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The Case Against the Howard Extension

Posted by Paul Boye, Tue, April 27, 2010 09:10 AM | Comments: 90
Analysis, Commentary, Issues, Opinion, Posts

So, there it is. The big debate over whether the Phillies would keep Ryan Howard or Jayson Werth has been answered with a resounding “HOWARD.” At least, for now. The big first baseman has inked a five-year extension worth about $125 million, with an option for a sixth year and a limited no-trade clause. Howard will become the only player not named Alex Rodriguez to make at least $25 million a season when the new deal kicks in for the 2012 season, at least for now.

With his current deal running through next season, the timing of this announcement comes as bit of a surprise. That notwithstanding, the new big debate immediately revolves around Howard’s worth. Is this contract an accurate projection of what Howard will accomplish from the 2012 to 2016 seasons? Remember, contracts are for production you expect, not production you’ve received. Will Ryan Howard, from age 32 to 36, be a player even more valuable than he was from 2006 to 2009? Will he be as valuable as other players being paid that much, a la Rodriguez and (presumably) Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder?

The fact is that no one knows the answer to that question, for sure. Not yet. All a person like me can do is look at the numbers and the history and make a determination for my own sake, and that determination is simple: Ryan Howard is not now and will not be worth his new contract extension.

In what will be a point/counterpoint argument, I’ll be playing the bad cop to Corey’s good cop. I’m about to tell you why this is a bad deal for the Phillies. He’ll rebuild your spirits in a post of defense to follow. There’s even some thematic music at the bottom to tap your toes to as you read.

Howard 06-09 Utley
.278 AVG .303
198 HR 118
572 RBI 402

Ryan Howard is an exciting player. I enjoy having him play for my team, and I can certainly appreciate the raw power he brings to the dish in every plate appearance. I can certainly understand why he often gets more appreciation than Chase Utley; most fans see batting average, home runs and RBI as the biggest measures of success, and thus see little to sway them away from favoring Howard as the better player. That’s fine. Utley is better for reasons that are irrelevant to the true point of this article, but the line of thinking seemingly at play here establishes some sort of rationale for this deal, and the likely acceptance most fans will meet it with.

The breakdown is as follows: starting with the 2012 season, Howard will make $20 million from ’12-’13, then $25 million from ’14-’16 with a $23 million club option for 2017, plus a limited no-trade clause. Howard will play his age 32-37 seasons under this new deal, a time that will make paying him such amounts of money quite dubious. Through 2009, Howard’s age 29 season, his five most comparable hitters are Richie Sexson, Cecil Fielder, Mo Vaughn, Willie McCovey and David Ortiz, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Determined through comparison of past performance, these are the players B-R has pegged as most similar to Howard.

The obvious standout is McCovey, who finished a Hall of Fame career off by hitting .262/.397/.512 with 145 homers in 718 games spanning his age 32 to 37 seasons. McCovey is the best-case scenario, here, among this group of five. Here’s how the other four fared from their age 32 to 37 seasons:

  • Sexson: .211/.306/.392 with 33 homers in 217 games (only played to age 33)
  • Fielder: .249/.344/.439 with 69 homers in 375 games (only played to age 34)
  • Vaughn: .261/.356/.469 with 65 homers in 327 games (only played to age 35, missed entire age 33 season)
  • Ortiz: .245/.343/.474 with 52 homers in 273 games through Sunday, in his age 34 season

All of those signify marked declines from the prime years of each of those hitters. The scariest part of those numbers isn’t even necessarily the relatively pedestrian offensive lines, it’s the stark lack of longevity. All four had body types too big to play effective defense, and all were exclusively first basemen or designated hitters. Howard’s body type isn’t far removed, as his 6’4″, 225-pound frame puts him right smack-dab in the middle of the bodies those four sported. Prodigious power hitters with average contact skills and decent plate discipline, all mired in “slumps” to end their careers; ending them abruptly, at that. Those guys are not Ryan Howard to a T, no, but they are very similar. Will Howard have a career arc that trails off as quickly as those listed above? Maybe, maybe not. For every McCovey-type, though, it seems there are four Sexons, Vaughns, Fielders and Ortizes*.

*The remaining five comparable players to Howard that B-R lists – Tony Clark, Mark McGwire, Carlos Delgado, Fred McGriff and Norm Cash – combined to put up a much more reassuring .275/.370 line, with many of them accumulating significant playing time into their later 30s. I’m hopeful Howard will follow their career paths more closely, but can’t help thinking they were in the bottom five of comparables for a reason.

Steering away from the careers of others and back to Howard, let’s place his production in line with his new $25 million compatriot, Alex Rodriguez. Do the numbers stack up? Is Howard comparable to Rodriguez?

Equating salaries is not my forte, and I won’t try to discuss something I am not fluent in. Knowing that, take a look at A-Rod’s latest contract, signed following the 2007 season when Rodriguez was 31. A 10-year deal worth $275 million made A-Rod the richest player ever. He’ll make $25 million per season or more through 2014, with salaries of $21 million, $20 million and $20 million thereafter. He will be 42 when his contract ends.

Howard’s deal is not quite as severe, but Howard is also not the player A-Rod is, nor are the Phillies the Yankees. General Manager Ruben Amaro does seem to think Howard will be worth about as much to the Phillies as the Yankees hope Rodriguez will be. In opening that door, comparisons have at least been made fair game.

Check out the two graphs above. Thanks to Fangraphs’ nice comparison tool, the career paths of Howard and Rodriguez have been synced up rather nicely. You can even ignore the last drop in Howard’s line, as that includes the current, far from complete season. The first dot also includes a very partial, pre-rookie season. The middle five are where the money is.

The top graph shows on-base percentage, or the number of times each didn’t make an out. Howard’s MVP campaign in 2006 gives him his lone victory over A-Rod, here. Beyond that, he’s noticeably below A-Rod and only just about his equal at one point. Really, 2005, 2008 and 2009 found Howard only barely above league average (denoted by the solid blue line).

The second graph denotes Weighted On-Base Average, or wOBA*. You can read up on wOBA here, but for the sake of simplicity, regard this as an advanced form of the above stat, OBP, that also includes slugging, so Howard’s power is not discounted.

*As I’m sure most of you are familiar with OPS, take note of how this differs. Weighted on-base is a way of properly valuing both on-base and slugging percentage. Simply squishing them together into OPS makes things a little sloppy; OBP’s maximum is 1.000, while slugging tops out at 4.000 (if you homered every time you came to the plate), yet both are treated equally when combined into OPS. Weighted on-base tries to right the playing field a bit, and present its result on the OBP scale. So there’s a quick briefing on that.

The graphs are nearly the same. Howard’s power does not eclipse Rodriguez, nor does it provide enough leverage to significantly close the gaps in traditional OBP. In fact, Howard’s MVP season in ’06 is actually made less impressive, as Rodriguez had a year that was nearly equal over those multiple facets. It still remains to be seen whether Howard can maintain his production at a level near A-Rod in the coming years.

So, considering the above, as well as Rodriguez’s superior contact, plate discipline and comparable power, it’s safe to assume that Alex Rodriguez is a better player without much serious competition. It follows that the line of thinking that compares Howard to Rodriguez in order to structure a new contract is patently misguided.

Another thing to consider, as written up earlier today by Fangraphs’ Matthew Carruth:

Even if you think baseball’s salary per win goes up to $4.25 million this coming offseason and rises at a 5% clip every winter through 2017, Howard will need to produce an average of 4.75 wins from 2012 through 2017 just in order to justify his salary. If you factor in that Howard gets (even more) long-term security from this deal, then that average production levels goes up to 5.3 wins.

The “wins” Mr. Carruth is referencing are Wins Above Replacement, a stat Michael and I introduced some of you to in our Total WAR series. Wins Above Replacement is a stat that seeks to encapsulate all of a player’s abilities into one simple-to-use – if not so simple-to-calculate – statistic: how many “wins” do a player’s offense and defense contribute to his team over any given “replacement” player, who could be any Joe Smith called up from the minor leagues tomorrow.

He says that Howard needs to average about five wins over the life of his new deal in order to justify it, in terms of justifying salary with production. Unfortunately, Howard has bested five wins just once: 2006. He hit 4.9 last year, but managed just 4.2 and 3.3 wins in ’06 and ’07. In fact, Howard has averaged below five wins over his four complete seasons, the prime seasons of his career. If he can’t manage an average of five wins above replacement in what should be the best years of his career, what makes anyone think his post-prime years (and beyond) will be better? Not just that, how can they be consistently better over a longer period?

Of course, it would be another thing entirely if Howard played a premium defensive position, like catcher, shortstop, second base or center field. There is an added emphasis on defensive proficiency at each of those position, and so players who can play them well defensively and contribute offensively are valued higher. Logical, yes?

Howard plays first base, one of the least-taxing defensive positions on the field. He plays first base among a field of players that includes Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, Adam Dunn, Joey Votto, Lance Berkman, Derrek Lee and others, like Kendry Morales. Howard’s numbers are impressive, but just how impressive are they, relative to his field? Well, WAR already took some of that into account – hence numbers that were probably a bit lower than you expected – but they don’t detail Howard’s ranks among his first base peers.

In 2009, among first basemen with at least 300 plate appearances, Howard was 14th in batting average, 16th in on-base percentage, and fourth in slugging. In 2008, Howard was 29th in average, 25th in OBP and seventh in slugging. Again, that’s exclusively among first basemen, and 2007′s ranks aren’t much better (though they are an improvement over ’08). With this extension, Phillies brass are paying Ryan Howard to be not only one of the best first basemen in the game, but one of the five best players period, and they expect him to stay at that level for many, many years to come. As it stands right now, Howard isn’t even one of the five best first basemen in the league, much less one of the best regardless of position*.

*Because I’m sure you were just dying to know, Howard’s ranks in WAR among M.L. first basemen from 2007 to 2009 are fifth, ninth and eighth, respectively. Very good, but worth this much coin?

For three years, it looked as though Howard was already set to decline. At least, it seemed that way, given his declining walk rate (found here under BB%) and increasing tendency to swing at balls out of the strike zone (denoted here by O-Swing%). It seemed as though 2009 bucked that trend. His slash stats went up across the board, his BABIP went up 40 points despite no discernible increase in line drive percent with way more fly balls than ground balls, and his strikeout rate went down (though it was still 30 percent). Had this extension happened months later, the current project on Howard and the shift would be done and we’d have a conclusive reason why this happened. Alas.

Back on track, Howard’s even a one-tool player in relation to pitcher handedness, too. For his career, Ryan is a .226/.309/.443 career hitter against lefty pitchers, while he mashes righties to the tune of .307/.406/.656, a huge disparity. Years into his Major League career, he still has extreme difficulties against left-handed pitching, and there’s little reason to think that will improve after he’s already spent so much time with the big league club. From .225 to .224 to .207 batting against lefties from 2007 to 2009, the downward trend is scary. If he’s not already, it seems Ryan Howard’s skill set is destined to turn him into a platoon player. A platoon player who is very, very good at his specialty, but pretty much one-dimensional just the same.

It seems to me, then, that this deal is a result of an old-fashioned way of thinking. Howard’s power right now is excellent, and as a result of having great power and hitting behind Chase Utley, Howard has high RBI totals. Howard gets a large number of chances to drive in runners because of the high-OBP Utley and good-OBP Victorino hitting ahead of him.

To his credit, Howard does have a nice career line with runners in scoring position: .280/.416/.582 in more than 1,000 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. An excellent line, something I can’t explain, seeing as I don’t believe “clutch” hitting is necessarily a skill. It’s something I should acknowledge amidst all this, though. And has the Ted Williams shift robbed him of more hits than it’s given him? That’s another thing we don’t know. At least, not yet.

As for the future shock this gives the team, the ripples from this deal will be felt for years. The Phillies will now have $55 million and change committed to Howard, Utley and Roy Halladay alone in 2012, with an additional $30 million-plus to the bank accounts of Placido Polanco, Victorino, Joe Blanton and Carlos Ruiz. The offseason preceding that 2012 season would also be a time for seven current Phillies – including Ryan Madson – to become free agents, and an additional five Phillies would have arbitration years to be paid. A total of $85 million and change is now on the books for seven players.

Even if you’re not a subscriber to the belief that this deal is budget-hampering, it’s hard to dispute that this is money that could be spent better down the line. Twenty-five million can get a whole lot on the free agent market, or even be put toward international scouting or other players currently on the roster or any number of other things. It’s like what was discussed earlier about the going price of a “win.” Howard has averaged just below five wins over his four full seasons, yet must now be expected to be even better – as one player – than whatever combination of talent $25 million could bring in every season, and for a long stretch. His production alone must eclipse whatever value could be brought to the team in other areas of need down the line, and he just won’t be capable of that.

Let me be clear, once more: I appreciate what Ryan Howard helped bring us in 2008. I find my jaw hanging a bit agape at the length of some of his home runs. I can respect his desire to get paid like a top-tier player. I just don’t believe that a player with what appear to be declining skills – skills that weren’t enough to make him a top-ten MLB player to begin with – should be paid one of the most expensive contracts in history for a time period where his skills are expected to decline even further. That’s not slighting Howard as a person, but rather putting Howard the baseball player into perspective. He has power, and, if you wish to call it a skill, hits well with runners in scoring position. That’s it, at least in terms of major credentials in favor of Howard getting such a monstrous deal. My belief that Howard is overpaid is not a reflection of the intangible contributions he has made to this city nor his personality; those are things I cannot measure and am neither counting for nor against his case. I just judge based on the earlier-stated belief that MLB contracts are about expected production, not the past.

To that end, in the long view, Howard’s contract is set up to become an albatross. He will be all but untradeable – the no-trade clause is redundant, given the enormity of his yearly salaries – and his budget hit could restrict the Phillies’ movements in the free agent market for quite a while, assuming their current economic state doesn’t change. Future circumstances could provide the team with their own cable network, something that would surely soften the budget blow of Howard’s deal, at least, but no such thing appears imminent.

As it stands right now, the Phillies have given a top-player contract to a player whose skills have begun to decline while playing at a non-premium defensive position at which he is not among the five best in the Majors. Again, I like having Ryan on the team. I will cheer him on when he does well and boo him when he slumps, just as I would any other player not named Utley. I take exception to his contract and the precedent it could set for this team’s future deals, as well as the potential restrictions it could have on the team’s roster construction. It’s a gross overpayment and misjudgment of ability as it stands right now. Only time will tell if I – and the history I’ve used as anecdotal evidence – will be persuaded away from our beliefs.

Hey, things could change. I’m certainly open to persuasion. And maybe the front office could pull out a rabbit and re-sign Jayson Werth after all. Who knows? All I know is what I know on this day, and that’s what I’m going with. I’m sure others are far more content with this deal than I am, and they are even quite pleased at the news. More power to them, for sure. There’s little doubt that Monday was a momentous day, further ushering in a new era of highly competitive, heavily funded Phillies baseball.

I’m just not feeling this particular deal. At least not yet.

The music: 1 2 3

Avatar of Paul Boye

About Paul Boye

Paul Boye has written 58 articles on Phillies Nation.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 drtyjerz

    books will be written about how ruben minaya jr killed a champion, highlighting each bumbling step along the way. great article on mlbtraderumors today about how old and overpriced players with declining performances will handcuff the phils in the coming years.

     
  • Posts: 0 Pat Gallen

    To say that Amaro will kill the franchise with this deal won’t be true. Will it hamstring the team a bit in it’s final 3 years or so? Yes, I think so. But players don’t come along like this every day. As angry as he makes you when he strikes out, its just something everyone has to deal with and learn to deal with. He’s not choking up with 2 strikes. And if the Phils didnt give him this then the Red Sox, Angels, Cubs, White Sox, or Mariners would.

     
  • Posts: 0 Publius

    I highly doubt the Mariners would, since they have a competent GM. Theo Epstein of the Sox is also competent and would probably instead go after the younger Prince Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez. The Angels have Kendry Morales, who is pretty good AND cheap. The Cubs have Derrick Lee sitting at first base. The White Sox are the only team on that list which might make a modicum of sense, but I don’t see Kenny Williams spending this much money on an aging slugger.

    Good article and outlines the problems with this contract, which we all get to suffer through for the next 6 years.

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    The way elite players salaries have been spiraling the last few years this is a good money deal under the circumstances because he was going to get more years on the open market.

    I’ve been skeptical but Amaro has capitalized on Howard’s renewed commitment to the game, he looks lean and hungry rather than the guy with a chip on his shoulder trying to go downtown in every at-bat.

    If Howard is really thinking legacy it’s a win-win deal for both sides and it’s what the Phillies do around him with their money that counts. Payrolls only spiral when you get old and the front office tries to cut corners with Geoff Jenkins, Julio Lugo (BOS), Andruw Jones (LAD)-esque deals that tie up payroll.
    The Phils are showing the foresight to produce cost-effective role-players so they don’t have to spend money on veterans in free agency years.

    This isn’t an A-Rod (Tex) Carlos Lee or Soriano deal, the Phils are on the verge of being a legit powerhouse for a decade. The question now is how hungry will Howard be now he has his money, on the evidence of this year so far very hungry.

     
  • Posts: 0 Morris Buttermaker

    I guess we will have to suffer through another 6 years of Howard finishing in the top 3 in the NL in Home Runs and RBI’s. I’ll need plenty of excedrin for those months when Howard says, “Hop on my back guys, we’re going for a ride.” And he then carries them into the playoffs, or through the playoffs. And let’s not forget all of the sellouts this will cause, since kids love to come out to see Ryan Howard. If I did not have a season ticket plan, it would be difficult for me to get tickets. That Amaro is a moron.

    The nerve of some of these Phillies fans. How dare they place his name in the same group of players of great first basemen like Kendry Morales and Derrick Lee?

     
  • Posts: 0 Pat Gallen

    Publius, the M’s threw $50+ million at Chone Figgins who is in his 30s. What makes you think he wouldn’t throw $125MM at one of the greatest sluggers of all time? GM Jack can try to mold a team in all defense if he wants, but I’m sure he would realize Howard puts asses in seats.

    Agree with NJ, it’s how he responds to this over the next few years. Will he settle for being average as time goes on, or will he change with the times and realize that as he gets older.

     
  • Posts: 96 Paul Boye

    Avatar of Paul Boye

    Morris, please re-read the paragraphs where I point out where Howard ranks among first basemen. Also, I see you cherry-picked two names out of the first basemen I listed, probably the two you think Howard has the best chance of stacking up favorably to. What about the other eight?

    Ryan Howard is not a top-five first baseman. He just isn’t. All this about top tier in HR is fine, but RBI are not a measure of talent. Do we just discount the contributions of every other player and say Howard is the one solely responsible for the Phils winning late in the season and getting to the playoffs? No, we can’t. That’s just hyperbole.

     
  • Posts: 0 rob

    Howard has been putting up Mike Schmidt numbers in terms of producing runs. End of debate. I understand that you’ve been put up to this in order to fuel discussion, which is why I courteously trailed off after your A-Rod comparison started. I have a feeling the silent majority agree with me. The complainers are just getting their word in as a down payment on getting to savor an I-Told-You-So moment one day; whether they think this will be a success or not.

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    To me the knock on Howard from his rookie and MVP years to now has been his immaturity towards the game, his slugging numbers were incredible but his peripherals didn’t support and approach at the plate was something a passing far could prepare a scouting report on.

    He’s gone from a guy with a chip on his shoulder to a guy who finally understands he can become a better player by channeling his aggressiveness. This isn’t like Soriano or Wells who’s skills were bound to diminish, Howard isn’t going to lose his power and he isn’t a fatty anymore, it’s always been about whether or not he would do the little things before those homerun feasts and he looks to have got it through his head which puts him in the very top class of position players.

     
  • Posts: 0 Morris Buttermaker

    Imagine you are a fan of some random team, like the Pirates, White Sox or Rockies. Whatever, doesn’t matter which team or who currently plays first base. And it is December, and they announce they have just signed a new first baseman. Who would you be more excited for Kendry Morales, Adam Dunn, Derrick Lee, Miguel Cabrera, Lance Berkman or Ryan Howard? Yea, exactly, Ryan Howard. Pujols and Tex are probably the only two first basemen I would take over Howard. Ryan Howard has lost 40 pounds the past two years- Prince Fielder has found it. Baseball is more than just a bunch of rotisserie league numbers. Marketing is a huge part of baseball. Philadelphia is 40% African American, attendence at Phillies games is 95% white. It makes sense for the Phillies to hold onto two of the most marketable African American players in the league- Howard and Rollins.

    I don’t discount the role of the other players the past few years. But do the Phillies make the post season in 2007 and 2008 without Howard’s contribution in the stretch run? Do the Phillies get past the Rockies in the first round in 2009? You take Werth/Rollins/ Utley out of the equation during those runs, and the Phillies still succeed. You take Howard out of the equation, and you don’t have any WFC.

    And for all of the love Utley gets on this board, what is his “Get me to the plate boys” moment? Sure he hit 4 home runs against the Yankees last year. But he also had some huge errors against the Dodgers and the Rockies.

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Paul really does bring up something interesting, where does Howard stack up right now in the top 10 1st basemen?

    Pujols
    Miggy (almost top-tier power and is a pure hitter)
    Howard
    Teix (top-glove and range, top power and great plate coverage but seasonal)
    Prince (top power and run production but one-dimensional)
    Youk (best all-around player at 1st)
    Lee (great player but wouldn’t you take every player on the list before Lee?)
    Morneau (great all-around but not in that top class at any one thing)
    Kendry (not as young as you’d think and is he going to produce at the top tier level every year?)
    Billy B

    I would agree with Paul Howard was purely a slugging/run producing bat but he has made improvements to his game.
    -When he’s taking what the pitching and defense gives him he’s not going to hit with Miggy’s consistency but he hasn’t got a swiss-cheese strikezone.
    -He has more power and run production potential than anyone on the list.
    -Though the most mistake-prone he now has the range and skill first.
    -Hits well enough early now to not be just a late surge like Teix.

    In reality as bad as his bat was in the WS, until guys like Damon and Swisher had put the Yankees in the drivers seat Teix and A-Rod were no better.

    Realistically Howard’s bat is still going to be bi-polar but he’s not the one dimensionally player he once was and he’s slimmed down to not be any different in longevity to the others especially since Teix has an injury history, Miggys got a bigger gut and so do a good half of the players on that list.

    Hopefully thinking or reality?

     
  • Posts: 0 Phylan

    Hahaha I’m sorry the most valuable player on your team couldn’t come up with a snappy slogan. Jesus christ, Philly gets the contracts it deserves apparently. Get back to me in 2014 guys.

     
  • Posts: 0 Morris Buttermaker

    NJ, You forgot the one major knock on Miguel Cabrera.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=4537093

     
  • Posts: 0 derekcarstairs

    A few points:

    1. Even with this contract, I think the Phils can fit Werth into their budget with a 4-year, $55 million deal. Furthermore, I think they can also re-up JRoll and Hamels without blowing the budget. They just need to shed contracts like Ibanez’, Lidge’s, Victorino’s, Polanco’s and Romero’s as soon as possible.
    2. Howard’s contract is a 5-year, $125 million deal with an option for a sixth year. So, the Phillies are committed to Howard from his age 30 season (2010) through his age 36 season (2016). The only relevant data I have seen on the subject (Lichtman’s work) suggests that good players in the modern era (since 1980) maintain their peak performance through age 33 and do not decline significantly until age 36 or 37. Since Howard is a hard worker with no injury history, there’s a good chance he will hold up well through most of his new contract.
    3. Howard has played only four full seasons (2006-2009). Looking at the numbers for those seasons, I don’t think you can say that a definite downward trend has been established. Arguments can be made either way, but one can argue that Howard’s 2009 season may be the beginning of an upward trend. I would wait a couple more years before identifying trends.
    4. Assuming for discussion purposes that Howard’s WAR over the next few years only supports a $20 million salary. How much harm does a $25 million salary in the 2014-2016 seasons do to the team? If you say the money could have been spent better elsewhere, then you need to identify the team’s future needs. The team’s future needs are at 3B, C, maybe two starting pitchers and a closer. Some of these needs probably will be filled by the farm. So, which of the future needs will not be addressed because the team paid Howard an extra $5 million over the 2014-2016 seasons? Stating the issue in a different way, if you let Howard walk after 2011, how would you spend the money saved on Howard’s contract to fill the team’s needs? Who will be the available free agents worth signing, and how much will you pay? What trades can be made, and who are our trading chips? Without Howard, the team’s needs would also include a power bat or two and someone to play first base.
    5. In all of the discussion, the goal should be for the team to remain at an elite level. Keeping Howard helps us do that. Being competitive is not good enough.

     
  • Posts: 0 Phylan

    Prince Fielder is not one-dimensional. He posts elite on-base percentages, which Howard does not. I would take Pujols, Miggy, Fielder, and Teixeira at least over Howard, if you incorporate production, age, and sustainability.

    It’s seriously baffling to me that Phillies fans are unable to recognize what an albatross this extension will be. Everybody else in the baseball world seems to.

     
  • Posts: 0 Phylan

    Just want to go back to this:

    “I don’t discount the role of the other players the past few years. But do the Phillies make the post season in 2007 and 2008 without Howard’s contribution in the stretch run? Do the Phillies get past the Rockies in the first round in 2009? You take Werth/Rollins/ Utley out of the equation during those runs, and the Phillies still succeed. You take Howard out of the equation, and you don’t have any WFC.”

    You can take just Utley out of any of those seasons, and the Phillies would not have made the playoffs. He is, without question or argument, the most valuable player on the team, and I wish people would start recognizing that.

     
  • Posts: 96 Paul Boye

    Avatar of Paul Boye

    Excellent comment, Derek. Thank you.

    I’ll address point #4, as it seems most relevant to the issue at hand here. I’m not going to be able to say who could be brought in using that $25 million in free agency, or who could be signed to what in-house. Nobody knows that. It just seems that, given Howard’s production and the rate of most quality free agents, the money could have been better spent across multiple positions while still bringing in the value above replacement Howard alone provides.

    First base is an easy defensive position to fill, and anyone without an elite glove could be placed there if he could hit worth a lick. As for the farm, nearly every player worth caring about is years away, and there are no 3B prospects and now one C prospect who isn’t even all that impressive to begin with. There’s even less of a guarantee that any prospect will pan out than there is of Howard even maintaining that “necessary” 5-win production through this extension.

     
  • Posts: 96 Paul Boye

    Avatar of Paul Boye

    You know what Utley’s “get me to the plate” moments are?

    How about hitting a grand slam in his third career AB? How about scoring from second on a ground out? How about throwing Bartlett out at home in the 2008 Series? How about 5 homers in the 2009 Series? How about being the most valuable player in baseball not named Pujols over the last four seasons? How about signing a steal of a team-friendly contract for a guy of his position and skill?

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    If I was the Phils I’d lock up Utley through his 50th birthday!

    I have to admit I know about Fielder the least past the obvious on that list and I think Miggy’s a joke to not take the game seriously with his talent a la Andruw Jones.

    I really think Howard is top 3 on that list and top 5 at worst. As good as Fielder is and a couple of the others, wouldn’t you want Ryan Howard now he’s slimmer and is far less of a health concern than many players on that list and is signed to a very good deal for free-agency years for a player of his caliber.

     
  • Posts: 0 Phylan

    Not really, since Prince Fielder is 5 years younger

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=5137456

    Jayson Stark articulates this well

     
  • Posts: 0 Repeat!

    since win did the great Theo Ep-dude become a genius again? I sure didn’t get the memo. If you wanna win you gotta spend. 125 mill I can live with. If it was $180 mill then I would have a problem. Iagree that #6 has room for improvment. But Ryan Howard continues to be the most underapp. ath. in Philly history.

     
  • Posts: 0 Tadahito Iguchi

    Hey Guys! Didn’t I replace Utley during the stretch run of the 2007 season? Or was that a dream? I have good memories of Utley getting injured, me stepping in and the team not missing a beat.

    I guess all of the Man Crushes on Chase Utley on this site causes people to forget about me, as well as forget that the past two games ended with Chase Utley striking out.

     
  • Posts: 0 Repeat!

    Take away the roided up Manny/Ortiz roid yrs and no one is even talking about the Redsox.

     
  • Posts: 0 NJ

    The argument seems to be will Ryan get fat old lazy and slow vs if he is every bit the player we think he is why wouldn’t you want him.

    There seems to be a fixation on his body but if he’s slimmer and without an injury history then where’s the injury worry compared to a Miggy or a Teix?

     
  • Posts: 0 Jeff of Nova

    I love this deal.

    Ryan Howard is an all around STAR!

    He is great for the locker room for the team. This is an investment a face of the franchise. In a year or two they will do the same with Utley. These 2 will probably go down in the same sentence as Schmidt and Carlton. If Halladay stays around he could be there too.

     
  • Posts: 0 rob

    Sorry, Iguchi-san. Hope everything is working alright for you in Chiba. Write again soon.

     
  • Posts: 0 Philly Texan

    Howard is a top 5 first baseman. Period.

    I don’t care what his OBP is. We’re not paying him to get on base. We’re paying him for extra base hits and to drive in runs. And he does that better than anyone else in baseball except Pujols.

    The guy puts up 40 HR and 140 RBI every year. And for all you Texiera worshipers out there — Howard (.279) hit just 13 points lower than Tex (.292) last season and his OBP was 20 points lower.

    Meanwhile he hit six more home runs and 20 more RBIs than a guy hitting in the middle of an AL lineup — and the Yankee lineup at that.

    Howard’s weaknesses have been strikeouts, defense and weight. Issues he has worked his butt off to improve the last few seasons. His reward was a long-term deal from the Phils.

    Will we be overpaying a little in the last years of the contract? Perhaps. But that’s a risk with every long-term deal.

    Power is the last thing a hitter loses. Bat speed is the first thing to ebb. So you could argue that Utley is more likely to decline before Howard. Not saying that will happen, but it’s possible.

    Ryan Howard is a one of the best hitters in baseball. A top 3 first baseman. And he’s already proved himself a clutch player — hitting three homers in the 2008 Series to help win a title, and winning the NLCS MVP last year. Before the World Series slump, the guy carried us in the postseason. When has Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder — for all their talents — carried a team down the stretch or in the postseason?

    Ryan Howard is a beast. I, for one, am thrilled he’s locked up long term.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    This was my take on the issue before there was a thread yesterday..

    I’ll go on the record as NOT being a huge fan of the Howard extension… and MLBTRADERUMORS recap describes my feeling almost perfectly:

    “so the contract begins with his age 32 season. The length makes this an unnecessary risk, and at $25MM a year the Phillies didn’t get a discount for taking the gamble and locking him up two years before free agency.”


    Generally the reason you would lock up a player to an extension well before his Free Agent period, is that he gives you a slight DISCOUNT… because you are still giving him enough money that its GREAT FINANCIAL SECURITY

    In this case.. the Phillies will now be paying almost above the market value for Ryan Howard. the trend is for salaries to start coming back down to earth…. look at Matt Holliday and Jason Bay this past year.. as compared to Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano a few years ago.

    I think that in 2012.. I would be surprised if Prince Fielder gets offered more than $20 M per season ….

    I will say that I ALWAYS give the Phillies credit for knowing much more than I do.. and for being correct with the majority of their decisions over the past few years … but my gut feeling is that this was an unneccessary move right now, especially because we got $0 discount (or so it seems)

     
  • Posts: 0 Phan in the outfield

    Did anyone see this article?

    http://philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100426&content_id=9592496&vkey=news_phi&fext=.jsp&c_id=phi

    It seems our Mr. Howard, in his infinite monetary wisdom, felt the need to wax on, at his own press conference, about how much he wants to see them re-sign Jayson Werth and what a “… big piece of the puzzle . . .” one Mr. Werth is. He might’ve thought of that before he emptied the bank account. Joking, joking. I’m on record as saying I’m down w/re-signing Ryan, I like him. It’s the timing that’s kind of disturbing (and the back end). However, it is interesting that now he’s thinking about who is covering his back in the line-up and who might (or might not) be throwing him cannon balls from right field to make him look a bit better at 1st base.

     
  • Posts: 0 Andrew

    First i love howard. Its not his fault he is over paid. If they offered any of us 25 million a year to work at walmart would we turn it down?

    the truth is that with this lineup and home park you could alsmost plug in any decent first baseman. what does Mark reynolds or Adrian gonzalez do playing first and hitting 4th for the phillies? some of these guys we will have to let go. Like Rowand. Let someone else over pay them.

    On the postitive side glad to see the team is willing to spend. It doesnt address the fact that the Phillies do not have a number 2 starter. Hamels certainly isnt one. Or a closer. Id rather have a legit 2 starter and a closer than a slugging first baseman. Remember Howard couldnt break this line up because of Thome. Hitting first baseman are pretty common.

     
  • Posts: 0 Phylan

    Hey Guys! Didn’t I replace Utley during the stretch run of the 2007 season? Or was that a dream? I have good memories of Utley getting injured, me stepping in and the team not missing a beat.

    I guess all of the Man Crushes on Chase Utley on this site causes people to forget about me, as well as forget that the past two games ended with Chase Utley striking out.

    This might be the stupidest thing I’ve ever read, but I want to give it another day or two for some late qualifiers.

     
  • [...] confess: I can’t read this article in its entirety, but if you’re a) a die-hard sabermatrician; or b) a Phillies fan, you may want to check it [...]

     
  • Posts: 0 Ed R.

    Philly Texan:

    Howard is a top 5 first baseman. Period.
    I don’t care what his OBP is. We’re not paying him to get on base. We’re paying him for extra base hits and to drive in runs. And he does that better than anyone else in baseball except Pujols.

    Extra base hits and generally driving in runs requires one to get on base. So either we are or are not paying him to get on base. Clearly the team is paying him to get on base. It just so happens that a great number of his hits happen to be home runs but certainly not the majority of them.

     
  • Posts: 0 BurrGundy

    Outstanding points have been made here. Compelling arguments. A lot of solid research, as well. However, I prefer to think that Howard will continue to perform close to his present level. I appreciate all the work and cannot argue with the presentation. I J U S T prefer to keep my head buried in the mud and hope for the best. I mean, what the hell !! Fans have a hard time being logical. Sports medicine has come a long way.

     
  • Posts: 0 Philly Texan

    Ed R.,
    come on, let’s not play semantics here. You know what I’m arguing. Obviously extra base hits means getting on base.

    What I’m saying is we’re not paying him to have a really high on-base percentage. We’re paying him to drive in runs.

    It’s the same reason I don’t want him drag bunting to beat the shift — as someone on this site recently suggested. That kind of approach would raise his OBP, but would hurt his power and run-production totals and that would hurt the Phils offense.

    Howard plays the big bopper role in the offense. So, do I want him taking more walks and striking out less? Sure.

    But, ultimately, the numbers I’m looking at are extra base hits and RBIs.

    I want Victorino, Rollins, even Utley to have high OBPs. Howard? If his OBP is .360, that’s fine by me.

     
  • Posts: 0 Tadahito Iguchi

    “This might be the stupidest thing I’ve ever read, but I want to give it another day or two for some late qualifiers.”

    Really? Because I am going with this quote lifted from the above article.

    “Again, I like having Ryan on the team. I will cheer him on when he does well and boo him when he slumps, just as I would any other player not named Utley. ”

    God forbid we ever point out the flaws in Utley’s game. We’ll never mention some of his misadventures in the field. Who cares about that game in Atlanta he blew in the 9th last year because he took the wrong route to a ground ball. Or the errors he comitted in the Rockies and Dodgers playoff games last year. According to the people on this site, Utley’s farts contain the cure for cancer.

     
  • Posts: 0 Masteed

    Morris Buttermaker is my man, he’s totally right on this, and frankly I’m SHOCKED that so many Phils fans (here and elsewhere) could be so negative about this. How, in this day and age, can we poo-poo a contract that will secure a Phillie-for-life? A sight rarely seen on any team in any sport these days.

    The assertion that this is an above-market deal is false– once Pujols signs for $30 mil a year (maybe more), Howard wouldve been seeking $27-29 for the same 5 years. I am not scared by the age 37 due to the simple fact that Howard was held in the minors too long with Thome here, so he’s not as worn down as those other big bodies noted above. There is no solid evidence that he is in decline, and few exhibit the work ethic and drive Howard has by losing weight and working on his fielding.

    And although Paul so quickly dismisses RBI’s, ONLY BABE RUTH had more consecutive seasons of 45+ HRs and 135+ RBIs than Ryan Howard, and he will probably do it again this year.

    How many chances will a Philadelphia franchise have to lock up a borderline-surething Hall of Famer for life? Almost never– worth it big time in my mind to have him here for the next 7 seasons

     
  • Posts: 0 Phylan

    Utley is the best defensive second baseman in the league by all available metrics, so, no, I’m not going to shed a tear over some random “flaws” you’ve discovered. Utley is the most valuable player on the team.

     
  • Posts: 0 Philly Texan

    Amen, Masteed.

    Finally some more love for Howard on here.

    Repeat after me: Ryan Howard reached 200 home runs faster than any player in major league history.

    He’s in the midst of one of the most productive power-hitting stretches ever seen!

    And we’ve got some fool on here claiming he’s not even a top 5 player at his position? Ridiculous.

     
  • Posts: 0 Paul Boye

    Again, I discount RBI because they’re not a true measure of skill and rely too much on what other hitters/runners do to be a reliable barometer. They’re nice to look at, but that’s all.

    I won’t boo Utley out of personal preference. That’s mainly because he has so few flaws in his game, but yeah, I suppose if we’re to look exclusively at one month he missed with a broken hand while having one of the greatest season in 2B history and two games with a few strikeouts, then I’m boned, I guess.

    Seriously. Chase Utley just got compared with Tadahito Iguchi in what looked like an honest tone in the form of parody. I don’t even know what to think.

     
  • Posts: 0 Philly Texan

    Phylan,
    I love Utley too. But he wasn’t the mvp last season.

    He had a down year at the plate in 2009.

    Howard was the most productive player on the team last season.

     
  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Don, I also think that signing this contract NOW (with over 1.5 left of his current one) was completely unnecessary… UNLESS they’re planning on signing Werth in the next couple of months.

     
  • Posts: 0 Phylan

    If a “down year” for Utley is .282/.397/.508 with 31 home runs in 687 plate appearances, yes, I think you just proved my point. He was the most valuable player on the team last year. It’s not up for debate.

     
  • Posts: 0 Paul Boye

    Howard made 47 more outs in just 16 more plate appearances than Utley.

    There are a ton of other reasons why saying Howard was more productive last year is just wrong but I’ll stick with that one for now.

     
  • Posts: 0 Andrew

    Utley has no real flaws. Not only are we probably ( needs 5 or so more good years) watching the best phillie ever. But when its said and done the best second baseman in the history of baseball.
    when he does something like Werth not scoring from third on that bad throw earlier this year it will be the first time. The guy takes the extra base. He basicly does everything perfectly. Victorino has done stupid things too. Utleys baseball instincts are only comparable to someone like Pete Rose. I consider Rose and utley to be the perfect ball players.

    This is about Howard though lol. He is over paid. But he is still a great great player and we can win a few more championships with him. That makes it all worth while.

     
  • Posts: 0 Nick Staskin

    Paul I’m glad you wrote this so I didn’t have to take the flack on it.

    All the baseball writers are laughing at this deal except for the one who is always being made fun of. Hetman.

    The deal is brutal. If you plugged in Adam dunn he would put up similar numbers to Howard.

    Howard best WAR year was his monster 06 season at 6.2 last year Adrian Gonzalez posted 6.5

    did you know howards career OPS against lefties is about .020 higher than Carlos ruiz?

    There’s a reason his numbers are the 6th inning are brutal. He has been rendered all but useless against lefthanded pitching!

     
  • Posts: 0 dan

    Anyone who thinks this is a good deal has never seen Howard try to hit a breaking ball…. Yankees easily exposed of him in the world series and any team with good pitching will continue to do so (just dont throw him a fastball).

    Howard is clearly not the all around player that Tex is and yet he’s making about three mill a year more.

    The Yankees: (1) notoriously over pay players (and yet the phillies still paid more for Howard then the yanks paid for Tex – nice hometown discount) and (2) can afford to give large contracts to multiple players (unlike the phillies)- if Howard does breakdown like many experts believe he will- the Phillies are screwed

     
  • Posts: 0 Philly Texan

    I’m not saying Utley had a bad season. He’s a great hitter. And I love the guy.

    But in 09, his RBI, HR, and 2B were all down slightly and his strikeouts were up. He hit 13 points below his career average.

    So, yeah, by Utley’s standards it was a slightly down year.

    I’m not going to argue who’s more valuable — Utley or Howard. I love em both and they’re both great hitters — their presence each helps the other.

    My only point is we shouldn’t take Howard’s power numbers for granted.

    Paul, I agree that RBIs can sometimes be misleading. If you want to tell me that A. gonzalez’s RBIs are low cause he played on a bad team last year, fine, I agree. Or that Pujols would have more RBIs hitting in the Phils lineup and at CBP, I agree with that too.

    But RBIs aren’t a meaningless state. Driving in runs is a big part of the game. And Howard is one of the best in baseball at it.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    I’m gonna have to wait to read this novel of a post until tonight….

    But….

    I have to agree that I am wary of this deal. I love Howard. I love what he brings. And he works hard to improve. I respect that in a player.

    I just don’t see how he’s gonna be worth this much money when he’s at the age where he actually receives it.

    I hope I’m wrong.

     
 
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