Over the next few weeks, Phillies Nation will break down each player on the Phillies roster and grade their 2009 season on a very unofficial 1-10 scale. The players will be chosen in no particular order.
Big Brown. The Big Piece. Ryno. The Big Man. Call him what you will; it doesn’t really matter. The dude continues to rake no matter what his nickname is.
Ryan Howard has launched himself into super-stardom, and it’s not because of his Subway commercials. His four straight seasons of 40-plus homers and 135-plus RBI will do that to a player. Offensively, he is a juggernaut and provided he stays healthy, the Phillies should be able to enjoy this for many more years.
Defensively, Howard made strides toward becoming a more complete player, although there are still some issues with his fielding. His errors dropped from 19 to 14 after losing approximately 30 pounds in the off-season prior to ’09. His newfound range on the diamond was apparent from the get-go. Howard does struggle with the relay to second base on certain throws, and at times has lapses on seemingly simple plays, however, he’s no longer being called a DH.
During the regular season, his numbers once again held steady. A .279 batting average was a pleasant surprise, especially after many believed he would never trend back toward his MVP-season figure (.313). He launched 45 homers, knocked in 141 runs, and even stole eight bases. His doubles jumped from 26 in 2008 to 37 in 2009, a sign that he is moving away from being a “three true outcomes” player. His 75 walks were tied for 16th in the National League, so a little more selectivity next season would certainly be welcome.
In the playoffs, we saw two different players. We saw the Ryan Howard that can easily carry a franchise on his broad shoulders. We also witnessed the transformation from NLCS MVP into World Series goat. Through the first two postseason rounds, Howard knocked home a ridiculous 14 runs, and in the process tied a record by doing it in eight straight games. Hot. Six games later, Howard was mired in a 4-for-23 World Series slump and fingers were being pointed toward him as to why the Phillies lost. Cold.
There’s not much you can complain about with Ryan Howard. You know exactly what you will get from him year to year. He’ll give you jacks, he’ll give you some palpitations defensively, and he’ll strike out a whole bunch. When he gets hot, he’s a veritable sunburst. When he gets cold, it’s like hell freezing over for a week or two at a time.
Looking past the numbers, Ryan Howard is downright durable. He’s played in 625 of a possible 648 games over his four full major league seasons. It would be wise for the Phillies to get a respectable backup first baseman to give him a breather on occasion, since the games played are adding up. Still, it’s nice to know you have a consistent, powerful first baseman that will be there every single day.
Ryan Howard has been, and will be, beloved in Philadelphia as long as he is in red pinstripes. Was a hell of a year for the Big Guy, or Big Piece, or whatever you want to call him.
2009 numbers: 160 games, .279 avg., 172 H, 45 HR, 141 RBI, 105 R, .931 OPS
GRADE: 9/10 – The only thing keeping Howard from being a “10″ is the defensive liabilities, and penchant for strikeouts.
Pat Gallen can be reached via email at Pat@Philliesnation.com