Ryan Howard

Brother, can you spare $115,384 so we can beat the Nats 6-2 instead of 5-2?

The rise to super-stardom by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard has helped bring the Phillies a championship and a whole lot of spectacular moments. It has also brought a payroll challenge. Utley and Howard have been fantastic offensive players over the last four seasons. They were great four years ago, great last year and the Phillies are counting on them to keep on being great in 2010. But while the amount of offense they are producing hasn’t improved over the past four years, the amount of money that the Phillies have to pay them to produce it has.

The chart below shows the number of runs they each created in 2009 (as calculated by Baseball-Reference), their ’09 salary and the salary over runs created. It also shows the same information for the 2006 season.

  Runs
Created
Salary $/RC
Howard ’09 130 $15,000,000 $115,384
Howard ’06 169 $355,000 $2,100
       
Utley ’09 130 $11,285,714 $86,813
Utley ’06 136 $500,000 $3,676

The point here is not that Utley and Howard are overpaid. It’s also not that they’re anything but great offensive players. They are — in 2006, Howard led the NL in runs created and Utley was fifth. In 2009 they tied for fifth in the league with 130 runs created.

The point is that in 2009 they created about the same or less offense and it cost the Phillies about 55 times as much for Howard to produce a run as it did in 2006 and about 23 1/2 times as much for Utley.

Last year the Phillies spent about $57.1 million to pay their offensive players and scored 820 runs. Let’s pretend that for each of the past four years the Phillies had spent $57.1 million on offensive players and also tried to score the 820 runs they did in 2009. Using runs created as the measurement, the amount of offense produced by Utley and Howard is not improving. It’s high, but has stayed very much the same for Utley since ’06 and gone down a little for Howard. So to get to 820 every year they get similar offense from Howard and Utley, but need to get the same contribution from the players who aren’t Utley and Howard and have a lot less money to pay them.

The Phillies didn’t pay their offensive players $57.1 million in 2006. If they had, though, the $855,000 they paid Utley and Howard would have accounted for about 1.5% of the offensive payroll. In 2009, the $26,285,714 was about 46% of $57.1 million. With Utley and Howard producing at about the same rates in both years it would leave the Phils about $56.2 million to pay non-Utley or Howard players in 2006 and about $30.8 million to pay them in 2009.

If Utley and Howard do the same thing every year, that’s about half the money to acquire players from whom you need the same result.

Of course, the Phillies payroll isn’t staying the same year after year. It’s rising. With help from USA Today’s Baseball Salary Database we see that in 2006 the Phillies payroll was about $88.3 million and in 2009 it was about $113 million.

The problem is, though, that it wasn’t rising as fast as the salaries for Utley and Howard. The table below shows the payroll for each of those years, how much Utley and Howard combined to make and how much all of the players on payroll other than Utley and Howard combined to make:

  Payroll Utley and
Howard
All
players other than Utley and Howard
2009 $113,004,046 $26,285,714 $86,718,332
2006 $88,273,333 $855,000 $87,418,333

So despite the fact that the Phillies spent almost $25 million more on payroll in 2009 than in 2006, they spent less to pay players that were not Utley and Howard.

Again, Utley and Howard are great but they’re not getting better. If the goal is to get the same or better results from the rest of the team it leaves the Phillies with less money to do so.

Good news, though. Just about everyone seems to think that the Phillies payroll for 2010 will be about $140 million. Let’s pretend it is exactly that. Knowing that Howard will make $19 million in 2010 and Utley will make $15 million, we can add 2010 to the list:

  Payroll Utley and
Howard
All
players other than Utley and Howard
2009 $113,004,046 $26,285,714 $86,718,332
2006 $88,273,333 $855,000 $87,418,333
       
2010 $140,000,000 $34,000,000 $106,000,000

Nifty. So compared to 2006, the Phillies didn’t spend more money on players other than Utley and Howard than they did in 2009, but they sure will in 2010 (if their payroll really is $140 million).

Finally, a payroll jump from $113 to $140 million would be a huge one for the Phillies. By total dollars the jump of about $27 million from the 2009 payroll would be the biggest for the team in more than 20 years. By percentage things get weirder — remember that the Phillies went to the World Series in 1993 with a payroll under $27 million. So things have changed. Still, $140 million is about 123.9% of $113 million, which would be the biggest percentage jump for the Phils since 2004. In 2003 the payroll was about $70.8 million. In 2004 it rose to about $93.2 million — the ’04 payroll was about 131.7% of the ’03 payroll after a jump of about $22.4 million.

This suggests that the Phillies might be offering JA Happ and one of Domonic Brown or Michael Taylor in a deal for Halladay. Really? I would be surprised if that happened.

The Phillies took 24-year-old right-handed pitcher David Herndon in the first round of the Rule 5 draft. John Sickels writes about him here. You can see the results of the Rule 5 draft here.

Pedro Feliz and Brandon Lyon will both be Astros.


On the plus side, though, if someone would throw him the ball he would probably catch it

Ryan Howard has clearly made enormous improvements defensively in 2009. His reward so far is that he is making fewer plays overall — his range factor is the worst it’s ever been in his career. Here’s a look at his numbers defensively at first base over his career as well as the pace he’s on for 2009:

Year INN PO PO/Inn A A/inn E
2004 60.7 59 0.973 6 0.099 0
2005 706.3 707 1.001 40 0.057 5
2006 1412.0 1373 0.972 91 0.064 14
2007 1241.0 1191 0.960 103 0.083 12
2008 1402.3 1408 1.004 101 0.072 19
2009 pace 1446.8 1341 0.927 123 0.085 0

Howard hasn’t made an error yet in 2009, a remarkable feat coming off a season where he brutally made 19 to lead all of baseball at the position. With the exception of the 60 2/3 innings he played at first in 2004, he is also recording assists at the highest level of his career.

Oddly, however, as was mentioned above his range factor is the worst it has ever been for his career. That’s because he is making putouts at the lowest level of his career — if you look at his putouts per inning, none of the other years have been very close.

That surely means his fellow infielders are making fewer plays. And, for at least two of them, they are. Utley and Rollins both have been making defensive plays at rates that are lower than both their rates from 2008 and from over their careers. Here are the range factors for Utley, Rollins and Feliz for this year, last year and over their career:

range_factor.jpg

Both Utley and Rollins have been making defensive plays this season below both their rates for last year and for their careers. Feliz’s range factor at third base for ’09 is better than it was last year and better than it has been at the position over his career.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Utley and Rollins have been worse defensive players in 2009 than they have over their careers. There are other explanations, one of which could be that the Phillies pitchers could simply be throwing more fly balls this year. If you’ve been watching the balls fly out of Citizens Bank Park (or anyplace else the Phillies are pitching in ’09), that certainly seems like a possibility. More strikeouts for Phils’ hurlers would also mean less plays to make for the defense.


The 40/.340 club

Two points today about Ryan Howard.

The first one is actually more a point about batting average. In 2008, Ryan Howard hit .251. A year earlier he had hit .268. In the two years, though, he got a hit when he came to the plate at almost exactly the same rate:

Year PA H % of PA
with hits
2007 648 142 21.91
2008 700 153 21.86

The issue, of course, is walks and that batting average doesn’t care about how many plate appearances you have. So even though Howard accumulated hits at a virtually identically rate in 2008 as he had in 2007, he changed plate appearances that were walks in 2007 to outs in 2008. That gave him more at-bats while he continued to get hits at a very similar rate.

Howard’s walk rate was down in 2008 compared to recent seasons. Here’s the percentage of plate appearances he drew walks, intentional walks and unintentional walks over the past three seasons:

Year PA BB % BB IBB % IBB UBB % UBB
2006 704 108 15.3 37 5.3 71 10.1
2007 648 107 16.5 35 5.4 72 11.1
2008 700 81 11.6 17 2.4 64 9.1

The decline in the walk rate had Howard’s on-base percentage low for a player who hits so many home runs. In 2008, Howard hit 48 home runs with an on-base percentage of .339. How many times would you guess a player has hit at least 40 home runs with an on-base percentage under .340 in the last ten seasons? I believe the answer is that across both leagues there have been 107 other instances of 40 or more home runs and only twice, Tony Batista in 2000 and Jose Canseco in 1998, has the guy who hit them on-based less than .340:

Year Player Team HR OBP
2008 Ryan Howard PHI 48 0.339
2008 Adam Dunn CIN/ARI 40 0.386
2007 Alex Rodriguez NYY 54 0.422
2007 Prince Fielder MIL 50 0.395
2007 Ryan Howard PHI 47 0.392
2007 Carlos Pena TAM 46 0.411
2007 Adam Dunn CIN 40 0.386
2006 Ryan Howard PHI 58 0.425
2006 David Ortiz BOS 54 0.413
2006 Albert Pujols STL 49 0.431
2006 Alfonso Soriano WAS 46 0.351
2006 Lance Berkman HOU 45 0.42
2006 Jermaine Dye CHW 44 0.385
2006 Jim Thome CHW 42 0.416
2006 Travis Hafner CLE 42 0.439
2006 Andruw Jones ATL 41 0.363
2006 Carlos Beltran NYM 41 0.388
2006 Adam Dunn CIN 40 0.365
2005 Andruw Jones ATL 51 0.347
2005 Alex Rodriguez NYY 48 0.421
2005 David Ortiz BOS 47 0.397
2005 Derrek Lee CHC 46 0.418
2005 Manny Ramirez BOS 45 0.388
2005 Mark Teixeira TEX 43 0.379
2005 Albert Pujols STL 41 0.43
2005 Paul Konerko CHW 40 0.375
2005 Adam Dunn CIN 40 0.387
2004 Adrian Beltre LOS 48 0.388
2004 Albert Pujols STL 46 0.415
2004 Adam Dunn CIN 46 0.388
2004 Barry Bonds SFG 45 0.609
2004 Manny Ramirez BOS 43 0.397
2004 Jim Thome PHI 42 0.396
2004 Jim Edmonds STL 42 0.418
2004 Paul Konerko CHW 41 0.359
2004 David Ortiz BOS 41 0.38
2003 Jim Thome PHI 47 0.385
2003 Alex Rodriguez TEX 47 0.396
2003 Barry Bonds SFG 45 0.529
2003 Richie Sexson MIL 45 0.379
2003 Javy Lopez ATL 43 0.378
2003 Albert Pujols STL 43 0.439
2003 Frank Thomas CHW 42 0.39
2003 Carlos Delgado TOR 42 0.426
2003 Jason Giambi NYY 41 0.412
2003 Sammy Sosa CHC 40 0.358
2002 Alex Rodriguez TEX 57 0.392
2002 Jim Thome CLE 52 0.445
2002 Sammy Sosa CHC 49 0.399
2002 Barry Bonds SFG 46 0.582
2002 Rafael Palmeiro TEX 43 0.391
2002 Lance Berkman HOU 42 0.405
2002 Shawn Green LAD 42 0.385
2002 Jason Giambi NYY 41 0.435
2001 Barry Bonds SFG 73 0.515
2001 Sammy Sosa CHC 64 0.437
2001 Luis Gonzalez ARI 57 0.429
2001 Alex Rodriguez TEX 52 0.399
2001 Shawn Green LAD 49 0.372
2001 Jim Thome CLE 49 0.416
2001 Todd Helton COL 49 0.432
2001 Rafael Palmeiro TEX 47 0.381
2001 Richie Sexon MIL 45 0.342
2001 Phil Nevin SDP 41 0.388
2001 Manny Ramirez BOS 41 0.405
2001 Troy Glaus ANA 41 0.367
2000 Sammy Sosa CHC 50 0.406
2000 Barry Bonds SFG 49 0.44
2000 Jeff Bagwell HOU 47 0.424
2000 Troy Glaus ANA 47 0.404
2000 Vladimir Guerrero MON 44 0.41
2000 Richard Hidalgo HOU 44 0.391
2000 Gary Sheffield LOS 43 0.438
2000 Frank Thomas CHW 43 0.436
2000 Jason Giambi OAK 43 0.476
2000 Jim Edmonds STL 42 0.411
2000 Todd Helton COL 42 0.463
2000 Carlos Delgado TOR 41 0.47
2000 Alex Rodriguez SEA 41 0.42
2000 Tony Batista TOR 41 0.307
2000 Dave Justice CLE/NYY 41 0.377
2000 Ken Griffey Jr. CIN 40 0.387
1999 Mark McGwire STL 65 0.424
1999 Sammy Sosa CHC 63 0.367
1999 Ken Griffey Jr SEA 48 0.384
1999 Rafael Palmeiro TEX 47 0.42
1999 Chipper Jones ATL 45 0.441
1999 Greg Vaughn CIN 45 0.347
1999 Carlos Delgado TOR 44 0.377
1999 Manny Ramirez CLE 44 0.442
1999 Jeff Bagwell HOU 42 0.454
1999 Shawn Green TOR 42 0.384
1999 Vladimir Guerrero MON 42 0.378
1999 Alex Rodriguez SEA 42 0.357
1999 Mike Piazza NYM 40 0.361
1998 Mark McGwire STL 70 0.47
1998 Sammy Sosa CHC 66 0.377
1998 Ken Griffey Jr SEA 56 0.365
1998 Greg Vaugn SDP 50 0.363
1998 Albert Belle CWS 49 0.399
1998 Vinny Castilla COL 46 0.362
1998 Jose Canseco TOR 46 0.318
1998 Juan Gonzalez TEX 45 0.366
1998 Manny Ramirez CLE 45 0.377
1998 Andres Galarraga ATL 44 0.397
1998 Rafael Palmeiro BAL 43 0.379
1998 Alex Rodriguez SEA 42 0.36
1998 Mo Vaughn BOS 40 0.402

Batista and Canseco both did it in the AL. Sammy Sosa hit 40 home runs for the Cubs in 1996 with an on-base percentage of .323.

Howard does have company on the all-time list of the seasons where a player has hit at least 48 home runs with an on-base percentage under .340. But not a lot — Andre Dawson hit 49 home runs for the Cubs with an on-base percentage of .328 in 1987. A player has hit 48 or more in a season 71 times.

This suggests it’s unlikely the Phillies will add Nomar Garciaparra or pitchers Will Ohman or Joe Beimel.

This says the A’s are also interested in Nomar.

Carlos Carrasco thinks he has a good shot to be the Phillies’ fifth starter.

Todd Zolecki, who is now writing for MLB.com and previous scribed the Zo Zone and Phillies Zone, is now back at it with The Zo Zone, but at a new location. It’s all a little complicated, but his blog is now here.


Relief grief

The final point I’d like to make on Utley and Howard related to having them hitting back-to-back is that in 2008, both Utley and Howard didn’t fare well against relief pitching. This is a change from recent years when, by OPS, they had both put up very good numbers against relievers and numbers that were much closer to their overall OPS for the season.

There were 12 hitters that got at least 200 plate appearances for the Phillies in 2008. Of those, four put up a higher OPS in their plate appearances against relief pitchers than they did in their plate appearances against starting pitchers. Here they are, ordered by the difference between the OPS they put up against starters and relievers:

  Total vs Starter vs Reliever  
 
PA

OPS

PA

OPS

PA

OPS

Diff

Victorino
627
.799
409
.749
218
.892

.143

Rollins
625
.786
412
.744
213
.872

.128

Burrell
645
.875
424
.835
221
.955

.120

Ruiz
373
.620
221
.614
152
.628

.014

So by OPS, Ruiz was better against relief pitchers than he was against starting pitchers, but just by a tiny bit. Victorino at the top of the list was better against them also, but by a wider margin.

And then there’s a longer list of players who were better against starters. Here they are, again with the players with the largest difference between what they did against relievers and starters at the top:

  Total vs Starter vs Reliever  
 
PA

OPS

PA

OPS

PA

OPS

Diff

Utley

707

.915

470

.990

237

.763

.227

Howard

700

.881

445

.962

255

.737

.225

Bruntlett

238

.594

129

.684

109

.484

.200

Dobbs

240

.824

131

.904

109

.727

.177

Werth

482

.861

295

.927

187

.753

.174

Jenkins

322

.694

200

.745

122

.608

.137

Feliz

463

.705

266

.729

197

.672

.057

Coste

305

.748

171

.768

134

.722

.044

Utley and Howard are at the top of that list, and the difference in what they did against relievers and starters is larger than the difference for any of the players in either group.

Even while the difference between their total OPS and OPS against relievers is very large, it’s important to realize that Utley and Howard still hit relief pitching well compared to the other guys on the team. For example, they both have a bigger difference between their total OPS and OPS against relievers than Bruntlett, who hit a miserable 158/252/232 against relief pitching in ’08, but that’s because they had a lot further to drop. Utley’s .763 OPS against relievers is still better than anybody on the team except for three guys on the top list who hit relievers better than starters, Burrell, Rollins and Victorino.

The huge drop off in numbers against relievers in 2008 is something new for Utley and Howard.

Looking back at 2006 and 2007, in 2006 Utley was about as good against relievers as he was overall. In 2007 he put up an OPS against relief pitchers that was better than his OPS overall. But 2008 was a different story:

utleyvsrel.jpg

For Howard, his OPS against relievers wasn’t quite as good as his overall OPS in ’06 and ’07. But he was still hitting them hard, putting up an OPS of over .900 against relief pitching in both years. And then it dropped way down in 2008:

howardvsrel.jpg

All of Howard’s OPS-related numbers were down in 2008, but his numbers against relievers were down by even more.

The why of all this is the hard part. I don’t know. It’s tempting to suggest that the two lefties hitting back-to-back is the problem in that it allows a team to bring in its best left-handed reliever to deal with both of them. The problem with that is that the Phils hit Utley and Howard back-to-back in the three and four holes regularly in 2007 and both players pounded relief pitching.

I still think I’d be looking to put a right-handed hitter in-between Utley and Howard. I don’t think the Phillies will, though, based on what they’ve done in the past and the issues they have with the right-handed hitters in the lineup for 2009.

Utley says he likes the balance of the offense in terms of lefties, righties and switch-hitters. I agree that the three righties, three lefties and two switch-hitters is nice — I think the issue is that of the three righties, two of them (Feliz and Ruiz) are players whose value comes a lot from their defense rather than what they do with the bat.

This suggests that Utley could return to game action before the end of March.

Article about Mike Koplove’s ties to Philadelphia here.


Seriously, though, the Phillies could use a right-handed hitter. Maybe two.

Yesterday’s point was that both Utley and Howard are facing lefties more regularly than other elite left-handed hitters in baseball. Today’s is that this is a bigger deal for Utley than it is for Howard. By OPS, over the last three years the difference between what the two did against right-handed and left-handed pitching has been much more dramatic for Howard than it has been for Utley. Over the last two years, Utley has been the better hitter against lefties by a wide margin while Howard has struggled.

Here’s Howard’s total OPS, his OPS against righties and against lefties over the past three years:

howardops.jpg

First of all, just wow. That’s pretty much what you would hope that chart wouldn’t look like. That said, though, the focus of this post is the difference between what Howard does against right-handed pitching, the purple line, and what he does against left-handed pitching, the orange line. Over the three years they have been separated by between 220 points (in 2008 he put up an .746 OPS against lefties and a .966 OPS against righties) and 246 points (in ’07 he was 1.072 against righties and .826 against lefties).

The other point is that the .746 OPS against lefties, Howard put up a 224/294/451 line against them in ’08, isn’t good.

For Utley, the difference between what he’s done against righties and lefties is much smaller. His OPS against left-handed hitting has been better than Howard’s by at least a hundred points for each of the past two seasons:

utley2ops.jpg

Over the past three seasons, the biggest difference between the OPS that Utley posted against lefties and righties came in 2007. His OPS against righties was just seventy-seven points higher in that season (for Howard the smallest difference over the past two years has been two hundred and twenty points).

In 2007, Utley put up an .927 OPS against lefties, which was more than hundred points higher than the .826 put up by Howard. Utley’s .888 against lefties in ’08 was 142 points higher than Howard’s .746.

This suggests that Utley may be more ready for opening day than Feliz.

Long SI article about Cole Hamels and family.


Left doubt

Off the Mets now and on to the lineup and whether or not it’s a big deal that the Phils hit Utley and Howard back-to-back as well as the general problem with the lack of right-handed hitters on the team. Three related points coming in this and upcoming posts: 1) (today!) Utley and Howard get a higher percentage of their plate appearances against left-handed pitching than many of the other elite left-handed hitters in baseball 2) this is a bigger deal for Howard than it is for Utley and 3) whether it’s because they hit back-to-back or not, in 2008 Utley and Howard both had numbers against relief pitchers that were a) bad and b) worse than they had been in recent years.

Pretty much I’m thinking that a lineup that goes Utley-Howard-Ibanez 3-4-5 isn’t the way to go (or the way the Phillies will go).

Today’s point is that Utley and Howard get more of their plate appearances against left-handed hitting than many of the other best left-handed hitters in baseball.

In 2008, Howard and Utley each got about 38% of their plate appearances against left-handed pitching. By OPS, Utley was the best left-handed hitter (.915) in the NL in ’08 and Howard was fifth best (.881). If you compare the percentage of their plate appearances that came against lefties for 2008 to the percentage of plate appearances that came against lefties for the four other top hitters in the NL, Utley and Howard faced lefties more often.

The chart below presents, for the six left-handed NL hitters with at least 500 plate appearances in 2008 who posted the best OPS, the percentage of their plate appearances that have come against left-handed pitchers in 2008 and in ’06 and ’07:

nlvleft.jpg

In 2006, Adam Dunn got 32.8% of his plate appearances against lefties while Howard got 32.0% of his plate appearances against lefties. Since then, though, none of the rest of the group has gotten as high a percentage of their plate appearances against lefties. That adds up to a lot of plate appearances. Brian McCann, for example, has had 1,617 total plate appearances over the past three years and 480 (29.7%) have come against lefties. Utley has had 2,059 total plate appearances and 752 of them, 36.5%, of them have come against lefties. So Utley has had 442 more total plate appearances, but 272 of them have come against left-handed pitching.

Utley and Howard are also getting a higher percentage of their plate appearances against lefties than the top left-handed hitters in the American League. By OPS, here are the top six left-handed hitters in the AL from 2008 and the percentage of their plate appearances that have come against lefties over the past three years:

alvleft.jpg

The highest mark for that group for the last three years is the 35.5% of Justin Morneau’s plate appearances that came against left-handed pitchers in 2008. Utley and Howard have both faced a higher percentage of lefties in each of the last two seasons.

It should also be noted that, like Utley and Howard, in 2008 Morneau hit almost exclusively behind another very good left-handed hitter. The Twins lineup regularly featured Joe Mauer hitting third and Morneau in the cleanup slot.

Interesting Q&A with Pat Gillick here in which he suggests the Phillies might have been willing to bring Burrell back but the length of the contract that Burrell was looking for was a problem. I also find it fascinating given how regularly Gillick wins the World Series that when asked why he pushed for the Ibanez signing the first thing he mentions is that Ibanez will be a positive influence in the clubhouse. Gillick also suggests that Ibanez may hit for more power at Citizens Bank Park and that he hits left-handed pitching well.

In this article, Charlie Manuel says that Ibanez has hit lefties well for the last few years. Ibanez smoked lefties to the tune of 305/368/497 in 2008, but hit 256/294/356 against them in 2007 and 243/301/362 against them in ’06.

This article says that Feliz hasn’t swung a bat since his surgery in November. Also says that Feliz expects to be ready for the start of the season.


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