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Ryan Howard: elite player, or league average guy?

Sep 22, 2011, 1:00 PM EDT

Ryan Howard AP

No, I’m not inviting you guys to have that debate here for the 100th time this year.  I’m merely directing you to The Hardball Times where Brad Johnson and John McCann debate the matter more formally than we are accustomed to doing.

There’s numbers there and stuff. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    Somewhere in-between.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:12 PM

      Also, does anybody else consider this posting kinda like in Jaws when Roy Scheider was throwing the bloody chum over the side of the boat… waiting… anticipating…trying to pull HB up above the surface once again 😀

      • nolanwiffle - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:25 PM

        Craig misses halladaysbicepts even more than we thought. I also picture HB as Roger Rabbit hiding in the bar. As Christopher Lloyd taps, “Shave and a haircut….” HB will not be able to resist…..”TWO BITS!!”

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:31 PM

        LOL I love that frigging movie. I am going pull the DVD out tonight…it’s been a while.

      • bigleagues - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:50 PM

        HAHAHAAHAHA – I am guaranteeing our old friend DocsBiceps will be back in short order . . . from his Twitter just 3 minutes ago:

        biceptshalladay James
        HBT has another “Ryan Howard is average” thread. I’m shocked. Same saber guys will comment that his rbi’s mean nothing. Same BS. Nothing new

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 22, 2011 at 2:01 PM

        LOL…not at what HB wrote on twitter but at the fact that you are actually following his twitter feed 😀

      • bigleagues - Sep 22, 2011 at 2:07 PM

        We all have our vices!

      • wlschneider09 - Sep 22, 2011 at 4:23 PM

        3 1/2 hours and only 47 comments. Clearly we have underestimated HB’s RHCAR stats (Ryan Howard comments above replacement).

  2. cup0pizza - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    He’s nothing special, but I’d still take him over James Loney for the Dodgers at 1B. That ain’t really saying much, though.

    • frenchysplatediscipline - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:16 PM

      How can you say he is nothing special? I am not sure your reasoning here? He may or may not be among the best 5 1B in MLB, but surely he deserves some consideration.

      I may not be the same stat geek that many others that read this site are (and I mean that term with respect), but since when did good old fashion RBIs become an unimportant stat?

      • kopy - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:22 PM

        I mean this with respect, but RBIs became outdated when people started agreeing that a hitter has no control over how many people are on base.

        Somebody can hit 10 home runs and have 10 RBIs while someone can hit 10 singles and have 20 RBIs. The stat is more of a reflection of a team accomplishment.

      • frenchysplatediscipline - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:27 PM

        Right, but then you have guys that step it up a notch when they are placed in those situations and others that fail miserably with runners on (see most of the 2011 Atlanta roster).

        I get your point – Howard has inflated RBI stats because Philly has good table setters. But the bottom line is that the man produces in those situations.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:34 PM

        cue the 75 different ways to say that Howard’s RBI totals are overrated, including how many men are on first, second, third, first and second, first and third, second and third, the 27 different sabre bloggers out there who will come on and link to something from fangraphs that shows that when Ryan is NOT served with papers 4 hours before a game he is a much better player than Erik Bedard, and that all things being equal , he is not quite as good as Michael Morse, Michael Young, or Michael Myers for that matter because at least MIchael Myers can hit with the hockey mask on.

        Whew that was a long sentence…its WAR was 11.5 😀

      • The Common Man - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:42 PM

        RBI as a stat for player evaluation has always been unimportant, it just wasn’t always seen that way. Driving in runs is not unimportant. However, RBI as a stat tells you very little about how good a player is.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:47 PM

        And factoring in how well every single player runs the bases also tells you very little about a player. Because it isn’t every player’s job to run the bases well…or hit singles. As the guy in the article writes…Ryan Howard’s job is two-fold…knock in runs and hit for power and he does those two things as well as anybody in the game. Everything else is meaningless when you want to talk about Howard. Now, does this make him an “Elite Player”. Of course not. But that is a loaded question. He is better than average though and anybody who says differently is wasting too much time comparing apples and oranges.

      • bleedgreen - Sep 22, 2011 at 2:10 PM

        Simply put, you don’t win a game with a high LOB and LISP number. It doesn’t matter who’s on base in front of you if no one knocks them in. RBIs ARE an important stat for a TEAM and an individual player. No RBI = no runs scored = you don’t win the game, plain and simple.

      • lardin - Sep 22, 2011 at 2:12 PM

        Howard is not one of the 5 best first basemen in Baseball. Off the top of my head, I would take Pujols, Agon, Cabrera, Votto, Fielder, Konerko and Tex over Howard

      • The Common Man - Sep 22, 2011 at 2:53 PM

        Really? Runs score all the time without an RBI on double plays, errors, and wild pitches. I’m not arguing for runs scored to be an important individual stat either, but I’m saying your point about runs having to be batted in is dead wrong. Also, I’ll point out that no one has said that batting runners in isn’t important, just that it’s a poor way to assess how good a player is.

  3. bigleagues - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    Over/Under on how quickly this post becomes “Most Commented”

    12 Hours

    Place your bets!

    • frenchysplatediscipline - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:19 PM

      I’ll take the under.

      Seriously Craig – I enjoy the h*ll out of this site and your posts in particular, yet I am sensing a pattern here… :-)

    • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:20 PM

      WAAAAAY Under…the most commented is only at 78 right now. This should beat that by 3pm…although with HB out of action, the one person around here who likes Howard more than me isn’t around to tell everyone that they are both stupid and wrong.

      • CliffC - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:32 PM

        What did he do this time?

      • kopy - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:40 PM

        Quit HBT again, but I guess he deleted his WP account so it’s more likely to be permanent this time. There’s a more complete message from Craig in the “And That Happened” comments this morning.

      • bigleagues - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:41 PM

        I think you’re right. I was basing my number partly on the commenting about Theo – but forgot how much is generated by any negative comment about the Phillies.

        At 20 Comments in the first 37 Minutes – 4 hours seems more on the mark. So close of business . . . 5 PM EDT.

  4. Jonny 5 - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    No matter what he’s a.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:30 PM

      No, he’s actually this…

  5. Bill - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    Ryan Howard is not a meme. “Ryan Howard is a meme” is a meme. This blog post is basically trolling, just in reverse.

  6. bleedgreen - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    Why is it one or the other? Theres no middle ground? Theres no ‘above average’, no ‘really really good’? I know in football theres like, 4 tiers of players. “Elite” is reserved for the top 2 or 3 guys. I wouldn’t put him there any longer, but he’s still top 4-8 or so at his position. Of course you have Pujols and Fielder, but then who at 1st? Votto? Freeman? C’mon now. In the NL he’s #3 in HR, #1 in RBI, and in all of MLB he’s #3 and #2 respectively. I don’t care what his average is. He has the most RBIs and 3rd most HR in the NL. He’s also been severely hampered this year by ankle/foot injuries. Thats not AVERAGE. It may not be “elite” but it is CERTAINLY well above average.

    • paperlions - Sep 22, 2011 at 3:20 PM

      Votto is so much better than Howard….it really isn’t close.

      Just in the NL, Howard is 9th among regular 1B at not making outs (the most important thing a hitter can do); he is 5th is slugging, and below average to horrible at everything else. That just doesn’t add up to being the 3rd best 1B in the NL.

    • jplum831 - Sep 22, 2011 at 3:30 PM

      Ahem, #6 in HR and #2 in RBI in the NL, and #10 in HR and #5 in RBI in all of MLB. But don’t go letting the facts get in the way of your argument. And “severley hampered”? Really? He’s missed 9 games the whole season… how severely hampered could he be? Don’t you think Cholly might give him a rest now that the NL East is locked up if he really is “severely hampered”? Finally, yes Pujols and Fielder… and hell yes on Votto. Somebody else said this above, but AGon, Tex, probably Konerko… so, he’s not even in the top 20% of MLB. Elite? Hardly.

  7. zakharovsa - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    This really isn’t the same without ‘cepts.

    • cup0pizza - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:33 PM

      It’s exponentially better.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:35 PM

        But it is worse with you. All we need is dirty harry to join the thread and we’ll need a shower.

      • cur68 - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:53 PM

        I’d take Halladaysbicepts (yeah, with the ‘t’) on here any day of the week over you ‘0pizza.

    • cup0pizza - Sep 22, 2011 at 2:08 PM

      I know you will, cur. You and he are “special friends”.

      • cur68 - Sep 22, 2011 at 2:26 PM

        Yep. We are/were. I liked him. He made me laugh. Made me want to strangle him too, but yeah, I’d like to think we were friends. Special, too. In that are you really friends with someone on the interwebs? I suppose you meant that “special friends” thing in some homophobic, insult kind of way, which is exactly why you’re a troll. Hell, lets be fair HB did much the same stuff, too and was way less subtle about it (not that you’re subtle, ‘0pizza; vitriol-slingers like you don’t deal in subtle). But the fact is you could probably point it out to him and he’d cut it out or modify his stance. It’s not like any of us can go back and edit out comments, but I sure bet he’d have liked to. I get the sense you’d never consider such thing, ‘0pizza. You’re just so much better than him, right?

      • cup0pizza - Sep 22, 2011 at 7:13 PM

        “You’re just so much better than him, right?”


  8. yankeesfanlen - Sep 22, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    Leave Ryan Howard Alone! (Sorry, sympathetic reflex kicking in)

  9. Francisco (FC) - Sep 22, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    I would parody this in Craig’s Lair… but I already did…

  10. phillyphever - Sep 22, 2011 at 2:05 PM

    Well, considering how well the offense has been since he’s been out of the lineup…….

    • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 22, 2011 at 2:08 PM

      LOL yeah for some strange reason, since he went out they are 0-5 and averaging a little more than 2 runs a game…it’s partly because they clinched…but could missing Mr. Lucky have anything to do with it? Nah…I doubt it.

      • paperlions - Sep 22, 2011 at 3:26 PM

        Small sample alert

        Runs scored in their last 13 games:
        2, 1, 2, 1, 3, 2, 2, 9, 0, 3, 3, 0, 5

        In the game where they scored 9 runs, Howard was 0-3 with 2 BB, no RS or RBI….in the 7 games before that, with Howard playing every single game, they averaged < 2 runs/game. They are averaging slightly more than that since he has been out….because…why was that again?

  11. Kevin S. - Sep 22, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    Did they have McCann go second just so Johnson wouldn’t have a chance to explain how flimsy and illogical his arguments are? Talking about how Howard has no “protection” behind him while ignoring the fact that constantly having runners on base in front of him keeps the pitcher in the stretch and the defense out of the shift. Giving us the crap about how his deficiencies in other parts of the game don’t matter because he hits lots and lots of taters. Pretty friggin’ weak, but then again so are most arguments claiming Howard is an elite player.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 22, 2011 at 2:30 PM

      I agree…not elite at all. But you must agree that he is better than league average, right?

      • Kevin S. - Sep 22, 2011 at 2:52 PM

        At the moment, not by much. He’s an above-average hitter – not the excellent hitter he once was, but still solidly above average. But the other stuff matters too. You can say he’s not being paid to run well… but his poor baserunning still costs his team runs. You can say he’s not being paid to field well… but his poor fielding still costs his team runs. We’ve had this argument before, so I don’t think we’re getting anywhere new with it, but he just doesn’t really measure up with his peers at first base, and how he does relative to his position tells us his value as a player.

      • spindervish - Sep 22, 2011 at 3:21 PM

        I believe one of the Howard defenders around here once actually wrote:

        “Ryan Howard is not paid to get on base.”

        Just look at that sentence for a moment. Take it in. It’s kind of glorious.

        Really though, as bad as his baserunning and fielding are (and they are bad), there probably aren’t 10 first basemen I’d currently take over him. He’s a good player.

      • protectthishouse54 - Sep 22, 2011 at 4:17 PM

        On a side note, Im not sure I buy the argument that “as a baserunner, he costs his team runs.” Technically, over the course of the year, he’s cost the Phils 7.8 runs when compared with the average. But the Phillies have played 155 games. That’s .05 runs per game. Since you can’t score fractions of runs, that rounds down to 0. My point is that basically, such a large number (7.8) is really very small and probably has no effect on winning or losing games. These are just my thoughts. Maybe I’m mistaken but it makes sense in my head.

      • Kevin S. - Sep 22, 2011 at 8:20 PM

        Obviously the point isn’t that the Phillies score 0.05 fewer runs a game because of Howard’s issues, but his poor baserunning will cause him to get thrown out or fail to take the extra base a significant number of times in the course of a season, and in some instances, that will mean him not scoring when a better baserunner would have.. On average, that would work out to be 7.8 runs lower than an average baserunner.

  12. kellyb9 - Sep 22, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    I kind of get a little frustrated with baseball’s need to quantify everything imaginable. As a Phillies fan, I find Ryan Howard to be one of the most frustrating players I’ve ever watched. The pitches that he can, and does, swing at are sometimes so far out of the zone that he’d need a tree instead of a bat to hit them. At the same point, there’s probably nobody I’d rather have up in a clutch situation where I need a power hit (HR or otherwise). So for what it’s worth… thats my honest assessment while ignoring all sabermetrics.

  13. kcq101 - Sep 22, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    As a Phillies fan, I’m not going to contend whether Howard is an elite player, average player, or somewhere in between. I’m not well-versed in Sabermetrics, but using objective, empirical evidence to assess a player’s performance sounds like a great idea. If only they were on the back of my Topps, Donruss, Fleer, and (if I really behaved) Upper Deck baseball cards. Or better yet, what better way to teach statistics in college.

    By my observation (I don’t play fantasy baseball), the whole debate of Howard, as a player, didn’t seem to takeoff until the Phils signed him to his big upcoming contract. As such, I think the debate would be more relevant if his performance and salary were considered in relation to the rest of the league/market.

    Could the Phillies have replaced his performance/production at a cheaper price in the upcoming offseason? Would Howard have signed elsewhere with a comparable $/years contract? Ultimately, were the Phillies right or wrong to have signed him for the money that they did? Despite one’s opinion of ‘elite status,’ as long as the Phillies signed him at a close-to-market rate price relative to their other conceivable options, while maintaining their competitiveness, then I’m content.

    • schmedley69 - Sep 22, 2011 at 8:42 PM

      Considering what Jayson Werth got on the open market, I think it’s safe to say that Howard would have blown the doors off of the bank vault. Just wait and see what Prince Fielder signs for in the offseason. There are always desperate teams looking to to gain instant credibility by over-paying for a free agent.

      • kcq101 - Sep 22, 2011 at 10:10 PM

        That is my inclination. And if the Phillies are now willing to maintain their success with their high payroll, then why lock him in like we did, assuming a consistent level of performance, elite or not.

        Now, could the Phillies have picked up 1 or 2 other players to make up for his departure with less to equal money and maintain the same level of run production? Perhaps. I’m not too sure what the free agency market is looking like, with the exception of Fielder, Pujols, and Reyes.

        Also, it’s hard to argue what the free agency market would have been had Howard no signed the contract. Would Werth have made as much without Howard’s contract partly responsible in driving up the market?

        In any event, I can’t argue the stats. There’s certainly subjectivity in how meaningful the statisitics are in evaluating talent. But, I defer to someone who has a better handle on it.

        As a fan, I’m just more concerned with whether the front office is making best use of their resources (farm talent and money) to not only strike while the iron is hot, but maintain the Phils success hereafter.

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