Ryan Howard

The big please

Still on Ryan Howard and especially Ryan Howard against lefties. While we’re asking for stuff, I guess it would be nice if he could run the bases and was better defensively. But let’s stick with hitting lefties for now.

Howard has been so bad against lefties over the last five years that many have given up hope he’ll ever hit them again. It’s not the case, though, that Howard was never good against lefties. In four of the last five years he’s been terrible, but he had solid results against them in 2010 and was also good against lefties in 2006 and 2007.

So what would he need to do against left-handed pitching to get back on track in 2013?

Here are some of his marks against left-handed pitching for his career in all of the years in which he got at least 100 plate appearances against lefties, including his wOBA and percent of plate appearances in which he delivered singles, walks, doubles or triples and home runs:

Year wOBA vs L 1B% BB% 2B or 3B% HR%
2012 .261 8.5 4.7 1.9 5.7
2011 .283 13.0 6.5 5.9 1.6
2010 .359 14.4 7.9 3.7 5.6
2009 .290 10.9 9.9 5.6 2.4
2008 .319 11.3 8.7 3.4 5.3
2007 .352 9.3 13.0 3.3 6.5
2006 .386 14.7 9.8 2.7 7.1
Career .320 11.7 8.8 3.8 4.7

First the hits. Ryan Howard is a .227 career hitter against left-handed pitching. He’s had three years where he’s been good against lefties — ’06, ’07 and ’10. In 2010, he hit .264 against lefties with a BABIP of .320. 2006 was even more dramatic — he hit .279 against left-handed pitching with the help of a BABIP of .368.

2007 was the year in which he was good against lefties without the help of a monster BABIP. He hit just .225 against southpaws that year with a BABIP of .282. A quick look at the table above, though, will show that one of the things he did in 2007 against lefties that was unusual was draw walks at a very high rate. Howard walked in about 13% of his plate appearances against lefties in ’07, well above his 8.8% career average and almost three times his walk rate against lefties in 2012.

In 2006 and 2007 he was very solid against lefties, but he also hit 32 home runs against them in 471 plate appearances. That’s about 6.8% for those years combined, which is well above his career mark and seems highly unlikely to repeat given that he’s homered in about 3.6% of his plate appearances against lefties over the past four years.

Howard’s home run rate against lefties likely isn’t going back up there, but I don’t think that’s his biggest problem. His rate of doubles and triples was way down in 2012 as well, but I would not be at all surprised to see him return to his career rates of doubles and triples in 2013.

I think what we should be worried about is the singles and the walks. Howard got 106 plate appearances against lefties in 2012 and singled nine times, which is about 8.5% of his plate appearances. Coming into 2012, he had singled in about 13.7% of his chances against lefties over the past two seasons. He hit a rather pitiful .173 against lefties in 2012 — there’s close to no way he can draw enough walks or hit for enough power to be an effective hitter against lefties if he’s going to hit .173 against them.

There’s also the walks. Five walks in 106 plate appearances against lefties gives him a 4.7% walk rate against left-handed pitching. That’s a little better than half of his career walk rate of 8.8% against left-handed pitching. Like with the singles, he’s going to have an extraordinarily difficult time having success against left-handed pitching with a walk rate that low. Again, in 2012, his walk rate against lefties dropped for the third straight year.

Rich Dubee suggests that Mike Adams might not pitch as much in spring training games as other players on the team in this article.

Manuel hopes Utley and Howard will both play 140 games or more this season and Domonic Brown points out his still has an option remaining here.

Who’s not on first very often?

In this post I pointed out there was a difference of 187 total walks between 2007, when the Phillies had the best walk rate in the NL, and 2012, when they had the 15th-best walk rate. The first base and left field positions combined walked 141 fewer times in 2012 than they had in 2007.

At first base, the Phillies drew 56 fewer walks in 2012 than they had in 2007. In 2007, the 113 walks they drew at the position was second in the league. In 2012, the 57 walks they drew at the position was tenth.

Here’s how the plate appearances at first base broke down for the Phillies in 2012 and the walk rates of the players who got chances at the position:

Player % of PA BB%
Howard 42.5 8.7
Wigginton 30.8 9.6
Mayberry 11.7 5.1
Others (4) 15.0 7.9
Total PHI 100 8.4
NL AVG 1B - 9.3

Of the four groups, only one, Wigginton, posted a walk rate about the league average of 9.3% while playing first base for the Phillies last year. He had some other issues, though, like being not real good offensively or defensively. And high walk rate or not, he ended the year having hit .235 and on-based .314.

All of the four players in the “Other” category were under the league average of 9.3% with the exception of Thome. He walked in 3 of his 13 plate appearances while playing first base for the Phillies in 2013, which is about 23.1%.

The walk rates for Thome and Wigginton aren’t likely to help the 2013 Phillies much. As much as we might want to see Mayberry or Ruf get some chances at first against lefties, Ryan Howard is likely to be the guy there just about every day he’s able to play. And his walk rate is never going back to where it was in 2006 and 2007.

Howard finished fourth in the NL in walks in both 2006 and 2007. In those two years combined, he got 1,352 plate appearances and walked in 215 (about 15.9%) of them.

Howard’s walk rate in those years benefited from an enormous rate of intentional walks. In 2012, he had 25 total walks in 292 plate appearances. In 2006 he was intentionally walked 37 times and in 2007 he was intentionally walked 35 times.

His 8.6% walk rate in 2012 was the worst it has been for any year in his career in which he got at least 50 plate appearances.

In this post from January I pointed out that Howard has been pretty miserable against left-handed pitching in four of the last five years. His walk rate against lefties has also taken a plunge.

Over the last seven years, his walk rate against right-handed pitching has stayed high. Not so against lefties, where his walk rate has dropped three straight years and wound up at a miserable 4.7% in 2012:

Year BB% vs L BB% vs R
2012 4.7 10.8
2011 6.5 13.7
2010 7.9 10.4
2009 9.9 11.1
2008 8.7 13.3
2007 13.0 18.7
2006 9.8 18.0

2010 is the year of the last five in which Howard has been non-awful against left-handed pitching. His success that year had a lot more to do with the combination of good power and an average in the .260s against lefties than the walks he drew. In 2010, Howard hit 264/333/492 against lefties with 12 homers in 216 plate appearances. 2008 was probably second best — that year he delivered similar power against lefties and walked at a slightly lower rate, but hit just .224 again left-handed pitching. In five of the last six seasons, Howard has hit .225 or worse against lefties.

In 2010, his BABIP against left-handed pitching was .320. In 2011, Howard hit .224 against lefties despite a BABIP of .313 against them. In 2012 he was down to .173 against southpaws with a BABIP of .229. Granted, not being able to run at all probably hurt him some in 2012, but it’s tough to feel like things are going in the right direction for Howard, especially against lefties.

Ruiz feels bad about his suspension and wants to bring a championship back to Philadelphia.

Halladay suggests he doesn’t see himself pitching anywhere other than Philadelphia in the coming years in this article.

It’s not the only reason the Phillies have been getting worse on the bases, but it’s a big piece

Quick — across both leagues, who’s the player who has hurt his team the most on the bases over the past three seasons? Hint: if you’re a Phillies fan, you probably saw him hobbling around the bases quite a bit in 2012.

The bad news is he wasn’t coming off of a major achilles injury in 2010 or 2011.

Here are Ryan Howard’s base running runs above average as calculated by FanGraphs over the past three seasons:

Year Base Running Rank MLB players
2010 -7.1 946 of 948
2011 -9.3 935 of 936
2012 -5.6 952 of 962
’10 to ’12 -22.0 1399 of 1399

Howard’s -5.6 in 2012 was his best mark of the three years, but it’s hard to see that as a mark of much hope. Howard got just 292 plate appearances in ’12 — less than half of what he got in ’10 or ’11. If he accumulated base running runs above (below) average at his 2012 rate over 600 plate appearances, he would have been at about -11.5 for the year.

No doubt about it that Howard was coming off of a major injury in 2012. Less sure about how much that injury could have been impacting him in 2010 and 2011.

Over the last three years, there have only been five players whose total base running runs below average has been worse than -15.8 overall — David Ortiz (-19.7), Billy Butler (-19.7), Prince Fielder (-19.8), Paul Konerko (-21.5) and Howard (-22.0).

Even with only about half a season of plate appearances in 2012, Howard’s base running from 2010 to 2012 is still worse than Phillie-poster-boy-for-bad-on-the-bases Pat Burrell’s horrendous base running during Burrell’s worst years.

Year Base Running Year Base running
Hoawrd 2010 -7.1 Burrell 2005 -8.8
Howard 2011 -9.3 Burrell 2006 -5.3
Howard 2012 -5.6 Burrell 2007 -4.2
Howard ’10 to ’12 -22.0 Burrell ’05 to ’07 -18.3

At the height of his base running suck, 2005 to 2007, Burrell got 1,834 plate appearances with a total base running runs below average of -18.3. Over the last three years, Howard has 1,556 plate appearances and a base running runs below average of -22.0.

There’s not a whole ton of silver lining on the Ryan Howard base running front, but there are guys who have been worse on the bases than he has in recent history. Looking at three-year periods going back to 2000, here’s the player who had the best and worst base running runs above average as calculated by FanGraphs:

Years Worst Best
2010-2012 Howard -22.0 Michael Bourn 28.6
2009-2011 Konerko (tie) -20.7 Bourn 33.9
Carlos Lee (tie) -20.7
2008-2010 Fielder -23.4 Bourn 25.0
2007-2009 Kendry Morales -20.1 Rollins 26.6
2006-2008 Bengie Molina -18.9 Ichiro 28.5
2005-2007 Bengie Molina -19.7 Figgins 29.1
2004-2006 Luis Gonzalez -20.5 Crawford 25.7
2003-2005 Alex Gonzalez -22.5 Beltran 29.5
2002-2004 Alex Gonzalez -22.3 Beltran 30.6
2001-2003 Alex Gonzalez -17.8 Beltran 24.1
2000-2002 Alex Gonzalez -10.0 Jeter 15.4

So from 2008 to 2010, Prince Fielder (-23.4) was worse than Howard (-22.0) ’10 to ’12. Prior to that, you’ve got to go back to Alex Gonzalez (the other one) from ’03 to ’05 to find a three-year period where someone out-worsened Howard’s ’10 to ’12 over a three-year period. Gonzalez also did it ’02 to ’04. Alex Gonzalez had a whole bunch of problems trying to steal bases from 2000 to 2005, playing for five different teams and getting caught 24 times, picked off nine and stealing just 34 bases.

At least Howard doesn’t get caught stealing. He’s got 12 stolen bases for his career and has been caught just four times (picked off three).

On the other side of the table, Jimmy Rollins was the best running in baseball by base running runs above average from 2007 to 2009 with 26.6. And again, Michael Bourn demonstrates that he brings a lot of value with what he does with his defense and on the bases as he appears atop the list for 2008 to 2010, 2009 to 2011 and 2010 to 2012.

From 2008 to 2012, Bourn’s base running runs above average is 44.7. That leads all players across both leagues and nobody else is close. Ian Kinsler is second at 32.5 and Victorino third at 31.0.

Todd Zolecki suggests the chances the Phillies will land Josh Hamilton are pretty slim.

In the same piece, he also suggests the Rangers would have traded young third baseman Mike Olt for Hamels last year, but that he’s not sure they would trade him for Cliff Lee at this point.

The deadline for setting the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule V draft was last night. Matt Gelb speculated on who the Phillies might protect in this article.

The Phillies added four players to their 40-man roster in advance of the December 6 Rule V draft, including outfielder Zach Collier and pitchers Trevor May, Ethan Martin and Jonathan Pettibone. They now have 38 players on their 40-man roster, including six outfielders, five of which are left-handed.

This suggests the Phillies may have interest in free agent Koji Uehara. The 37-year-old right-handed reliever threw to a 1.75 ERA with an 0.64 ratio for Texas in 2012, striking out 43 in 36 innings. He missed about two months last year with a problem with his right lat. He returned at the end of August and made 17 appearances between that time and the end of the season, throwing to a 1.23 ERA over 14 2/3 innings while striking out 21 and holding opponents to a .160 on-base percentage.

Fall from ridiculous pace

About a year ago I was writing that between 2007 and 2008, Ryan Howard’s batting average dropped from .268 to .251 despite the fact that he got hits in a very similar number of plate appearances in both seasons.

He improved his rate of getting hits in 2009 over ’08 and ’07, posting a .279 average. His strikeouts were down as well — for the second straight season the percentage of plate appearances in which he fanned went down. That’s where the good news ends, though, as for the third straight year his home run rate fell and for the second straight year his walks fell.

Here’s the percentage of plate appearances in which Howard has homered, walked, struck out or got a hit over the past four years:

Year % HR % BB % K % H
2006 8.2 15.3 25.7 25.9
2007 7.3 16.5 30.7 21.9
2008 6.9 11.6 28.4 21.9
2009 6.4 10.7 26.5 24.5

Again, the good news is more hits and fewer strikeouts. The bad news is that the walks are way down since 2007 and the home runs are falling to. In defense of the declining walk rate it’s important to notice how dramatically intentional walks have fallen off for Howard in the past two years. In 2006 and 2007 he was walked intentionally 72 times. In 2008 and 2009 he was walked intentionally just 25 times. Also, even if his home run and walk rates are down since 2006, it’s important to remember 1) that he was absurdly good in 2006 (he hit 313/425/659 with 58 homers and was MVP of the league) and 2) in 2009 he was fifth in the league in runs created, third in homers and first in RBI. So he’s still rather productive.

Roy Halladay threw three scoreless innings last night as the Phils topped the Braves 7-4. Madson allowed four runs in the fourth inning, only two of which were earned (Dobbs made an error at third in the frame). Drew Carpenter threw three scoreless innings in the game. Baez allowed a hit and a walk in a scoreless inning and Escalona threw a perfect sixth. Werth hit a two-run homer and Mayberry and Francisco each drove in a pair of runs.

Victorino saw his first spring action and went 1-for-3 with a single.

This article suggests Moyer is the heavy favorite to be the fifth starter. In the article, Rich Dubee suggests that the fifth starter likely won’t be decided by which player pitches best in spring training. I think chances are good it will be decided by which player has a name that rhymes best with Ramey Hoyer.

But do those guys know Jared?

Lots of people talking about this great article about how many curve balls Ryan Howard saw last year. Milt Thompson says that given how many breaking balls Howard sees he should be able to walk 150 times in a season. That may be a little optimistic, but it does seem like Howard should be drawing more walks. Howard has been in the top three in all of baseball in home runs for each of the past four seasons. Here’s how his rate of walks compares to the other top home run hitters from either league in 2009:

Player PA HR BB % of PA BB
A Pujols 700 47 115 16.4
P Fielder 719 46 110 15.3
R Howard 703 45 75 10.7
M Reynolds 662 44 76 11.5
A Gonzalez 681 40 119 17.5
C Pena 570 39 87 15.3
M Teixeira 707 39 81 11.5
A Dunn 668 38 116 17.4
J Werth 676 36 91 13.5
A Hill 734 36 42 5.7
J Bay 638 36 94 14.7

The group of players walked in about 14.9% of their plate appearances in 2009 on average. Howard walked in about 10.7% of his. The only player on the list who drew walks less often was Aaron Hill.

The Yankees beat the Phils 7-5 yesterday in a game that featured Jose Contreras allowing six runs on six hits and three walks over 1 2/3 innings. Kendrick pitched very well before that, throwing three scoreless innings. Scott Mathieson struck out two in his inning, but allowed a run on a single and a double. Mayberry went 2-for-4 with a solo home run and Rollins was also 2-for-4 with a solo shot.

It sure seemed like Moyer was a heavy favorite to win the fifth starter job. I still think he is, but it’s great to see Kendrick pitching so well.

Halladay will pitch in tonight’s game against the Yankees. Victorino, who has missed time with a sore shoulder, is expected to play.

Charlie Manuel tops Gene Mauch and Dallas Green in this poll on best manager in Phillies history. I concur.

Ooze views

With the ooze just about over, Bobby Abreu, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are likely atop most lists of the best hitters for the Phils over the past ten years. Here’s what Abreu, Utley and Howard did for the Phillies in the 00′s:

Abreu 2000-2006 4634 298/412/510 .922 137
Utley 2003-2009 3813 295/379/523 .902 129
Howard 2004-2009 3145 279/376/586 .961 142

Howard hit 222 home runs, which is by far the most of the trio. Despite getting about 1,500 fewer plate appearances, Howard also drove in about as many runs as Abreu. Abreu nipped him 647 to 640 with Utley lagging behind with 585. Pat Burrell hit more home runs in the decade (251) and drove in more runs (827) than any of the three, but had nine seasons to do it and hit just .257 for the Phils in those years.

Here are the rates that Abreu, Utley and Howard registered hits, walks, extra-base hits, doubles and triples and home run runs per 100 plate appearances while playing for the Phillies in 2000 through 2009:
























Utley and Abreu both got hits at a better rate than Howard and were a lot more likely to hit a double or a triple. Utley doesn’t keep pace with Abreu or Howard when it comes to walks and Howard just buries the rest of the group in hitting home runs.

Howard seems like he’s clearly the best Phillies hitter of the decade, but all those times that Abreu failed to make an out makes it a little closer than I would have guessed. Here’s the percentage of plate appearance in which each of the three got hits or walks, singles or walks, extra-base hits or walks or home runs or walks for the decade:

  H or BB 1B or BB XBH or BB HR or BB
Abreu 40.8 30.7 26.3 19.7
Utley 35.1 24.5 20.0 13.7
Howard 36.8 25.0 24.6 20.0

Looking at the home runs or walks category can obviously be misleading because a home run is a whole lot better than a walk and the fact that he drew so many walks is what allows Abreu to hang with Howard. The fact that he hit so many home runs is what makes Howard the best hitter of the group, though.

Finally, the reason that Utley’s rate of getting hits or walks is worse than Howard’s despite the fact that he had a better on-base percentage is in large part because Utley is so regularly hit by a pitch. He was hit by a pitch about 3 1/2 times as often as Howard for the decade and about seven times as often as Abreu during Abreu’s plate appearances with the Phillies. If we changed the hit or walk column to hit, walk or hit by pitch, Utley would top Howard 37.9 to 37.6. Utley got 668 more plate appearances than Howard in the decade but was hit 107 times compared to 25 for Howard.

On the other hand, Howard was given a lot more intentional walks than Utley was and by a margin that was very similar to the margin for hit by pitches. Howard was walked intentionally 105 times while Utley was passed intentionally just 25.

The middle chart suggests that Howard has walked more often than Utley. He has. The gap shrinks, though, if you take out all of the plate appearances in which Howard or Utley have been given an intentional walk. With all of those plate appearances eliminated, Howard drew walks in 301 of 3,040 (9.9%) of his plate appearances while Utley drew walks in 335 of his 3,813 (8.8%) of his.

The Phillies have picked up their 2011 option on Rollins. Rollins will make $8.5 million in 2011. The linked article points out that the Phillies will have Ruiz, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Polanco, Ibanez and Victorino all under contract for 2011 with Werth as the only position player of their starting eight becoming a free agent. Pitchers Halladay, Hamels, Happ, Lidge and Madson will also remain under Phillies control for 2011.

Fernando Rodney signed with the Angels.

The Phillies may be close to signing righty reliever Danys Baez or righty reliever Mike MacDougal.

This says that the Phillies have an agreement in place with a reliever that will not be announced until the first week of January and that “the team’s recent focus has been on free-agent reliever Danys Baez.”

Adding either of Baez or MacDougal would be good news for the Phils.

This says that Chan Ho Park is unlikely to re-sign with the Phillies.

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