr. Lucky is what he is…an RBI machine whether the stat heads like it or not.

    • phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:01 PM

      I posted this above but wanted to get in on the new debate. I think it’s open to interpretation. Don’t you think it’s a little skewed using a percentage? After all it is based on the number of RBI he gets- which some (including myself) are arguing that come from the people who get on in front of him. If the RBI is high because of this, the RBI percentage should be too correct?

      Also I think a better comparison is the past two seasons- we all know Howard isn’t the same player he was a few years ago. Just food for thought, I appreciate everyone’s view on this topic. It’s an interesting debate….

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:03 PM

        I posted this above, but will post it here too since you brought it up here.

        It’s not circular reasoning. Percentage of base runners driven in adjusts for the differences in total amount of baserunners on base when one comes to the plate. He drives in more because he gets more opportunity, yes….but also, he drives them in at an elite rate. For example, if Howard comes to bat with 100 runners on base and drives 20, that is a 20% clip. If player B comes to the plate with 50 runners on base and drive in 13, that is a 26% clip. Although Howard would have more RBI than player B, player B’s percentage is greater. Howard has the 3rd highest percentage overall and 2nd among 1B over the past 5 seasons. Also, 3rd best among 1B this season and 2nd among those who have had roughly equal opportunities.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:07 PM

        But philly, when you compare BA OPS or whatever with RBI% you are comparing apples and oranges.

        i.e. For the last 5 years, Howard’s % is 18.41 and Pujols is 17.71. Howard’s (RBI-HR) is 520 or 2825 to give that 18.41%. Now extrapolate that to Pujols RBI% during the same timeframe. If Pujols had the exact same # of men on base as Howard, the % would say that he would have an (RBI-HR) total of 500, which is 20 runs batter in less over the same period.

        Again, 20 RBI is not a lot. And Albert Pujols is a far superior all around player than Ryan Howard. However, the fact that he has knocked in more runs than Pujols on a % basis has to be good for something, right? I mean, EVERYTHING RYAN HOWARD DOES CAN’T BE OVERRATED CAN IT? The guy has a knack for knocking in runners when they are on base in front of him. Can’t you people give him credit for SOMETHING?

      • Jonny 5 - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:17 PM

        Philly Phreak, Percentages take that “qty factor” out of the equation. We aren’t talking batting them in at 25% because he only has 4 AB’s with RISP here. He’s got a bigger sample size making percentages even more accurate.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:31 PM

        That’s kind of my point though. There is too much variation in the stat from year to year. In 2007 Howard’s was ~17%, 2008 it was ~20%, in 2009 ~19 and in 2010 ~16. I’m not arguing that they are not impressive, they are, but if there is that much variation from year to year then it seems to me that RBI percentages are equally as fallible as other stats that they are being used to debunk.

      • seanmk - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:36 PM

        If you go by the logic that it’s easier to hit with runners on because the pitcher is working from the stretch(starter), and thus doesn’t get maximum velocity on his pitches. So it follows that of course he hits better with runenrs on.

        well this sort of also boils down to if you believe that hitting with runners in scoring position is a “skill” and not something that fluctuates from year to year. jayson werth in 2008 hit .274/.385/.453, 2009 hit .279/.407/.510 in 2010 he hit .186/.353/.314. All i heard about werth last year was he can’t hit in the clutch. Did everyone just forget 2008 and 2009?

        All i really know is the year that howard has bad numbers in the “clutch” and with RISP is the year there will be many “i told you so”s about clutch stats.

      • FC - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:43 PM

        Also I think a better comparison is the past two seasons- we all know Howard isn’t the same player he was a few years ago

        I don’t think it’s so much Howard isn’t the same player as he was a few years ago (At least not in the negative sense, his K rate believe it or not is down), I think it’s more a case of the League in general being much wiser than before and stopped challenging him with fastball after endless fastball. His breaking ball rate has been up in recent years I believe ( I could be wrong ).

      • phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 3:07 PM

        Not really apples and oranges Chris. It would be reasonable to assume that if there was a hitter with a higher AVG/OPS in Howard’s spot then they would at least have similar RBI numbers. Getting the bat on the ball leads to RBIs and that is reflected in avg and ops (usually).

        RBI% is an interesting stat but not without its flaws (like all stats). Reliance on only one stat is misleading.

        For the record I think Howard is a good player.

  15. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    “knocked in the runners on base in front of them AT A HIGHER %…Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto.”

  16. hansob - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    I guess it boils down to “how many RBI’s would player X have if he played 1B and hit cleanup for the Phillies”.

    So I did a little exercise comparing Mark Trumbo’s RBI generating ability with Ryan Howard’s. I calculated an “RBIs per plate appearance” for 2011 for all 8 Men-on-base combinations (empty, corners, loaded, second and third, etc), then mapped Trumbo’s RBIs/PA for those situations to Howard’s actual number of plate appearances in those Men-on-base combos.

    Trumbo mapped out to 90 RBIs, which is only 5 RBIs away from what Howard has this year and would be good enough for #4 in the majors. And it’s not like Trumbo is 1 for 1 with a HR in bases loaded situations and skewing the numbers. It’s just that his numbers are pretty similar across the board, but just isn’t getting the number of chances that Howard is getting.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:16 PM

      I checked the actual #’s for runners on base for Trumbo and here’s what they came up with…

      If you take Howard’s 375 men on base and times it by Trumbo RBI%(RBI-HR), which is 16.34%, he would have 83 RBI. He has 64 right now, so he’d would have 19 more if he had more chances to knock in runs. However, Howard with those 375 chances has 95 RBI and with only 2 more home runs. So even putting Trombo on the Phillies, ignoring everything else, including Trombo’s horrible .294 OBP, he still wouldn’t match Howard’s RBI total.

      • hansob - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:45 PM

        Trumbo’s percentage of his runners on base:
        TOT %
        1B 129 50.2%
        2B 84 32.7%
        3B 44 17.1%

        Howard’s percentage of his runners on base:
        TOT %
        1B 175 46.7%
        2B 120 32.0%
        3B 80 21.3%

        It helps when you’re prospective RBI’s are closer to scoring.

    • sforman71 - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:43 PM

      RBI % does not take into account which bases the runners are on. Here are the top 20 guys (by # of runners on base) since 2006 with the % of runners on each base.

      | name_common     | PA   | runners | on1st  | on2nd  | on3rd  |
      +-----------------+------+---------+--------+--------+--------+
      | Ryan Howard     | 3886 |    2825 | 0.3492 | 0.2416 | 0.1361 | 
      | Mark Teixeira   | 3923 |    2697 | 0.3472 | 0.2325 | 0.1078 | 
      | Jeff Francoeur  | 3671 |    2601 | 0.3402 | 0.2430 | 0.1253 | 
      | Alex Rodriguez  | 3450 |    2599 | 0.3580 | 0.2539 | 0.1414 | 
      | Miguel Cabrera  | 3886 |    2588 | 0.3345 | 0.2154 | 0.1161 | 
      | Robinson Cano   | 3679 |    2579 | 0.3528 | 0.2332 | 0.1150 | 
      | Prince Fielder  | 3969 |    2561 | 0.3230 | 0.2132 | 0.1091 | 
      | David Ortiz     | 3541 |    2539 | 0.3553 | 0.2437 | 0.1180 | 
      | Matt Holliday   | 3740 |    2531 | 0.3307 | 0.2316 | 0.1144 | 
      | Albert Pujols   | 3827 |    2530 | 0.3491 | 0.2049 | 0.1071 | 
      | Adrian Gonzalez | 3961 |    2521 | 0.3305 | 0.2053 | 0.1007 | 
      | Carlos Lee      | 3670 |    2504 | 0.3357 | 0.2308 | 0.1158 | 
      | Jhonny Peralta  | 3627 |    2497 | 0.3369 | 0.2308 | 0.1208 | 
      | Raul Ibanez     | 3696 |    2470 | 0.3331 | 0.2200 | 0.1153 | 
      | Michael Young   | 3973 |    2446 | 0.2962 | 0.2069 | 0.1125 | 
      | Bobby Abreu     | 3877 |    2443 | 0.3067 | 0.2118 | 0.1117 | 
      | Adam Dunn       | 3690 |    2434 | 0.3244 | 0.2217 | 0.1136 | 
      | David Wright    | 3667 |    2428 | 0.3210 | 0.2133 | 0.1279 | 
      | Michael Cuddyer | 3331 |    2411 | 0.3554 | 0.2360 | 0.1324 | 
      | Dan Uggla       | 3870 |    2398 | 0.2907 | 0.2199 | 0.1090 | 
      

      His advantage in RBI% advantage is largely explained by the high # of runners on third and second he sees. League average is 30.9% on first, 20.9% on second and 10.9% on third. Also he has three elite baserunners batting ahead of him: Rollins, Utley, and Victorino are all in the top 10 for baserunning runs added from 2006-2011, and that includes not just SB/CS, but going 1-3rd, 2nd to home etc.

      His high drive in rate is due to
      1) he’s a good hitter, not elite
      2) his average baserunner is farther along than that of other hitters
      3) his baserunners are elite baserunners

      Trumbo or anyone else would see their RBI% increase batting 4th for the Phillies for reasons 2 and 3.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:56 PM

        0.3492 | 0.2416 | 0.1361 = .7269. Maybe I don’t understand this chart too well, but why doesn’t this add up to 100%? Is it a % of the total # of men he comes to the plate with on base or some other #?

      • FC - Aug 16, 2011 at 11:17 AM

        Man you just DO NOT QUIT, it’s incredible. I thought we had established he was an elite run producer? You already admitted that. You’re making a jump in logic here because you don’t have precise figures as to HOW MANY of the runners on third, second and first were each driven in and at what rate for each player and have yet to determine with statistical certainty that any of these numbers significantly skew the %, you are making a suggestion that is worthy of further study but which by itself is proof of nothing.

        In addition how many of these guys have to contend with the shift? Howard is usually played with an extreme shift. Whenever he has a man on second and third or only on third they heavily SHIFT THE DEFENSE on him and yet he still manages to bring those guys home. Have you taken that into account? Would those “other guys” have to contend with a heavy shift? Do we know if the shift is significant? Dude you’re just hating now.

        Listen, you can make your point that high RBI -> NOT equal to Elite MVP Hitter, without denigrating Howard’s run producing abilities.You just seem to insist on belittling his ability. There’s no need for that. You’re just being contrarian now. No one here on the board is saying Howard is the greatest 1st basemen in Baseball, no one is saying he is the best of the best. A number of us contend that he’s an elite run producer and generally great baseball player (as has been pointed out by his detractors he’s in the top 10% in MLB in most categories) but no, he’s NOT an elite hitter, he’s not an elite 1st Basemen, he’s not an MVP anymore. But for the Phillies he doesn’t have to be any of that, he’s a great slugger and that’s all the team needs him to be.

      • sforman71 - Aug 16, 2011 at 12:01 PM

        FC,

        The chart of how many are driven in from each base are here. I linked to this yesterday. This was to run with the original article, but did not run online and may not be in print.

        https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1FWhgnXnfjgeuaS1Macx_xNgGlqVoJp-wgpfjpyj2fLo

        Plently of hitters contend with shifts. How is that relevant? Every defense positions itself to prevent hits. Howard just has a different pattern of hits, so his defense looks different. If Wilson Valdez pulled every ground ball they would do the same for him.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 16, 2011 at 12:10 PM

        Sean,
        Why are you choosing to respond only to a specific portion of FC’s criticism? You rightly addressed the shift situation, but completely neglected the most relevant points of his post.

      • sforman71 - Aug 16, 2011 at 12:34 PM

        The link I provided answers the question about the rate at which he drives in runners for each base. Or is that not the relevant point you think I should be making.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 16, 2011 at 12:55 PM

        Sean,
        “Or is that not the relevant point you think I should be making.”
        You are really kind of a sarcastic guy. Take it easy and drop the attitude. You keep responding with charts, graphs, and statistics. It is more of his third paragraph that you neglect…and I think he is dead on. You do seem insistent on belittling the guy. You’ve made your point, he is not an elite hitter. Nobody said he was…but harping on the point that he is not an elite run producer just seems a tad petty and misguided on your part.

      • sforman71 - Aug 16, 2011 at 1:37 PM

        drmonkeyarmy,

        I’m sorry you feel I’m being sarcastic. Not my intent. As I read it, your note was unclear as to which of Chris’s three points you felt I should be addressing, point 1 or point 3 and I was asking for clarification. Thank you for clarifying.

        As for point three. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I don’t agree with Chris’s.

        Here is my view of Howard and is my parting shot.

        At this point in his career, he is an average to slightly above average major league player. Even at his best he was a very good, but never great player. He provides somewhat better than league average offensive production at first base and is mediocre at best in the other phases of the game. His run-producing prowess is overstated by the number of runners the Phillies put on base ahead of him, their quality as baserunners, and because his outs take away RBI opportunities from #5-7 hitters. He should not have won the MVP in 2006, and did not deserve a top ten finish in any other year. Within 2-3 years his contract will be widely acknowledged as the second worst in baseball (after A-Rod’s). I also believe that he will finish in the top 8 in the NL MVP votes this year.

        You can call me a hater or someone who belittles him as is your choice. I’m not questioning his character, calling him a choker or saying he doesn’t work hard or that he kicks puppies. I’m just evaluating the value produced by a player who is going to retire with with 5 or 6 top ten MVP finishes and $200m of the Phillies money in his bank account. I’ve tried to stick to the facts about Howard’s career as I see them knowing what I know about baseball performance.

      • FC - Aug 16, 2011 at 2:34 PM

        Sean,

        We all are entitled to our opinions as you say. But I continue to have problems when you take data points and make leaps of logic that are unjustified in my eyes. The most straightforward way to evaluate (imperfectly though it is) the production is through the RBI %, and it indeed has flaws just like every single stat in MLB. But none of what you put forward is not without its own problems. Because your secondary points indirectly affect run production and there’s no way to conclude the effects are indeed the cause for any skewing in the RBI %. Examples:

        1) Men on 2nd and 3rd. Doubles and Triples and HRs are just as good bringing runs in from men on 1st and 2nd. Did you take in account those specific situations from your calculations? Did you determine if they were statistically significant to affect your claim on more runners in “better” scoring position? Did you isolate the cases where only singles brought in runners and see if that gave you a better indicator of the % of people scored?

        2) The % is not clear on what it represents. Fielder has higher % in each category according to the chart yet his overall RBI % is lower than Howards. You never explained it. This is an artifact and I have no idea if it’s relveant or not but you certainly don’t explain why this proves your point or why this data point doesn’t at least undermine your conclusions.

        3) Taking outs away from #5-#7. Did you determine how many more RBIs could have been produced by the follow up hitters in those positions as it affected each and every major leaguer? No you didn’t. You’re making the assumption that given more opportunities the #5-#7 hitters would actually convert those RBIs. In this case this is no longer an isolated evaluation. Hitting behind Ryan Howard for the last 3 years has been Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez, both players have had RISP issues. Have you examined that taking out say Prince Fielder, Pujols or Tulo or whoever from their Lineups and putting them here would actually offset any outs they save because THEIR #5-#7 hitters might be better at RISP than the Phillies #5-#7 in the same time period? I’m not being witty or clever, I don’t know the answer but you didn’t take this into account. The end result might well be a wash. You just assumed they would be better. You would now have to calculate how many RBIs the #5-#7 lineups could produce given the opportunity to push in that particular slugger and balance the abilities of those lineups to produce RBIs vs the outs that according to you take away opportunities. It’s surprising how you quantified the runs batted in from each base but never bothered to do the same for the outs. This year 2011 it has been far worse for Philly in terms of support behind #4, since the #5 and #6 have been hitting around .220 with RISP. So even if Howard had saved outs it’s not a given there would have been statistically significant more RBIs. It seems it’s more productive for Howard to drive those runs than leave the follow up guys to do so. Now that Pence is #5 the equation changes of course.

        What I’m trying to demonstrate here is the more you dig deeper the more fuzzy and hazy things get when you try to use ancillary variables to support your conclusions when said variables have many problems and situations. I’m sure I can continue to come up with more and more caveats. The RBI % stat is not the be-all and end-all stat of run production, but it is a good general indicator that over a long period of time is solid enough to take out most of the noise.

        Again you complain that he’s in the MVP voting, and should never have been MVP, and so on and so forth. That was never our point (though maybe you can accuse us of supporting his 2006 MVP). It’s not that you are a hater. It’s just that you came to a conclusion about Ryan Howard a long time ago and since then you’ve set out to prove you’re right at every corner regardless of the limb you go out on. It’s called confirmation bias, and that’s what happening here with your claims on more runners on base (we debunked that with the general RBI %) you then felt it necessary to dig deeper and discriminate the individual runners on 1st/2nd/3rd and jumped to your conclusion without asking yourself: what do these numbers mean, why are Fielder’s individual % higher than Howard’s but lower Overall. What is the effect of doubles, triples and HRs on these results? Later you turned to outs. Howard takes away RBI opportunities, this is bad… well how bad? how does he compare with other guys? and how does his #5-#7 convert compared to other team’s #5-#7? better? worse? You assumed but you never actually studied it. And these are actually valid points, it’s just that I’m not sure the average Baseball Ball fan would dig that deep just to make a point against sportswriters making MVP votes.

        It seems that as soon as you saw a stat that confirmed what you already believed you just stopped looking further.

      • sforman71 - Aug 16, 2011 at 2:54 PM

        I know I said that I was done, but the math professor in me has to point out this.

        “2) The % is not clear on what it represents. Fielder has higher % in each category according to the chart yet his overall RBI % is lower than Howards. You never explained it. ”

        This is a perfect example of Simpson’s paradox. Fielder can be better in every situation, but since the # of opps for him are skewed toward the first base situations rather than third base situations he appears worse overall.

        For example if I shoot 100 2pters and 100 3pts and I’m at 50% and 40% respectively. My overall fg% (45%) is worse than someone who shoots 150 2pters and 50 3pters but shoots them 48% and 38% overall fg% (45.5%) even though I’m better at both 2pters and 3pters.

        This is how Fielder can be better at each situation, but worse overall.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 16, 2011 at 2:55 PM

        “It seems that as soon as you saw a stat that confirmed what you already believed you just stopped looking further.”

        – Sort of like using RBI% to prove your point?

      • FC - Aug 16, 2011 at 3:47 PM

        This is a perfect example of Simpson’s paradox. Fielder can be better in every situation, but since the # of opps for him are skewed toward the first base situations rather than third base situations he appears worse overall.

        Thanks for the Explanation Sean! That takes care of my point #2. I am very interested in knowing though if doubles, triples and HRs further skew things or slant things in one direction or another. I contend that an extra base hit will usually plate runs regardless of base position, primitive example: a double with a man on third is the same as a double with a man on second, (and usually a double win a man on 1st, this is especially true of #1-#3), hence there’s no difference. This is especially true of Homeruns. And all the sluggers hit lots of those. At first blush this seems to dampen the effect of advanced runners but I have no idea how much.

        Sort of like using RBI% to prove your point?

        You mean like others have used Howard’s WAR to say his overrated for years? Actually Phreak if you look through my comment above I already conceded that the RBI % is not a be-all end-all stat (I actually use that phrase, go find the post, there’s no edit function so do word search). Believe it or not, I don’t think it proves he’s the best, but it certainly suggests he’s holding his own with the best. RBI by itself is flawed yes, but it is still a generally good indicator (i.e more often than not, good run producers will rack up high RBI totals), the RBI % helps to remove the noise from the TOTAL # of RBIs to narrow the picture to give a general picture of conversion rate of the opportunities presented. Basically I don’t see the stat as so terribly flawed to call it misguided or misleading, Just as I haven’t dismissed WAR because I understand there are different components to it and it’s still a helpful guide, I have my doubts in terms of how it values defense and base running, but I won’t be trying poo-poo or base a player’s worthiness on it alone (I leave that to Hittfamily).

        The RBI % suggests Howard is a top run producer. Sean’s point is that runners in advanced scoring position are skewing these %, my frustration with this point is that it seems like a blanket statement: maybe I’m dense and simply declaring Simpson’s paradox is enough to explain it, he is the Math Guru, but the effect doesn’t seem to be quantified or ranked in his chart, and it isn’t clear to me his chart takes into account Homeruns, Doubles and Triples. It just… IS… And yes of course the fact that I happen to think Howard is a great run producer means I scrutinize this more and pick it apart. Just as Sean thinks Howard is merely above average makes him scrutinize his stats and pick those apart. But this is actually good, otherwise we would not have charts like his or charts like Chris’s.

        Well I’ll leave it alone.

        As for over-paid, I happen to lean into the direction that Howard is over-paid in terms of strict performance. I’m convinced it’s a franchise thing. Howard has become a fixture and they are paying him for intangibles. It’s not unlike the Jeter thing. $51 MM for 3 years? At this point in his career his performance is not worth that. But it’s no secret Jeter was being paid to stay a Hall-of-fame Yankee in his sunset years and remain an icon for their franchise to say nothing of hitting the famous #3000 milestone in a Yankee’s uniform (the first Yankee to do so, that has to have figured prominently in the negotiations).

      • phillyphreak - Aug 16, 2011 at 3:50 PM

        FC, I know you said that. I just find sports debates interesting- we all get caught up in what stat we believe is the best. That’s the fun of these message boards. For the most part I think these debates were quite civil and enjoyable.

      • FC - Aug 16, 2011 at 4:09 PM

        For the most part I think these debates were quite civil and enjoyable.

        I’m glad you think so Phreak. For the most part I’m unhappy I allowed my frustration to get the better of me. It’s not because I think Sean or other folks are evil haters (that’s ridiculous). It happens because you end up thinking you’re talking to a wall and repeating the same thing over and over. I find people very frequently talk past each other in these things.

    • sforman71 - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:59 PM

      This is the percent of all PA’s where there is a runner on first, second, etc. If I added an empty column they would add up to over 100% because of cases where there are more than one runner on.

  17. mdpickles - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    Well gee, can’t wait to see what his OPS will be since the acquisition of Pence till the end of the season.

  18. spudchukar - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    Ryan Howard is a threat, particularly when he is hot. However, he also has notable holes in his swing, is often a guess hitter, and can be pitched to. Who would you rather pitch to with the tying and winning runs on base with 2 out in the ninth. Me I would walk, Utley, Victorino, Polanco, Pence for sure and possibly Chooch and Ibanez, depending on their splits to get to Howard.

    What I would like to see sabermetrics include is some metric that combines both RBI% with some temporal and situational measurement. All RBI chances are not the same. In other words who gets the job done when it really counts. “Of course, really counts” is hard to measure, since it includes such subjective categories as “really, really, counts”, and “kinda counts”. All RBIs are not fungible, even if it is part of the Sabermetric doctrine that they are.

    To be fair the “two-out, down by one scenario”, isn’t absolutely fair to Howard, because that isn’t the only situation that has positive impacts on a successful season. But perhaps the differentiation can quell some of the disagreements here. He probably fits Philadelphia fairly well. He is probably best defined as a “slugger”. Good RBI guy, with power (although his paucity of HRs this year, especially noting he does play 1/2 of his games in a hitter’s park is noteworthy), who is adequate at 1B, on a team that is generally one of the best on the infield, thereby masking some of his deficiencies, slow on the basepaths but due to his power and place in the batting order not extremely detrimental, who when hot can carry a team for a spell, but is also susceptible to become mired in slumps, and does not fair particularly well against 95+ fastballs, off-speed specialists, or left-handed hurlers. Dangerous, but in many situations, can be pitched to. Not a Great hitter, but a very good complimentary force, a good fit in Philadelphia considering his surroundings.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:25 PM

      “Who would you rather pitch to with the tying and winning runs on base with 2 out in the ninth”

      Ryan Howard every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Period. End of story. And not too many Phillies Fans would disagree with that statement.

    • spudchukar - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:48 PM

      Why? In the scenario presented a HR, would be meaningless, unless you bet the line on the game, when a single gives you the win. Would Ryan Howard be the most likely to get a hit in the Phillie line-up? Since When? In that particular situation a number of Phillies would be better options. If what you say about Phillie Phans, then it is a good thing they AREN’T managing.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:54 PM

        Dude is money. No other way to explain it. You want to judge an at bat in the 5th inning like one in the 9th, then that’s your business. I know that Howard, in pressure situations, is the best player on the team hands down.

      • FC - Aug 15, 2011 at 3:04 PM

        Why? In the scenario presented a HR, would be meaningless, unless you bet the line on the game, when a single gives you the win. Would Ryan Howard be the most likely to get a hit in the Phillie line-up? Since When?

        Well looking at the Phillies clutch stats (2 out RISP), Howard leads the pack at .338 except for Polanco who is at .341 (Though Polanco’s stats are heavily skewed right now). Mind you it’s not a big difference, Pence is .327, Utley is .333 Victorino is .324 Rollins is .310. So Howard at the very least will be just as good as any of the regulars in getting that crucial hit.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 3:39 PM

        I think the clutch argument is really interesting. One of the reasons it gets thrown out is because when you look year to year there is a huge variation suggesting that one player can be clutch in a season but over a career the notion of clutch is overrated.

        Howard RISP 2 outs (as defined above)
        2011: 0.311 avg, 0.413 OBP 0.504 SLG 122 tOPS+
        2010: 0.200 avg, 0.341 OBP, 0.386 SLG 73 tOPS+
        2009: 0.222 avg, 0.371 OBP, 0.444 SLG 81 tOPS+
        2008: 0.320 avg, 0.439 OBP, 0.589 SLG 138 tOPS+

      • FC - Aug 15, 2011 at 3:57 PM

        So this season Howard is clutch and the last two he wasn’t very clutch according to that definition… hmmm… Correlation DOES NOT imply Causation, but you have to think that .320 helped win that 08 World Series :-)

      • phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 4:21 PM

        I’d take that “outlier” and the WS anyday!

      • spudchukar - Aug 15, 2011 at 4:25 PM

        I’ll take the career numbers, and walk Utley, and pitch to Howard.

  19. iranuke - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    If Ryan Howard is the seventh best player on the Phillies, that says very good things about the rest of the team, and the fans is Phillidelphia should be celebrating the article as proof that they have a great team.

    • thefalcon123 - Aug 15, 2011 at 3:29 PM

      *claps*

  20. dirtyharry1971 - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    You can always count on Howard to Whiff when it matters just like he did in the “09 ws as he whiffed his way into the record book! hahahahahaa

    • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 15, 2011 at 2:49 PM

      Thanks for contributing something meaningful to the conversation.

  21. thefalcon123 - Aug 15, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    Here’s my biggest problem with all the Howard-is-one-of-the-best-in-baseball people. It seems like your love isn’t justified if Howard isn’t considered one of the best (which he isn’t). I love Ray Lankford, but I never went around saying he was one the best players in baseball using an extremely limited set of criteria to base it on. (How many centerfielders can you name who had a 140 OPS+ on consecutive years along with 25+ steals. Huh?!?!). I still love Ray Lankford though.

    Speaking of which….

    Ryan Howard’s top five season in WAR: 18.5 WAR, 142 OPS+
    Ray Lankford’s top five seasons in WAR: 25.2 WAR, 141 OPS+

    • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 8:18 PM

      Its funny how there are 280+ comments and many say that Ryan Howard is NOT the best player in baseball, or even one of the best players in baseball, yet idiots who have tunnel vision will continue to read and see whatever the hell they want to see. And your Ray Lankford example just proves the absolute absurdity of the WAR stat and why it is so meaningless.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 15, 2011 at 9:39 PM

        I think for the most part, the debates have been enjoyable tonight. Why are you starting to call people idiots and say stats that a whole lot of people use in evaluating players meaningless? Have you given examples of why they are meaningless?

        Lankford had some really good years (for example in 1997 he ranked 13th in OBP and 9th in OPS+ in the ML).

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:52 PM

        Nobody has said Ryan Howard is one of the best players in baseball, yet there are idiots who will begin their comments with that statement. It’s a classic straw man and it pisses me off. I, and many others, said he is the best RBI man in baseball. You want to debate that, then fine debate it. But don’t throw crap out there like “Here’s my biggest problem with all the Howard-is-one-of-the-best-in-baseball people. ” because it is nothing but bull and it just fans the flames.

        I have said WAR is meaningless and to say that Ray Lankford was as good a player as Ryan Howard proves it. WAR gives too much extra credit for position. Ray Lankford never had a year as good as any of Ryan Howard’s best 4 years, yet I have to hear the nonsense that Lankford’s best 5 years were as good as Howard’s best 5 years.

        Bleh, that’s just pathetic.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 15, 2011 at 11:59 PM

        Just to go a step further…

        Ray Lankford in 1998
        31 HR, 105 RBI, .293 BA, .391 OBP, .540 SLG, .932 OPS, 143 OPS+ 5.9 WAR

        Ryan Howard in 2006
        58 HR, 149 RBI, .313 BA, .425 OBP, .659 SLG, 1.084 OPS, 167 OPS+, 5.8 WAR

        Now, if those two lines don’t show the absolute absurdity of the WAR stat, then nothing in this world ever will. No amount of defense and baserunning skills could make up for the disparity in those two offensive lines.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 16, 2011 at 6:55 AM

        Wahh wahhh wahh. I’m always right Wahh wahhh wahhh.

      • thefalcon123 - Aug 16, 2011 at 10:54 AM

        Ahem. I’ll add in the lines you forgot

        Ray Lankford in 1998
        31 HR, 105 RBI, .293 BA, .391 OBP, .540 SLG, .932 OPS, 143 OPS+ 5.9 WAR
        AND A VERY GOOD DEFENSIVE PLAYER AT A PREMIUM POSITION (CF), WHERE FEW PLAYERS PUT UP GOOD OFFENSIVE NUMBERS, AND LANKFORD PLAYED IN A NEUTRAL PARK

        Ryan Howard in 2006
        58 HR, 149 RBI, .313 BA, .425 OBP, .659 SLG, 1.084 OPS, 167 OPS+, 5.8 WAR
        A POOR DEFENSIVE PLAYER AT A NON PREMIUM POSITION (1ST BASE) WHERE A LOT OF PLAYERS PUT UP GOOD OFFENSIVE NUMBERS IN A PARK THAT WAS GREAT FOR HITTERS.

        See…does WAR make more sense to you now?

      • phillyphreak - Aug 16, 2011 at 11:13 AM

        Woah all caps. I get what you are saying Falcon. He obviously won’t buy into the sabermetric arguments except to call them absurd without providing evidence to show why.

        To be fair Chris, 5.9 WAR vs 5.8WAR is essentially the same thing. And because WAR includes defense and baserunning, Howard takes a big hit there (read he’s not good at either). The OPS+ shows how much better Howard was as an offensive player though. But 2006 was his career year and he’s declined since then. This is one of the major arguments people use to show how valuable Howard is (2006 stats). He’s not that player today. So you need to pick more fair statistics to make your claims- and you haven’t provided any evidence to show that WAR isn’t a good stat. Sure it has its caveats but all stats do.

      • FC - Aug 16, 2011 at 11:34 AM

        That’s an interesting perspective phreak, certainly defense in CF is more valuable, but I’m undecided as to whether the penalties on howard for his defense and baserunning are fair or precise. The team didn’t need him to have great defense at 1B nor great baserunning. I’m sure there must be a version of adjusted WAR that takes into account that fact, but it seems unfair to penalize Howard that much. He had 27 more HRs than Lankford, at first blush surely that must have more than compensated for any runs lost due to defense or lack of speed on the bases? Or maybe not, I guess that is what the WAR is saying. I would have to look at it myself and see how that is calculated. All stats com with caveats and to be honest I don’t like SLG anymore.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 16, 2011 at 11:41 AM

        Yea FC. I think even the most stringent sabermetric people would say to not rely on one stat (in this case WAR) to make an evaluation.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 16, 2011 at 12:18 PM

        Since we are discussing dWAR, I thought I would bring this up:
        According to Baseball-Reference,
        Howard 2006 dWAR of +0.2
        Lankford 2008 dWAR of +0.4

        On his career Howard has had two seasons of negative dWAR and has an overall positive number. Lankford had numerous negative seasons and is overall at 0.0. So I ask, was Lankford really a better defense player than Howard relative to position?

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 16, 2011 at 12:19 PM

        Shit, 1998 for Lankford, not 2008. Edit function please.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 16, 2011 at 12:44 PM

        I think this is a good example of why WAR can’t be taken alone (as I’ve been trying to say). I wouldn’t consider Lankford a really great player either. He was a good player.

        One issue I do have with WAR (and if someone can point me in the direction of an answer) is that it seems that comparing WAR between players from different years can be problematic (different replacement players, different offensive values etc)

        However, defensive value using UZR is considered to be more accurate than the dWAR used on baseball reference. And data from UZR is only from 2002 on so it’s before Lankford.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 16, 2011 at 12:48 PM

        Also dr, if you’re interested in this on yesterday’s Baseball Today podcast they talked about this very thing- the confusion of WAR. They’re apparently going to attempt to create (using this term loosely) an idealistic version and talk about what they feel the best indicators of player’s value are on Friday’s show.

  22. leftywildcat - Aug 15, 2011 at 8:41 PM

    Calling him the 7th best player on a team that has the best starting rotation in the game this year (look at their ERA’s) is not an insult.

  23. thefalcon123 - Aug 16, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    Lankford was + 0.4 WAR on defense, Howard was + 0.2 So, Lankford was better defensively according to WAR. In fact, he was 0.2 wins better.

    The other reason they are so close their hitting relative to their positions. In 1998, the top center fielders were Griffey, Bernie Williams, Ray Lankford and Matt Lawton. In 2006, the top first baseman were, Pujols, Howard, Lance Berkman, Jason Giambi and Justin Morneau (in his MVP year). Remove Griffey. Which group has far superior hitters. It is much more difficult to find a good hitting center fielder, I.E., a centerfielder with lesser numbers can be more valueable than a first baseman with better numbers.

    Seriously, how is this so difficult to understand??

    • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 16, 2011 at 3:35 PM

      I don’t think anybody is having problems with the notion of positional comparisons. I pointed out those defensive WAR “stats” because you stated that Lankford was a good fielder while Howard a poor defender relative to position. Those “stats” would seem to say otherwise. Furthermore, on the whole of their careers, which is a far more accurate representation of defensive prowess than one random seasons, the numbers would actually indicate that Howard is a superior defender to Lankford relative to position.

  24. joejanko - Aug 16, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    RBI%

    Ryan Howard 18.40
    Joey Votto 17.97
    Prince Fielder 17.92
    Albert Pujols 16.03
    Jose Bautista 14.63

    Quite a few of the Howard supporters have used this stat. But what does it really mean? Howard leads Votto by .43% and Fielder by .48%; this means he has driven in ONE MORE RUN FOR EVERY 200+ MEN ON BASE. This is statistically insignificant.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 16, 2011 at 6:15 PM

      All the sabermetric data is statistically insignificant. I don’t mean that to be snarky, it is just a fact. There is not a significant enough sample size, with a significant enough difference to even remotely approach data that is statistically significant.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 16, 2011 at 6:27 PM

        Then all data is statistically insignificant- even RBI.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 16, 2011 at 6:45 PM

        I disagree with your statement. The whole basis of sabermetric analysis is rooted in stats (the math kind not the RBI kind; read: significance can be determined ). It’s not just people making up numbers and adding things together.

        http://www.fangraphs.com/library/index.php/principles/sample-size/

        This is just one of the many articles you can find on statistical significance. .

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 16, 2011 at 7:05 PM

        Phillyphreak,
        I’m well aware of the statistical concept of significance. I read and analyze drug studies to keep in touch with the clinical side of my profession. I am also aware that the two primary ways to increase statistical relevance is to increase sample size and to have a greater difference between comparative values. There is not enough of a sample size and the differences between the values compared are not so great as to remotely approach statistical significance. The “p” values and confidence intervals of these comparative statistics would be a joke.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 16, 2011 at 7:07 PM

        We’ll just agree to disagree on that.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 16, 2011 at 7:23 PM

        For the record I also keep up with stats for my job (doing the research) so we’ll just chalk it up to differences in opinion. I’m sure you’re well aware of the arguments that go on between researchers about stats!

        In my opinion the sample sizes are just fine for most things. I think over a full season there is enough sample size to get an accurate assessment. But there is no doubt that the more numbers we get the better the analysis will be.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Aug 16, 2011 at 7:27 PM

        Fair enough Phillphreak. It was a good discussion. Thanks for turning me onto that information that you mentioned way above.

      • phillyphreak - Aug 16, 2011 at 8:57 PM

        Agreed drmonkeyarmy. I have really enjoyed all the different opinions on this topic. Good discussion indeed.

    • phillyphreak - Aug 16, 2011 at 6:50 PM

      Or at least sample size- which is neededto determine significance…

    • FC - Aug 16, 2011 at 9:22 PM

      I would like to point out the original information came from someone who set out to prove that Howard was inferior in RBI production and simply a lucky guy by ordering the hitters by PCT and declaring Howard a doofus for being 25th in MLB.

      In any case that only proves two things: if this is indeed statistically insignificant then Howard is doing just as well as the best of the RBI Producers.

      And 2nd you just undermined Sean’s argument because if the difference in % is insignificant then the difference in runner distribution % is equally insignificant since those numbers stem from the first ones.

      You know what? No one will convince anyone of anything. Howard is great because he was part of the team that went on a tear and brought home a Championship for the Phillies and their fans that should be enough for any Phan. Remember the Beer folks.

  25. crazyred47 - Aug 18, 2011 at 4:02 AM

    So the article was discrediting the RBI and Ryan Howard. Well guess what? RBIs are not easy to come by for most teams. For example the Oakland A’s have tons of high on base % guys but they don’t have a guy good enough to drive in runs. I think Ryan Howard is doing a good job getting those runs in. It’s not his fault the phillies are a good team with high on base guys getting on and he’s just doing his job getting RBIs.

    Forget all the sabermetric crap. His job is to hit home runs and drive in runs which he does well. I can’t believe an article was written to bash the guy because he was just doing his job driving in runs. lol

    Remember: The money lies in the RBIs. What Jeff Kent used to said.

    • phillyphreak - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:17 AM

      Who are the tons of high OBP guys on the As?

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