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Ryan Howard should really be in a platoon

Jan 14, 2013, 10:34 AM EDT

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies Getty Images

Want you to know that I spent the weekend writing up a 3,000-word NL East preview for a print publication and that the Phillies portion of it was straight-up and troll-free. It even struck a note of optimism!  Maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

So, to rectify things, I link you to Crashburn Alley’s argument that the Phillies make Ryan Howard a platoon player.  My only regret: it doesn’t talk about how he’d be best served as being a platoon DH rather than a platoon first baseman, but we take what we can get when we need it.

  1. Ben - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    Ryan Howard still plays baseball?

    • captainwisdom8888 - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:40 AM

      Expensive platoon player

      • bolweevils2 - Jan 15, 2013 at 11:09 AM

        Should the fact you made a mistake and agreed to pay him too much money in the past require you to use him full time now, even if doing so costs you wins?

    • protius - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:32 PM

      Whether or not Ryan Howard plays baseball is irrelevant, because he is a good man; everything else is gravy.

  2. kirkvanhouten - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    To head off the inevitable shitstorm that’s about to ensue from Phillies fans here:

    Ryan Howard’s OPS against lefties by year:

    2005: .421
    2006: .923
    2007: .826
    2008: .746
    2009: .653
    2010: .826
    2011: .634
    2012: .604

    That’s roughly a .693 OPS* against lefties over the course of the past 5 years..which is really terrible. Especially for a 1st baseman.

    *I’m too lazy to figure out the exact OPS, …I just added them and divided by 5, so emphasis on *roughly*

    • phisticuffs - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:50 AM

      As a Phillies fan, I don’t think Craig’s link is going to generate much, if any, backlash. We’ve seen him flail at enough sliders in the dirt against lefties (it’s baseball malpractice to throw this man a fastball).

    • blacksables - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:07 AM

      One number does not make a meaningful statistic. For a statistic to have any sense to it, it has to be compared to other numbers.

      Kudos for the effort, but it doesn’t really mean anything.

      • kirkvanhouten - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:35 AM

        Well, OPS is technically one number…I suppose….

        I realize there is no way to put OPS into context in any way.

        If only we could find out what other players OPS’ were…or what Ryan Howard’s OPS was against right-handed pitchers. But alas, that data alludes us. Way to snuff me out. I’m such a fraud.

      • blacksables - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:55 AM

        There are lots of ways to put it into context:

        based on how many plate appearances vs left-handers

        based on how many plate appearances per position vs left-handers

        based on how many runs created vs left-handers

        based on how many runs created per position vs left-handers

        based agains all first basemen vs left-handers

        based against all batters vs left-handers

        There are lots of numbers out there. You chose not to use them to try and make a point. Being a smart ass about other numbers being available when you didn’t use them just proves my point.

      • jeffrp - Jan 14, 2013 at 1:38 PM

        Here are 1st basemen v LHP, 2004 – 2012. Plenty of numbers here, can you point out the context where Howard isn’t bad against lefthanders?

        http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=1b&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=y&type=1&season=2012&month=13&season1=2004&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0

      • blacksables - Jan 14, 2013 at 1:43 PM

        You’ve entirely missed the point I was making. Especially since I never said Howard was good, bad, or anything in-between.

        I said one number standing alone does not make a case.

        You have now provide more numbers. You still don’t have any understanding of what my comment was about.

      • kirkvanhouten - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:33 PM

        Sorry sables…no one understands what you are talking about *because what you are talking about makes no sense*.

        OPS is not one numbers. It’s a quick and dirty way to gauge a player’s offensive output. It combines on base percentage and slugging, the latter of which is a conglomeration of their ability to hit for extra bases. It I cited…say….triples, you would have a point.

        I’m not one to normally put any importance to the thumbs up/down feature, but when the ratio is 1-39, maybe, *just maybe*, you are the one who is being completely ridiculous.

      • paperlions - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:46 PM

        I think what he means is that without context it may not be clear how good or bad an OPS of .693 is as there is nothing to compare it to. Of course, the same could be said for an BA of .300, 40 HR, or 130 RBI….those could all be unimpressive it they are .300 BA in little league, 40 career HR, and 130 RBI as a DH over two seasons playing AAA ball in Las Vegas.

        Of course, if anyone has paid attention knows that an OPS of .693 is about what you would expect from a glove-first SS….I guess he was just complaining that you didn’t mention that it was the worst platoon split for 1B or something.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:36 AM

      Sure Kirk. But we must remember one crucial thing…
      In the words of the immortal “Berrywhererufrom”…
      Ryan Howard is a “stats compiler.”

  3. csndrew - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    If you watch the Phillies, you know that Chase Utley isn’t far behind.

    • imthewiz77 - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:35 PM

      If you mean from an injury standpoint than I agree, but Bill James recently called Chase Utley the best percentage player in baseball…

      • csndrew - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:45 PM

        I have no idea what that means. But I’m just saying that Utley probably only has a couple years left as an everyday player. His skills have steadily declined over the last 4-5 years.

  4. Francisco (FC) - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    Craig you’re going to really need the Phillies to make a comeback this season or all this sass is going to go to waste.

  5. irishphilly87 - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    Ryan Howard makes $25 million a year. They aren’t going to platoon him. People bash this guy all the time because his strikes outs and can’t hit a breaking ball going away from a lefty, but the guy is an RBI machine. He’s always a top 5 in the NL or MLB in RBI’s and he has no help around him. J-Roll and Victorino batted in front of him for the past 4 or 5 seasons and they have horrible OBP, and Chase is usually injured half a season but somehow Howard manages to knock in RBI’s regardless of the help around him.

    • nategearhart - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      Ryan Howard is such a machine, he knocks in runners THAT AREN’T EVEN THERE.

      • chill1184 - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:57 AM

        Thats pure Clutch Grisson ™ right there

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:16 PM

        Well….in in his first 4 years he led the league in RBI’s 3 times (and the one time he did not, he was in the lead after 162 games, but Matt Holliday passed him in the Rockies one game tie breaker). The last 3 years he has had 1 RBI every 5.5 AB’s. These are facts

    • Francisco (FC) - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:57 AM

      I think that’s because with guys on base, they stop shifting him. Then hard hit balls find the gaps that are usually covered when he’s not hitting with folks on base. That foot injury has messed him up and I’m not sure he can stop being a station-to-station base runner.

    • mattjg - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:58 AM

      If they won’t platoon him because of how much they’re paying him, they’re just being stupid. The goal of any baseball team should be to win games. They should play the team that gives them the best chance to win. Howard will make $25 million whether he’s at first base or on the bench. His contract is a sunk cost.

      It’s 2013. We should be done talking about RBI.

      • blacksables - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:10 AM

        It’s 2013. Players make lots of money. We should be done talking about it.

  6. Francisco (FC) - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    The funny part is that even with a platoon Bill projects that the added value is… 1 Win. In a 162 season, unless you’re in the AL Central, 1 win is not going to change minds in the manager’s office.

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:30 AM

      That’s just the value of Howard’s plate appearances. It doesn’t account for the added value of having someone else in there against lefties. Assuming they provide value as well, the increase in value to the team is higher. Not to say it’s going to win them 15 more games, but when you consider that a player who gets you 5 wins is a big deal, a swing of a win or two is nothing to sneeze at.

      • Francisco (FC) - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:08 PM

        Well sure, the problem is quantifying all of that. Technically Bill said it would add 8 runs which amounts to (nearly) one win. Of course if it were the O’s 8 runs would add like 8 wins, much more dramatic swing there.

    • alang3131982 - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      the way to look at it, platooning Howard = (Howard against righties – the negative value of him against lefties) + a decent hitter against lefties.

      So there is a way to get to 2 wins or so there. I do wonder, though, if taking Howard’s bat out of the line-up would hurt somehow or if there is a potential advantage to having him come off the bench against lefty starter — would it make a manager think twice about pulling an ailing lefty starter when howard was lurking? Clearly, though, Howard’s at bats against lefties (hello routine off-days) should come against the best southpaws

  7. thesportsguru7 - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    Really Craig? How can you platoon a player making $25,000,000 a year? I love your financial advice, can you do my taxes too this year?

    • Jeremy T - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:13 AM

      The financial advice would’ve been… don’t spend $25,000,000 on Ryan Howard. At this point, though, that’s money already spent.

    • El Bravo - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:30 PM

      Your name should be thefinanceguru.

  8. Chris Fiorentino - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    LOL…the master-baiter at it again. I, for one, will not take the bait. Great point, Craig.

  9. xmatt0926x - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    Yeah, I don’t think we’re going to get 95 replies to these posts anymore. Yes, we know. The Phillies and that boob Ruben Amaro signed Howard to a horrific contract. We know. He strikes out alot and can’t hit lefties. We’ve been going over this for several seasons now. For the love of Christ please bring on pitchers and catchers. I’m actually looking forward to the anti-Michael Young posts from Craig this year just so we can break up the monotony.

  10. illcomm - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    somebody should platoon u and Kurt Klein out of reporting or blog writing.

    • thereisaparty - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      You do not understand sunk costs.

    • cur68 - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:23 PM

      Why do u (sic) have “y” & “o” keys on your keyboard? Are you giving them off days? What about your “shift” key? Is it on the DL?

      • paperlions - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:48 PM

        “y” and “o” are platoon keys

  11. greymares - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    If i thought Craig had any concept of the game of baseball I’d be concerned

    • Jeremy T - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:59 AM

      I realize this is an over-used response to this kind of comment, but if you have such a low opinion of Craig’s writing, why do you keep on reading it?

  12. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Finally got all the HOF out of your system, and back to your day job, I see ;)

  13. eagles512 - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    Yeah just forget the RBI stat. That makes sense. It only represents runs that you know, decides who wins the game.

    • Kevin S. - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:31 PM

      Actually, what it does is severely misappropriate the credit for generating said runs.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:56 PM

        “severely misappropriate the credit for generating said runs”, wow. Please, expand on this fascinating theory

      • paperlions - Jan 14, 2013 at 1:21 PM

        Well, it isn’t a theory. If a batter walks, steals 2nd, advances to 3rd on a single, and scores on a weak grounder to 1st, you are giving a guy full credit for something that he played only a minor roll in making happen as other players deserve the credit associated with the runner being on 3rd to begin with, and the other players did more valuable things because their PAs didn’t result in an out.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jan 14, 2013 at 1:44 PM

        “Well, it isn’t a theory. If a batter walks, steals 2nd, advances to 3rd on a single, and scores on a weak grounder to 1st, you are giving a guy full credit for something that he played only a minor roll in making happen as other players deserve the credit associated with the runner being on 3rd to begin with, and the other players did more valuable things because their PAs didn’t result in an out.”

        Fasinating – I never realized how insigificant RBI’s were.

        Next Topic: Low ERA – all because of the Fielding

      • cur68 - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:26 PM

        Low ERA – all because of the Fielding

        Yep. That’s a pretty good one. Works the other way, too. And pitcher “wins” falls into this category. These are what are known as “equivalencies”.

      • phillyphreak - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:00 PM

        Can’t tell if DelawarePhilliesFan is channeling an inner troll or has just missed the Ryan Howard posts of the past….. forever.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:18 PM

        @phillybreak – I think you know the answer ;)

        Though I will stand by my point that of all the many knocks you could take on the guy, RBI’s is a bizarre one to pick

      • paperlions - Jan 14, 2013 at 4:20 PM

        It is not that Howard is knocked for his RBI, it is that the case for his value is often built only around his RBI total, which is a context-dependent team stat (just like wins belong to a team and not a pitcher and ERA belongs to both the pitcher and his fielders). If you have to rely on RBI for an argument about a players’ contribution, you’ve probably already lost the argument.

    • 18thstreet - Jan 14, 2013 at 1:07 PM

      At this point, even people who defend Ryan Howard via the RBI should be willing to admit that he sucks against lefties. It’s not asking a lot.

      • cur68 - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:12 PM

        Judging from the back and forth between Kirk and DPF, I think it might be asking a lot in the minds of some. I’ve seen some skewed reasoning ’round here in the past but holy shit: I think somebodies going for the record.

      • 18thstreet - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:13 PM

        Heather Locklear is hot. She’s not as hot as she used to be.

        There. Easy.

    • kirkvanhouten - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:02 PM

      It represents a run knocked in by the batter. Which requires runners on base, and is therefore incredibly dependent on those around you and your spot in the batting order.

      Let’s compare two players, shall we:

      From 2006-2009 Ryan Howard knoked in 572 runs
      From 2006-2009 Albert Pujols knocked in 491

      Wowza…81 more runs. Would you rather have Howard at the plate with runners on that Pujols?

      Well, probably Pujols, since he hit 40 points higher in those situations, knocked in a higher percentage of runners *and* took a ton more walks.

      RBIs are extremely dependent on those you have around you and where you hit in the battering order…for god’s sake, Orlando Cabrera drove in 96 one year.

      Yes, Howard hits well with men on base. But that is one facet. Without men on base, Howard doesn’t hit well (.331 OBP for his career). This is something really important that people ignore when talking about how great a guy is with runners on base. Not making an out matters. Howard knocks in runs, but with no one on base, he sure doesn’t provide much of a chance for anyone to knock him in. This why stats like RBI and RISP can be overvalued.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:27 PM

        So…..you are saying (with a straight face) that the reason Howard had a good number of RBI’s per AB the last few years was that the Phillies had a lot of base runners?

        The Phillies were 18th in MLB in OBP last year, the Angels were 5th. The year before the Phillies were 11th and the Cardinals wee 3rd. Yet the past 2 years Howard had more RBI’s per AB then Pujols did

      • cur68 - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:28 PM

        You are going to make the old people mad wit your logic. Never mind that you are right, you’re challenging conventional thinking. You young whippersnapper. Get of their lawn, yo.

      • kirkvanhouten - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:41 PM

        “So…..you are saying (with a straight face) that the reason Howard had a good number of RBI’s per AB the last few years was that the Phillies had a lot of base runners?”

        Yes, Ryan Howard had a lot of runners on base in front of him. I’ll use 2011 only because he was healthy and it’s easier to make a direct comparison instead of using ratios:

        # of runners on base/runners in scoring position for Top 10 in RBI in 2011:

        Matt Kemp: 347/200
        Prince Fielder: 334/222
        Ryan Howard: 328/204
        Ryan Braun: 291/171
        Troy Tulowitzki: 308/187
        Joey Votto: 320/189
        Albert Pujol: 297/162
        Hunter Pence: 318/188

        Should I go on? pm two players came up with more men on base (both of whom beat him in RBI) and only one beat him with number of runners in scoring position.

        Baseballreference is your friend. Try looking before you comment.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:54 PM

        You have labored to produce the conclusion thte Phillies have a good offense? I am sure Cliff Lees will be delighted to hear how good his 2012 was – I know I am glad to know the Phillies actually won the division.

        Move out of your parents basement and watch a game some time.

      • kirkvanhouten - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:59 PM

        “You have labored to produce the conclusion thte Phillies have a good offense?”

        So, statistical evidence *put directly in front of your face* that shows Ryan Howard came up with runners at base more often than virtually everyone else in the NL does not suffice for you?

        This is an extraordinary bit of willful ignorance on your part. The data is right there, not two posts above yours. Yet you choose to completely ignore it because the Phillies overall are not a good offensive team.

        So, my questions for you?

        Do you believe Baseball is lying? Do you think their data is fake?

      • phillyphreak - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:03 PM

        “Cliff Lees”

        All the Cliff Lees

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:23 PM

        “Do you believe Baseball is lying?”

        Let me ammend my previous – move out of you parents basement and drink some Herbal Tea, you seem stressed

        But to answer your question….. If indeed it is possible for an entire sport to do such a thing (lie/tell truth), I believe baseball was telling the truth when I watched the Phillies.

      • palleg33 - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:30 PM

        Kirk

        Howard seems to have finished appropriately high in RBI for the number of men he had on base. Further, that is a pretty good list of players so is your point that he is driving in runs as he should?

        I am by no means a Howard fan and hate his contract. I have said that since day 1 and he continues to fail to adjust to pitching even though they have clearly adjusted to him,. That being said, the Nats have made a similar mistake with Mr. Werth. What kind of value are they getting for 20 million a year? Be careful with all the chest thumping before you win anything. Reference the Phils in their 4 Aces preseason. Baseball games happen on the field and are not all about dorks breaking down stats.

      • cur68 - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:32 PM

        Is there an internet rule along the lines of Godwin’s law that ad hominem attacks means that the attacker automatically loses regardless of the merit of their argument? If not, then there should be.

      • kirkvanhouten - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:33 PM

        “t me ammend my previous – move out of you parents basement and drink some Herbal Tea, you seem stressed
        But to answer your question….. If indeed it is possible for an entire sport to do such a thing (lie/tell truth), I believe baseball was telling the truth when I watched the Phillies.”

        First off, I last lived with my parents when I went off to attend college when I was 18…about 12 years ago.

        I only am pointing this out because you seemingly think it is fine to dismiss arguments if you assume that person lives in their parents basement. You realize how much of a completely ridiculous this makes you sound like…yes? You are faced again and again with the statistics showing that Ryan Howard comes up to the plate, yet you continue to ignore and have to attempt weak, petty insults to justify your completely wrong-headed statements.

        Yes, this is extremely irritating because it represents the worst of people who write things on the internet. The people who feel they can hold an outlandish opinion and resort to petty insults when challenged about it. Dude, *it’s fine to admit you are wrong*! It happens to all of us. But you attend to defend your argument by hurling out weak insults, you come off sounding like a whiny child.

      • kirkvanhouten - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:37 PM

        …and to palleg33 – allow me to refer back to a statement in my original post (waaaaaaay up there now).

        “Yes, Howard hits well with men on base. But that is one facet. Without men on base, Howard doesn’t hit well (.331 OBP for his career).”

        Ryan Howard does in fact hit better with men on. This is an asset, but an overvalued on. At bats with no one on base are also important, just *not as*.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:47 PM

        “First off, I last lived with my parents when I went off to attend college when I was 18…about 12 years ago.

        I only am pointing this out because you seemingly think it is fine to dismiss arguments if you assume that person lives in their parents basement. You realize how much of a completely ridiculous this makes you sound like…yes? You are faced again and again with the statistics showing that Ryan Howard comes up to the plate, yet you continue to ignore and have to attempt weak, petty insults to justify your completely wrong-headed statements.

        Yes, this is extremely irritating because it represents the worst of people who write things on the internet. The people who feel they can hold an outlandish opinion and resort to petty insults when challenged about it. Dude, *it’s fine to admit you are wrong*! It happens to all of us. But you attend to defend your argument by hurling out weak insults, you come off sounding like a whiny child.”

        3 words for you:

        Her-bal Tea

      • moogro - Jan 14, 2013 at 4:11 PM

        Please write more comments, more often.

  14. hisgirlgotburrelled - Jan 14, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    It doesn’t work to platoon Howard with Mayberry and/or Ruf vs lefties because their options to replace those guys in the outfield are Dom Brown and Laynce Nix. It’s already a platoon through the outfield, with the assumed only every day player being Revere… Awesome.

  15. spudchukar - Jan 14, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    Isn’t he kinda too old to join the military?

  16. timpaz - Jan 14, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    The worst mistake the Phillies ever made was signing Howard and Utley to long term contracts, injuries shortened both their careers.

  17. phillyphan93 - Jan 14, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    Craig, your a hater and probably should lose your position on the HBT site.

    • hammyofdoom - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:03 PM

      Or perhaps, just a crazy thought here, you should come to know what 95 percent of other baseball fans know: Ryan Howard CANNOT hit when the pitcher happens to be left handed and sane enough to not throw him a fastball. It’s not that hard, it’s a fact, and an article NOT written by Craig showed these facts.

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