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What to Expect From Howard in 2013

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Mon, February 18, 2013 12:00 PM | Comments: 91
Analysis, Posts, Season Preview, Statistical Analysis

Ryan Howard seen here in happier times. Photo by Ian Riccaboni

Let us pause for a second for a moment of self-acknowledgement: in 2011, I joined Phillies Nation after years of running a lightly traffic’ed blog about the Phillies and music, while posting pictures of Greek Yogurt and other healthy foods I was convinced I was going to try to incorporate into my daily diet. After a few months analyzing the performance of the likes of Michael Schwimer and writing fluffy pieces about John Bowker, I wrote a speculative-but-factually-grounded piece that prompted much discussion : “What If” The Platoon Works at First Base?

For those who don’t remember, the piece functioned around the idea that a combination of John Mayberry, Laynce Nix, Jim Thome, and Ty Wigginton could not only match Howard’s 2011 production but outperform his production. The piece drew up a lot of good discussion and was based on the assumption that a true platoon, which Charlie Manuel was unlikely to put together, could put together a line close to .280/.380/.550.

To say quite a few things happened last year would be an understatement. Let’s reflect.

A few things:

- I was way off on that triple-slash line. According to FanGraphs, Phillies first basemen not named Howard hit .241/.314/.416 with 21 HR and 78 RBI in 534 PA.

- Yet, even though I was not even in the ballpark with that triple-slash line, it was better than or equal to the line Howard put up in 2012: .219/.295/.423 in 292 PA.

- Howard would have likely eclipsed the HR and RBI total (25 HR, 102 RBI) had he reached the plate 534 times, yet the RBI number is a tough number to project because the majority of the first base AB’s from players other than Howard came from the six hole while Howard hit in the four spot. As usual, Howard would have benefited from more opportunities to drive in runners because of advantageous line-up positioning. To be completely fair, Howard drove in runners at a ~7% better clip than Wigginton did in 2012 based on opportunities.

With all this in mind, I’m willing to call last year’s “What If” a draw: Howard’s replacements did outperform Howard in 2012, but as anticipated in the original projection, Manuel did not properly use a platoon. Granted, this was not entirely his fault: Thome was not in appropriate health to execute the platoon on his end and Nix was injured about a month into the season after a hot start as the fourth outfielder meaning there was effectively no lefty to use. Also, Howard was particularly bad, worse than anyone could have projected, in part because at the time of the writing, we had not yet known of the infection in the gash of his ankle.

The Phillies were 28th in the Majors last year in production from first base according to FanGraphs last season, with their skeleton crew earning them -0.8 wins from the position, narrowly trumping the Royals and Indians but getting less production than the Marlins (Logan Morrison, Carlos Lee, and Gabby Sanchez), the Mariners (Mike Carp and Justin Smoak), and the pretty average six man revolving door the Astros had in place at first.

Howard likely will not be nearly as bad as he was last season, but there is a lot to consider when assessing the Phillies first base situation for 2013. Howard’s triple-slash lines have decreased every year in every category since his very good (4.6 fWAR) 2009, meaning that he was likely in a state of decline even before he blew his Achilles. Yet, if Howard is even worth 1 win in 2013, it would be a net win gain of 2 wins for the Phillies in 2013 at a time when wins become increasingly valuable for the club chasing the second Wild Card.

While Howard’s age, 33, and declining performance may be scary, there is reason to believe he could contribute to a two-win swing in 2013. To provide the Phillies a net two wins in 2013, Howard would have to play at a level comparable to 2012 seasons by Michael Cuddyer, Justin Mourneau, or Carlos Pena. Mourneau and Cuddyer are better comparable because they have similar defensive and base running deficiencies whereas Pena still plays a fine first base.

Mourneau hit .267/.333/.440 with 19 HR and Cuddyer hit .260/.317/.489 with 16 HR – this is the benchmark Howard likely has to reach to earn the Phillies one win over replacement, a net gain of two from last season. Is this possible? Absolutely. In fact, if healthy, Howard may be able to produce a season similar to Ike Davis‘s 2012 (.227/.308/.462 with 32 HR, 90 RBIs) which was worth 1.6 wins according to FanGraphs, which would be a net gain of about three wins for the Phillies.

Bill Baer at Crashburn Alley wrote a very nice piece with a moderate solution to optimizing the Phillies roster: use Howard for 115-125 games at first base to both conserve his health and improve production at first base, focusing more of his time against righties and relieving him some of the time against lefties. With Mayberry and Ruf on the roster, use a pinch runner in the later stages of close games to replace Howard if he gets on and/or replace with Mayberry or Ruf once a team goes to a tough lefty, assuming Chase Utley and Howard will hit 3 and 4.

The biggest and easiest example to follow from Baer’s piece was the following: Howard had a platoon advantage (faced a righty) of 64% of the time in 2012. Eric Chavez of the Yankees had a platoon advantage (faced righties) of 87.5%. If Howard’s appearances were adjusted in such a manner, the following would be likely to occur according to Baer:

The following formula is used to convert wOBA to runs:

( ( Player wOBA – League average wOBA ) / wOBA scale ) * Plate Appearances

  • Normal use
    • vs. RHP: ( ( .370 – .315 ) / 1.245 ) * 250  = 11.0 runs
    • vs. LHP: ( ( .310 – .315 ) / 1.245 ) * 150 = -0.6 runs
    • Total: 10.4 runs
  • Platoon-focused use
    • vs. RHP: ( ( .370 – .315 ) / 1.245 ) * 340 = 18.7 runs
    • vs. LHP: ( ( .310 – .315 ) / 1.245 ) * 60 = -0.3 runs
    • Total: 18.4 runs

The difference is about eight runs, or nearly one win.

In a lot of ways, I agree with Baer’s conclusion that while Howard will never come close to reproducing 2006 again, he can provide value as he regresses to his mean production of 2010-11 (1.4 and 1.7 WAR respectively). A 1.7 win season would be a 2.9 win increase from 2012 from Howard and an exciting contribution to a team on the periphery of the second Wild Card.

Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

About Ian Riccaboni

Ian Riccaboni has written 819 articles on Phillies Nation.

Ian's athletic achievements include getting stuffed by NBA center Aaron Gray in high school and hitting .179 over four years for NYU against D-III, NAIA, JuCo, and NCBA schools. Ian hopes his athletic successes will help him achieve his dream of becoming the underground Bob Uecker.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 Steve Bosell

    Ian, we all know that Howard should rarely be allowed to face lefthanded pitching, but what player making his kind of money has ever been put into a platoon? There is no organization paying a guy $25 million a season to be a part time guy – even if he’s on the better side of the platoon. It’s an admission that they made a huge mistake.

     
    • Posts: 5229 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      I agree completely.

       
  • Posts: 5229 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Quite coincidentally Ian, I wrote to Bill Baer just this morning in response to something he wrote on Friday, and suggested it would be unwise for him or anyone else to hold their breath waiting for the Phillies to platoon him. They won’t even pinch hit for him against lefty relievers, let alone platoon him.

    All we can do is hope Ryan Howard can return to previous form. It could happen, two new hitting coaches in his ear, Henderson and Joyner, and he looks healthy, slimmed down some. I wouldn’t bet my house on it, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

     
  • Posts: 0 johnpaulcpa

    Good article, Ian! To think Ryan Howard has the 3rd highest paid annual contract in MLB behind A-Rod & Pujols is outrageous. Howard is a one dimensional player who can not hit LHP’s after 7 years in MLB & will never win a ‘Gold Glove” and clogs the basepaths.

     
  • Posts: 2069 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    So the IAN number is 3?
    Anyone else for the over/under?

     
    • Posts: 440 Ian Riccaboni

      Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

      I got a really big smile from this, Brooks, thanks!

       
  • Posts: 84 Tom

    Avatar of Tom

    I’m expecting and hoping for big things from the Big Piece this year! He has a lot to prove especially with that big contract. If he stays healthy, he has to produce better than Mourneau or Cuddyer! Plus, his presence in the lineup makes others around him more productive as well which is one thing that this article fails to mention!!

     
    • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

      “He has a lot to prove especially with that big contract”

      I’ll simplify my response to that to this. If I were a player no matter how large a contract I had, I don’t feel like I’d have to justify it. I’d play to win, for my teammates, my family, probably the fans, but above any and all play fors, I’d play to maintain the addiction of success and greatness that evolved out of a lifelong dominance at my game that led to the money in the first place.

      The money aspect of sports is so separate of what happens on the playing surface. If Howard puts up failing numbers, I doubt his comment at a press gathering would be” I feel bad because I didn’t live up to my contract.” It is so secondary from the player perspective (I would think).

       
  • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

    I choose to look at the Howard situation positively. Particularly since I have a hard time envisioning a world of difference in his playing time. Utilizing Ruf/Mayberry (assuming they both make the roster) as late inning depth as mentioned is fine, and perhaps realistic, but I’d prefer to think that since adjustments start in your 2nd career at bat, and end in your last one, with fresh voices in the hitting coach positionS, asnd back to healthy (certainly healthier), there’s room to watch for an uptick in performance off some base numbers that were prorated productive last year.

    I am also not as quick to agree with the rampant thought of the Phils reducing Howard’s time based on pay. I believe that if they didn’t believe in the guy, and other holes weren’t more in need of solution, it’d be more of a priority. That’s now. When that achillies popped, there went the possibility of an off season trade, which I thought better than 50-50 would happen. But as it stands now, the club needs him pretty badly, and he has more ability to answer that challenge than a number of other people you could call on to answer that challenge.

    I’d descrobe that as my position through mid June.

     
  • Posts: 0 bacardipr

    Ken even before the Achilles i think they would had a extreme tough time trading him. I understand you did the use the word possibility. Ryan is here to stay besides his declining #’s that huge contract. will make it tough to move him. However i see what you trying to say the small possibility just got a whole lot smaller once he tore his Achilles,

     
    • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

      I agree. The better than 50-50 (guess, with zero insight) was if the achillies didn’t go, to Milwaukee to replace Fielder. And it might not be Ruben’s style to pick up portions of contracts, killing even a small chance of a deal. That was just one of MAYBE a scarcity of situations where the contract MIGHT have been movable.

      But, that was then, this is now. Might as well hope for the best since RyHo’s here. And it isn’t impossible he can do some good things where it’s not expected.

       
  • Posts: 0 schmenkman

    With respect to Howard’s “declining numbers”, I just want to point out that in each of the following years, he was essentially the same hitter:

    2008: .251/.339/.543 (120 wRC+, 125 OPS+)
    2010: .276/.353/.505 (127 wRC+, 127 OPS+)
    2011: .253/.346/.488 (124 wRC+, 126 OPS+)

    Whether he had more runners on base when he came to bat is beyond his control.

    The question of decline comes down to whether one believes 2012 was due to real and dramatic decline not seen previously, or whether it was due to his injury (my opinion).

     
    • Posts: 5229 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      What about his wOBA? Looks like a relatively clean decline to me, not precipitous, but still a decline, at least when using LW.

      06 – .436
      09 – .392
      10 – .368
      11 – .355
      12 – .303

       
      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        True, but the league-wide offense has been going down as well, due to less prevalence of PEDs, or better pitching, or what have you.

        wRC+ and OPS+ adjust for that.

         
      • Posts: 5229 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        Interesting. Why doesn’t FG use actual graphs for those numbers?

         
      • Posts: 0 hk

         
      • Posts: 5229 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        Thanks hk but no, I look at those all the time. It’s fun to do player comparisons ( I have no life)

        I meant for the ones Schmenkman used – wRC+ ( I love that one) and OPS+.

         
      • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

        lefty do you remember back in 2010. a series in washington where howard went into second and hurt his ankle. at the time he was hitting pretty good, but after that he struggled. and i really think that it carried over into the 2011 season and culminated in that horrible achille injury. now with that said, and if he really is healthy, then i don’t see any reason for him not to regain some semblance of his old self. the only thing i worry about is he is now 33 and along the way he’s picked up some bad habits. hitting wise that is. also he has struggled with frustration by not having a legitimit # 5 hitter behind him. personally i don’t think that matters cause if you’re a good patient hitter (see chooch) it shouldn’t wiegh on you. but i think mentally it can wreck some people. you know trying to do something you can’t do out of frustration, like swinging at a ball 3 feet out of the zone. ( see pence) you try to do too much and you get away from your game. it’s pretty simple. you would think if gross was away at all last year he would have said something. i guess they didn’t want to wake him.

         
      • Posts: 5229 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        Ryne, My memory isn’t that great but I think that was the one when he was trying to get back to second, not going into second. But I agree that was a setback, at the time.

        I don’t think we can say whether it led to the achilles a year later, but what would I know, I only play a doctor on TV. :-)

        As far as your frustration, I feel it too sometimes. I’m hoping the two new hitting coaches will be able to turn him back into the monster he once was, that would be SO great!

        I keep hearing about his age and think there were a lot of guys that played very well into their late 30′s, it’s not impossible.

         
    • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

      agreed schmenkman.

       
  • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    But the REAL question is ……… Just what does Andrew from Waldorf think??

     
    • Posts: 0 frank

      Are you kidding me. Just what I thought. This blog is about 7 or 8 guys having a discussion. Of all the points I’ve made in the last 6 month, I rarely get a response. Well here are some points. The Phil’s have to do something now to change their philosophy going forward. It does not take long to rebuild a farm system. If their not in it at the break, if Howard, utley or any other high salary older player is having a good year, trade them for prospects, even if we have to pay most of the salary. The team needs changes and that is never popular. Baseball players most success seems to come before age 32 or 33. There are exceptions. No matter what, I would play ruf for a full season. I think he’s going to surprise the so called experts. If the Phil’s do go younger, instead of getting frustrated, it’ll be fun watching young talent

       
      • Posts: 0 Steve Bosell

        If Utley & Halladay prove to be somewhat healthy and productive, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll be traded at the deadline. Howard would be almost impossible to move though. This is assuming (which I do) that the team is pretty much hanging around the .500 mark again this season.

         
      • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

        Frank,

        For what it’s worth, I recall reading a few of your posts recently. I almost responded to one, on the Baseball Prospectus division predictions, but found my thoughts leaning toward a circular reply, and chose not to. And you replied to a comment I made on one of the Why I Love the Phillies that wasn’t a topic I chose to pursue, or I might have. I’m just explaining my own reasons for havuing not replied, if you wanna hear from select, or others, that’s between you and then.

        I say with confidence Chuck was kidding. Andrew’s his own man, and doesn’t take this stuff life and death seriously, which from my own perception, some people on the board do. So it was sort of a poke at Andrew. That doesn’t mean that Andrew has less respected instincts about the Phils and the sport than others who take a different approach. Personally, I like him significantly more, but that’s personal choice. That’s my perception, subjects mentioned might disagree, but the board is more about discussing topics than quality of posters in my view, which only matters to me.

        To your point, mid year failed season certainly invites dealing. I agree there. But specifically, some guys you can’t trade. You can’t pay millions of Howard’s deal. That effects budget and lux tax. Chase is a free agent, you could, same with Doc. Those are facts, not wants. But in a general sense, I don’t know that any right thinking person would disagree on moving players for prospects. If it’s a lousy first half. And if it’s clear that the team is out of it. But in this expected muddled mess, don’t count on it. If that even happens.

         
  • Posts: 0 Jaron B

    Great analysis, Ian. I’d like to see Howard produce: .263 BA, 67 BB, 125 RBIs, 34 HRs, 3.2 PAs/K or better with defense similar to his career average. What fWAR would that produce?

     
    • Posts: 0 hk

      Between 2.0 and 2.5.

       
      • Posts: 0 Jaron B

        Sounds like a reasonable estimate as far as WAR is concerned; for Howard, I’d lean toward the lower end of that… 2.0 WAR this year (for him) looks right, that’s +3 form last year… 84 wins for the Phils from just Howard alone. Now onto Halladay & Utley projections.

         
  • Posts: 2069 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    We all bow down to Andrew – knows all,sees all can predict the future – able to leap tall buildings – noops, a different cartoon character, sorry!

     
    • Posts: 0 Andrew from Waldorf

      Watch it Brooks

      The Phils are in first place still.
      Things may get ugly.

       
  • Posts: 0 Andrew from Waldorf

    A little bird told me you were asking for me Chuck.

    Teams have and do bench thier biggest salaries. The Giants in 2010 beat the Phillies and won the world series by benching Rowand and Zito.

    It can happen. Funny that in a laid back town like SF it is accepted and done but here it will be much more difficult.
    I can only think the Giants and thier management want to win more. And the phillies are more into pleasing thier fans ( selling tickets and tee-shirts) than winning.

    The article touches on it all. The decline was evident before the achilles injury. You have a GM and a manager who put no value on taking walks. Being patient and being a good hitter.

    Mark this down if he took 125-150 walks this year his OPS would once agian be at 950-1000.
    But he wont because everyone wants him to swing away and be a hero.
    When everyone ( minus me) wants that. Its what they get.

    When your clean up hitter is the 30th ranked first baseman in any publcation it speaks volumes for your over all line up and specificly that player.

    As for facing left handed pitching. Again if the team wanted to win games it wouldnt happen very often. Particulaily in late inning situation when yuo see teams intentionaly pitch around the line up to get to Howard and then bring in a left handed reliever.

    Summing up for Chuck.

    Odds are pretty heavy that the decline will continue.
    Old guys with health issues and holes in thier swings tend to fade away not get better.

    But it is only February.
    Anything can happen.
    I hope he hits 70 homers with a 1.200 OPS and the Phils win 110 games and a world series.

    But as always I have to analyze things honestly and objectively.

    Faithfully submitted Feruary 18th, 2013
    by
    Andrew from Waldorf
    by request from Chuck A.

     
    • Posts: 5229 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      Someone has really got to cage that little bird!

       
    • Posts: 0 Jaron B

      Lol!

      WARNING, Andrew: Howard had NO off-season in 2011 into 2012 after going down, so it stands to reason that he’ll bounce back no matter what. Yes, there’s always the chance he fails, but I’d bet against that. I don’t think he’ll produce like he did back in 2008-2009, but .250 BA with 75 BB, 100+ RBIs and 32+ HRs will be great production from him considering where he’s been at since signing the extension. Of course, that is not production worth 20-25 million bucks a year.

       
  • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    Uhhhh.. Frank – Just so you know, my comment above was one of a sarcastic nature. AFW grates on us all with his constant bashing of Howard, so I couldn’t help but putting out a little jab. THAT’S what prompted my comment

    That said, thanks for joining us Andrew. …

    …”I can only think the Giants and thier management want to win more. And the phillies are more into pleasing thier fans ( selling tickets and tee-shirts) than winning.”

    Now there’s a good one.

     
  • Posts: 0 Andrew from Waldorf

    Now Chuck.

    When you say us all you are speaking for alot of people.

    I dont consider it bashing.

    I consider it a legitimate interpretation of a career.

    I do sometimes paint it in a certain way. But there are fans who still think hes a premier power hitter and the most feared hitter in the game.
    Come on now.

    Chuck A I do wish you and Howard the best in 2013. Ill be around more in the reg season. As I am wathcing every game.

    I am focused on RAJ now.

    What he has done is the stuff that sets a franchise back for a decade. Not just years.
    If we go into 2014 minus RAJ it will have been a positive 2013
    So if they win and he stays its good. If they suck and hes fired. Thats good.

    Its a win win Chuck my friend.

    Thanks again for the shout out.

    Your friend,

    Always Positive Andrew from Waldorf

    Next time your found, with your chin on the ground
    There a lot to be learned, so look around

    Just what makes that little old ant
    Think hell move that rubber tree plant
    Anyone knows an ant, cant
    Move a rubber tree plant

    But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes
    Hes got high apple pie, in the sky hopes

    So any time your gettin low
    Stead of lettin go
    Just remember that ant
    Oops there goes another rubber tree plant

    When troubles call, and your backs to the wall
    There a lot to be learned, that wall could fall

    Once there was a silly old ram
    Thought he’d punch a hole in a dam
    No one could make that ram, scram
    He kept buttin that dam

    Cause he had high hopes, he had high hopes
    He had high apple pie, in the sky hopes

    So any time your feelin bad
    Stead of feelin sad
    Just remember that ram
    Oops there goes a billion kilowatt dam

    All problems just a toy balloon
    They’ll be bursted soon
    They’re just bound to go pop
    Oops there goes another problem kerplop

     
  • Posts: 0 Bart Shart

    I truly believe that Andrew from Waldorf is akin to Walt Whitman, in many, many ways. Keep up the entertaining chat.

     
  • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    Andrew’s hitting the Jack Daniels a little early today.

     
  • Posts: 1190 Manny

    Avatar of Manny

    The fact that we’re hoping for a +1 win season from Howard (our No.4 hitter who gets paid like the very best in the game) is depressing.

     
  • Posts: 0 schmenkman

    One note on the example given. I suppose it’s obvious, but the example shows 250 PAs vs. RHPs in the “normal use” case, and 340 PAs in the “platoon focused” case. It’s the increase in PAs vs. RHPs that allows him to generate more offense (18.4 vs. 10.4 runs).

    This may be do-able per 400 of Howard’s PAs, but over a full season obviously Howard can’t get any more PAs vs. RHPs than he would in the normal use case.

    Also, I just noticed that the math doesn’t quite work:
    (.370-.315)/1.245 * 250 PAs does indeed work out to 11.0 runs
    but the same formula with 340 PAs only comes out to 15.0 runs, unless I’m missing something.

    This wouldn’t change the conclusion that Howard’s rate stats would benefit from facing fewer lefties, but the benefit would be about 4.3 runs per 400 PAs rather than 8 per 400.

     
    • Posts: 0 George

      I couldn’t figure those figures out, either. It seemed impossible to get more ABs facing righthanders only than he would get facing righties and lefties both. Seemed to me he’d just get fewer overall ABs.

      I’m feeling pretty lazy today, though, so I didn’t bring it up. I’m glad somebody did.

       
  • Posts: 0 bacardipr

    Steve you can add Rollins to the mix as well. Still one of the better SS in league.

     
    • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

      If you’re referring to trading him, he’s got that 5 and 10 protection. Chase falls short on the 10, and Doc fallas short on the 5 part.

      If it comes to that

       
  • Posts: 5229 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Hey Frank, join in the discussion anytime man, we’re not an exclusive club here. The more the mer… well, on second thought I guess we’re not always so merry here, but you get the idea. Just keep on commenting man, you’ll get responses, sometimes you may not love em so much, but you’ll get em :-)

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I happen to think this is a really fine community with a sharp, witty and friendly commentariat. I’ve never read a person that posts here that I didn’t like.

     
    • Posts: 0 George

      Just thought I’d respond to Franks’ comments just to prove all your points, Lefty.

      Frank, you’re a #@%&* idiot!!

      Just kidding, of course!

       
      • Posts: 5229 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        Perfect, Too funny! My vote for comment of the year so far.

         
  • Posts: 0 bacardipr

    Your right Ken…

     
  • Posts: 0 lucas

    I am getting a little tired of these WAR stats being put out there as if they were gospel. I think the WAR stuff is pretty bogus. Every play in the field is different , every team is different. The combo of players on each team is different. AND PITCHING is the name of the game. Luck is a big factor as baseball watchers see. How often have you seen a lucky hit get a hitter on a roll and get a team on a roll. This due to personality and psychological factors that last year’s WAR cannot predict. If you could use WAR to predict anything from the previous year stats, then the Phils won the NL East last year. NEWS FLASH- they didn’t.

     
    • Posts: 0 frank

      Very true. Baseball is about pitching and luck/chemisttry/momentum. Of course it helps to hit and play smart. If your pitching gets you to the playoffs, then you need luck and momentum. Look at the a’s last year. They had pitching and momentum. That’s it. I’ll bet they aren’t even a 500 team this year. Of course, I could be totally wrong.

       
      • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

        I’ll bet they aren’t even a 500 team this year. Of course, I could be totally wrong.”

        Ya gotta love that of course, clause. Charlie Finley would roll over his grave if he saw such a pessimistic view of the ’13 nee Philly A’s.

        Shame I can’t recall the spring prognostics for the 1970 Mets, but when young pitching emerges, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Parker is the real deal, Anderson and Milone round out a top 3 that explains in arrears why the A’s were not the surprise of a year ago they appeared to be. Add to that the acquisition of Lowrie, this rookie Josh Donaldson shoring up the left side of the infield, and the A’s should be pretty good.

        The way I figure it, the Rangers, who in honor of last September have changed their logo to a choke icon won’t be better than a year ago, the Angels have shored up their pen, but the starting pitching is a little iffy, and A’s have added some 18 games to their schedule against Houston. I’d also guess there is a better chance of some regression by Mike Trout (baseball gods strike me dead for that, but that’s my feeling) compared to Yoenis Cespedes.

        I believe you’ll see the A’s in contention through the year, and I’d say 85-90 wins might well be a very reasonable goal.

         
      • Posts: 0 hk

        Of course, Ken, you could be totally wrong…

         
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      You certainly don’t need stats to enjoy the game. And if you do use stats, you need to know what they mean and what their limitations are. For example WAR is a descriptive stat, it says what happened in the past. It’s up to the reader to determine whether WAR will rise or fall, based on other factors, and even then, no stat can predict injuries, luck, etc. Having said all that, I don’t think any single stat summarizes a player’s past contributions better than WAR.

       
    • Posts: 0 hk

      Nice straw man argument. Who claimed WAR was gospel? WAR attempts to do something that very few other stats do, namely combine offense, defense and base-running into one descriptive statistic. Whether you believe WAR succeeds or not is up to you, but in the past (at least the last time I checked), teams’ cumulative WAR had a pretty high correlation to their wins.

       
      • Posts: 0 George

        I don’t think anyone has claimed WAR as gospel, but I do believe that some fans approach it as if it was pretty close to the word of God. That’s their own problem, of course.

        Applying these ideas to Ryan Howard, I think he’s a case where baserunning skills are less important, so his value, to me at least, may exceed what certain others might think. And I also believe his defensive numbers suffered tremendously from his Achilles injury, and will probably prove adequate in 2013. I do wish he could somehow figure out lefties, but I think his overall production will be just fine. Even in years when he’s supposedly slipped, he’s been pretty productive, and until his bat speed diminishes substantially, I see no reason for a healthy Howard to be anything different.

         
    • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

      In a number of instances, I don’t know that the “problem” is WAR itself, but while it’s believers don’t represent a different collective personality than any other demographic, I often find the conveyed personality of some WAR type followers to be what I’d describe as some word that describes a type with whom I wouldn’t care to share a baseball experience with. Sam Donnellon wrote a recent column on the subject that I thought raised some good points.

      http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/20130207_Sam_Donnellon__Better_to_judge_baseball_talent_with_the_naked_eye.html

       
      • Posts: 427 Publius

        Avatar of Publius

        lmao no, that is not a good article at all.

         
      • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

        Publius,

        The article was superbly terrific. It drew your insightful comment.

        Sam’s unintended mission accomplished.

         
      • Posts: 0 hk

        Publius,

        I’m with you on this one. One funny thing about that article is that the “advanced” statistic with which Donnellon seemed to have the biggest problem was ERA (when talking about Jack Morris).

        Ken,

        With what points that Donnellon made did you agree?

         
  • Posts: 0 Betasigmadeltashag

    Before reading any comments I think you are missing a big variable in Howard’s performance. He has not been healthy since his ankle injury 2 years ago and with limited action last year and the proper amount of time for Achilles to heal he will more productive this year. His MVP numbers probably not but .265 35-40HR 120-130 RBIs is not out of the question

     
  • Posts: 0 George

    Some people say that Howard has a lot to prove and that he needs to live up to his contract.

    To that I say: nonsense. He’s not the one who initiated the extension; that’s on Amaro.

     
    • Posts: 0 hk

      George,

      We don’t always (often?) agree, but I’m with you 100% on this. I wish that fans would understand what you wrote, but unfortunately, many will boo him if he doesn’t return to his 2009 form. I’d be happy if he returns to his 2011 form.

       
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      I also completely agree.

       
    • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      Complete agreement on this also. I love Howard, glad that he’s a Phillie. I would have been very happy if he would have signed on for some sort of extension… but NOT BEFORE IT WAS NECESSARY. I’m an Amaro supporter, some have even called me an apologist. That’s fine and I accept that. But giving him that extension WHEN HE DID made no….ZERO….sense to me.

      Now….all that said…who knows. Maybe at the end of it all it (the contract) will end up being a bargain(???). I certainly wouldn’t want to be an Angels fan and have to face that Pujols contract everyday.

       
  • Avatar of The Original Chuck P

    Not a fan of WAR… thinking, “Really, what is it good for?” You could even say f-WAR but that would get you nowhere because fWAR is just Fangraphs way of differentiating their WAR from the other guys. Gritting your teeth yet? Your JAWS starting to hurt? You ready to swing for contact? Starting to growl and “RAR” like a dinosaur? Maybe you should just relax and play a little COD Black OPS, which has been improved by a second version (you could call it Black OPS+, if you want, but the kids are calling it Black OPS II). Wait a minute… now you’re really getting mad, ready to WHIP me into a pulp. You should try an ativan, taken with oxygen, wOBA, if you will (with Oxygen Breathing Apparatus). This whole SABER stats ERA is just maddening and frankly, my PA thinks it’s crazy. Me, I think it’s funnny. I laugh about it so much that my AB’s hurt but then again, I’m a straight up G and my PO says that I shouldn’t laugh at other people’s problems (oddly enough, OPP Is not a baseball acronym). SO… I’ll end on this… I’ll walk away before I get slugged (my walk rate is certainly higher than RyHo’s, right?)… OCP, Out.

     
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      Nicely done.

      Although Howard’s walk rate is probably higher than you think (62nd out of 230 since 2010). Not that I don’t wish it were much higher.

       
      • Posts: 3 gathenk190

        Avatar of gathenk190

        I think that some stats are more important than others OBP vs batting average for example but WAR is the way to go and has been proven to be the most consistent with how a team/certain player actually performs. I do agree that people get a little too crazy about it sometimes and it is by far no replacement to physically watching players play the game.

         
  • Posts: 0 George

    For some reason, one of my comments was not printed in it’s entirety; the middle paragraph got lost.

    It concerned the idea that certain players may be quite useable and actually be worth more than their WAR for a team because they have one specific talent. A DH, for instance, can be a defensive nightmare. It’s his bat that teams might covet, but if he’s played a position in the past, his overall WAR will suffer. I think this can also apply to utility men (although it would have been nice if MiniMart could have hit closer to the Mendoza line) and to specialist relievers and maybe innings-eating starters. If everybody had great WAR totals, every team in the ML would go belly up. They’d all be too expensive.

    I try to gauge a player’s skills on what he’s good at and how that fits with a team’s needs. WAR helps, but it’s not specific enough for me, and I prefer breaking things down more. It just doesn’t matter to me that Howard is only adequate on defense and has no base stealing skills, so his WAR isn’t up there. Taking care of that skillset is Jimmy Rollins’ job. Home runs and RBIs are Howard’s job.

     
    • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      Extremely well said. WAR has it’s place but it can’t be the end all be all in putting a team together. Yet I feel that some of these guys (some on here who I won’t call out – at least right now) do act as though it’s the word of God.

       
      • Posts: 427 Publius

        Avatar of Publius

        Winston Churchill once said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

        The same is true in regard to WAR and other baseball stats. WAR has its flaws (different equations for different sites like Fangraphs and baseball-reference; inadequate defensive measures, etc.) but it is so much better than other stats out there, especially when it comes to quickly comparing two players across a baseline. Ideally, people would use WAR to jump off to examine deeper stats like wOBA, baserunning stats, batted ball stats, etc., but for a quick comparison nothing else comes close.

        The biggest mistake the SABR sector of the commentariat has made is in deifying WAR. It has flaws, it is far from perfect, and is not the end-all-be-all stat that some make it out to be. Despite these flaws, though, it is still a powerful analytical tool and much better than anything else out there.

         
      • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

        Avatar of Chuck A.

        Pubes, thanks for clarifying AND for coming clean when admitting that the SABR sector has indeed deified WAR. Your approach on here can often times be rather obnoxious and condescending but you’ve just corrected a lot of that with me with your above comment(s). Well done, lad!

         
      • Posts: 0 hk

        Keith Law wrote a very good blog piece on ESPN (Insider) yesterday about advanced statistics in which he described how WAR is best used and also how it is often misused.

         
      • Posts: 1135 EricL

        Avatar of EricL

        The thing is, I don’t really think most of the SABR-inclined commenters are deifying WAR. We use it as a jumping off point, and a statistic which is useful for easy overall comparisons, but I don’t think anyone in the group of people here who follow such things has ever used WAR exclusively as a be-all and end-all of an argument about a player.

        In fact, I’d say it’s the opposite. It tends to be the statistical curmudgeons, the old-timey guys who are more likely to seize on a WAR discrepancy or focus on the use of WAR to completely dismiss an entire argument which used WAR as one of its components, while ignoring most other points that go into WAR (defense, base running, etc).

         
      • Posts: 1135 EricL

        Avatar of EricL

        hk, here’s a non-insider article on WAR which is actually pretty good too: http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/8959581/why-wins-replacement-mlb-next-big-all-encompassing-stat-espn-magazine

        He goes on at some lengths about the virtues and weaknesses of WAR, but I’ll quote the last two paragraphs, since it’s long and I’m sure not everyone will read the whole thing:

        “Yet baseball’s front offices, the people in charge of $100 million payrolls and all your hope for the 2013 season, side overwhelmingly with data. For team executives, the basic framework of WAR — measuring players’ total performance against a consistent baseline — is commonplace, used by nearly every front office, according to insiders. The writers who helped guide the creation of WAR over the decades — including Bill James, Sean Smith and Keith Woolner — work for teams now. As James told me, the war over WAR has ceased where it matters. “There’s a practical necessity for measurements like that in a front office that make it irrelevant whether you like them or you don’t.”

        Whether you do is up to you and ultimately matters only to you. In the larger perspective, the debate is over, and data won. So fight it if you’d like. But at a certain point, the question in any debate against science is: What are you really fighting and why? “

         
      • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

        Avatar of Chuck A.

        “Deifying” may be a strong word here but Publius admitted with his comment that that has been the biggest mistake of the SABR sector…”deifying WAR.” Whether it’s a jumping off point for some or the end all be all for others doesn’t really matter. It does tend to be almost oversused by some to the point where nothing else seems to matter.

        Above, Jaron B commented and then asked:

        “Great analysis, Ian. I’d like to see Howard produce: .263 BA, 67 BB, 125 RBIs, 34 HRs, 3.2 PAs/K or better with defense similar to his career average. What fWAR would that produce?”

        hk’s answer was:

        “Between 2.0 and 2.5″

        Now some may scoff at Ryan Howard ONLY being a 2 or 2.5 WAR player….especially based on his contract…. but… if he produces the numbers that Jaron wishes for wouldn’t most people be absolutely thrilled with that?? Coming off an injury such as a torn Achilles?? I know I would.

        THAT’S where, in my opinion, WAR doesn’t tell the whole story. Who really cares if he’s only a 2 WAR player? Just give me those numbers from Howard and I will be ecstatic.

         
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      I don’t believe in specified “jobs” for players. Balls are hit to the first base area — does the first baseman turn them into outs, or do they become hits? Howard HAS to run the bases — does he do that in a way that helps the team to score runs, or doesn’t he?

      Everyone is better at some things and worse at others, but I believe it’s the job of everyone on the team to generate runs when the team is batting, and to prevent runs when in the field.

      There aren’t many bigger Howard fans than I, and I defend him often, but he’s not as good at fielding or baserunning as many others, and I think that those deficiencies are just as real and meaningful as his ability to drive runs home.

       
      • Posts: 5229 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        Great comment, that’s about how I feel -i’ll add just one thing.

        I understand there are strengths and weaknesses in most players games. It’s when players that are supposed to be masters of one thing aren’t, (Sluggers for instance) then what’s left?

        Everyone goes into slumps in various parts of their game. How long did Albert Pujols go before hitting his first home run last season? How long did Josh Hamilton slump, like two months most of July and August? Hamilton played a premium position-CF- last year, and Pujols is a supreme defender at first. Both can do other things to help their team, not all players can.

        It happens, to all players at some point in there long seasons. So, if they have several other tools, it makes up for it. It truly is everyone’s job to generate and prevent runs, this is not football where you just run a new set of guys on the field to play D.

        And that’s my case for valuing players using WAR.

         
      • Posts: 0 George

        To Schmenkman:

        I a perfect baseball world, I would have to agree with no one having a specific job. It would be fantastic if a guy put in as a defensive replacement could hit if he actually got an at bat (something which does indeed happen from time to time. It would also be useful if everyone could be Babe Ruth, who had a superb record as a pitcher and could smack a homerun between striking guys out. That’s an extreme example, but I think it’s still valid.

        If a team could fill a roster with players who could do it all, but with a payroll of less than a quarter billion dollars, they’d all jump at the chance. But unfortunately, reality kicks in.

        Maybe Ryan Howard is only an adequate fielder, and maybe his base-running doesn’t help the team, although it really doesn’t seem to hurt it, either. For what he does, he’s probably even overpaid. My point was not so much concerned with the value of WAR, but with the value of seeing what talent a player has and using it appropriately, because no team can ever afford 25 “8 WAR” players. That’s where certain specific skills HAVE to be looked at, rather than just the overall picture. A team is not going to use a utility infielder everyday simply because they DO have shortcomings in their game. But in certain situations, they can be very usable. Behind by two runs in a late inning, rarely will a team pinch hit using a power hitter; they’ll use the guy who can actually get on base, then use the power guy.

        Until the Phils have unlimited funds, I’ll just hope Howard does his usual things. That’s enough for me.

         
      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        I probably wasn’t clear there.

        I am in no way saying that every player needs to do everything well.

        What I am saying is that everything a player does or doesn’t do on the field counts and contributes to his team winning or losing a game, whether it’s part of “his job” or not.

        Teams (even good ones) use suboptimal players all the time, because they fill a certain need, or because they are the best available at the time, or the best the team can afford. That doesn’t mean we forget that they are suboptimal.

        I love Howard and his ability to drive in runs. Even when you account for the fact that he has typically come to the plate with more runners on base than most other hitters, he has been one of the most efficient in baseball the past several years at getting those runners home.

        But if his fielding is subpar, or he can’t go first to third (or 2nd to home), those things matter too, and can be measured, and are measured. And that way we get a more complete picture of his overall performance.

         
  • Posts: 1135 EricL

    Avatar of EricL

    My prediction?

    PAIN.

     
  • Posts: 0 Righteous Robert

    I expect a lot from Ryan as were paying him $20 Million +
    He should have worked his butt off this past year.
    I expect him in camp at a proper low weight.

    Reparations for Vietnam Vets
    Baltimore Bob

     
    • Posts: 2993 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      “He should have worked his butt off this past year.”

      First of all… this past year would mean from LAST February (when he was on crutches or maybe just off of them from surgery) until now. Not sure how exactly he would ” work his butt off” the way you would want him to in that condition.

      And secondly….What makes you think that he WASN’T or HASN’T been “working his butt off”???

      Reparations for any of my fellow citizens,
      Bucks County Chuck

       
  • Posts: 0 Johny

    Wow, most of you are clueless about Howard. To compare his stats on one leg is a joke, but lets do it anyway. He still finished 4th in RBI in only 71 games. Looking at the batting average and output of guys in front/behind him when he came back, all hug upswings, and oh yea, the team was 14 games over .500 with him. You don’t get how good this guy is. 30 hrs 110 plus RBI do not grow on trees, he is well worth 25m per season. He is putting up historic numbers. If you don’t appreciate him, you just don’t get baseball.

     
    • Posts: 0 frank

      Totally agree as long as he puts up those numbers each year of the contract. I think it’s wrong when baseball players like Alex Rodriguez getter 25 million a year to do nothing. I realize that their hurt and it’s the owners fault for giving long contracts that are guaranteed, but something is really wrong when a pitcher like Santana with the mets gets 25 million in a year he is hurt. A pitcher makes about 30 starts, so that’s about a million dollars a start.
      This is obviously the owners fault.
      Maybe someday their needs to be contracts that are non guaranteed, like football. I’m sure the union would not go for that. The players would still be payed well, but the teams could get out of these bad contracts that can hurt the team for years.
      Also, players that are paid ridiculous contracts and hurt become hated by a lot of fans because we see how the team is hurt. In football, you don’t players that are paid high salaries and hurt, criticized because they are cut in a lot of cases.
      I just think baseball has really got itself in a bad place with these ridiculous guaranteed contracts.

       
      • Posts: 0 frank

        Wow, I use to spell good. Sorry for all the mistakes.

         
      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        “I just think baseball has really got itself in a bad place with these ridiculous guaranteed contracts.”

        As long as revenue is as healthy as it is, everybody is making money, and everybody is happy (Marlins fans notwithstanding). If the large TV deals dry up in a few years, and there’s no revenue to replace it, that would be a time to rethink the system. But for the foreseeable future I don’t think there’s an issue.

         
      • Posts: 0 frank

        That’s true for now. Baseball is very healthy. But for how long. The dodgers worry me. What if their spending does not stop, and it appears that it will not. At this point they are worse than the Yankees ever were with no end in sight. This is according to their ownership. At least the Yankees are in the American league so I didn’t care that much. Something might have to be done if the dodgers payroll continues to be unlimited and every year buy the best talent available.

         
  • Posts: 0 hot dog

    From what I understand WAR does not give credit for RBI’s. The best thing Howard does is drive in runs. That is why I believe it is unfair to judge him on WAR alone. Bottom line is runs matter and he drives them in.

     
 
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