Ryan Howard

So you’re scared and you’re thinking that maybe we ain’t that young, or slugging .659, anymore

The Phillies outscored the Mets 892 to 804 in 2007, a difference of 88 runs. That difference disappeared completely in 2008 as both teams scored an identical 799 runs. Offense was down across the league last year, but the Mets seemed less bothered than most teams. They scored five fewer runs than they had the year before while the Phillies scored 93 fewer.

There were injuries for the Phillies, most notably to Jimmy Rollins. Let’s hope that was it. Let’s hope what was not it is that the idea that the Mets are built around a pair of young stars in Reyes and Wright while the Phillies are built around a pair of young stars in Utley and Howard just isn’t as true as we’d like it to be. All four are definitely stars, part of baseball’s elite, but some of them are younger than others. Utley is 30 already and Howard turns 30 in November. Reyes won’t be 26 till June and Wright turns 27 in December. Utley and Howard, and Rollins for that matter, who turns 31 in November, are all going to start to get worse sooner than the younger Mets stars. I’m not saying that it’s started already, I don’t think it has. But it will, and when you look at some pairings of Mets and Phillies players over the past three years there are some concerning trends that help shed some light on how the difference in runs scored closed so dramatically in ’08.

Here’s the runs created, as calculated by Baseball-Reference, for Rollins and Reyes over the past three seasons:

rollinsreyes.jpg

Rollins was hurt for a lot of 2008, which will mess up your runs created, but even when he wasn’t Reyes outhit him. Reyes hit 297/358/475 for the year while Rollins hit 277/349/437.

Here’s Utley and Wright:

utleywright.jpg

After being outhit by Utley in 2006, Wright has been better in 2007 and 2008. It should also be noted that there were only four NL players whose runs created were better than the 130 that Utley put up in 2008 — Wright just happens to be one of them.

This one might be the most disturbing of all, comparing Howard and Delgado:

howarddelgado.jpg

Carlos Delgado isn’t the offensive player that Ryan Howard is, let’s not get silly here. But the similarity in the amount of offense they produced in 2008 is alarming. Even more alarming than the fact suggestion that Delgado and Howard created a similar amount of offense in 2008 is how dramatically Howard’s output has dropped since 2006 — for 169 in ’06 to 113 in ’08.

Finally, this one isn’t a natural pairing at all, but Carlos Beltran produced more offense than Burrell consistently over the past three seasons and widened the gap in 2008:

burrellbeltran.jpg

The two were very close in 2007. Both created more runs in 2008 than they had the year before, but Beltran had greater improvement between the two seasons.


Early warning

Ryan Howard is 7-for-his-last-23 and has his batting average up to .214 for the season. A whole lot of things have gone wrong for Howard this season, but on Sunday he drove in three runs with a pair of doubles that he hit on the first pitch of his at-bat. Coming into Sunday’s game, Howard was hitting 214/214/357 for the season in his plate appearances that ended after one pitch.

When you compare his numbers to what he has done over the last two seasons, I think you can make the case that the poor results Howard has had when he puts the ball in play on the first pitch of his at-bat have been among the most significant differences between what he’s done so far in 2008 and what he did in 2007 and 2006.

For the last three years, here’s how many plate appearances he’s had, how many of those plate appearances ended after just one pitch, the percentage of his plate appearances that ended after one pitch, his OPS when he puts the ball in play after one pitch and his OPS overall for the season:


Year

TPA

End 1P

% 1P

OPS 1P PA

Total OPS
2006 704 83 11.8 1.273 1.084
2007 648 57 8.8 1.364 .976
2008 278 30 10.8 .733 .775

First of all, Howard is putting the ball in play on the first pitch of his at-bat in 2008 at about the same rate as he did over the last two years. If you combine 2006 and 2007, he had 140 one pitch plate appearances in 1,352 total plate appearances. That’s about 10.4 percent of the time his plate appearance ended after one pitch compared to 10.8 this season.

In 2006, though, he hit .375 when he put the ball in play on the first pitch of his plate appearance. In 2007, .463. After Sunday’s big day he’s hitting .267 in 2008 when he puts the ball in play on the first pitch of his plate appearance.

Obviously by total OPS he’s down across the board in 2008. But in both 2006 and 2007 his OPS when he put the ball in play on the first pitch of his plate appearance was significantly better than his overall OPS for the season. In 2008, it’s about the same.

And he’s also hitting fewer home runs on the first pitch of his plate appearance. Of course, so far he’s hitting fewer home runs overall, but even as a percentage of the total home runs he’s hit for the season the number he’s hitting on the first pitch of his plate appearance is down in ’08:


Year

1st pitch HR

Total HR

% of HR on 1st pitch
2006 12 58 20.7
2007 6 47 12.8
2008 1 15 6.7

Those numbers are obviously very fragile. For example, if Howard had hit two of his 15 home runs on the season on his first pitch instead of one, that would be 13.3 percent. Still, even if it’s a coincidence that the percentage of his home runs he’s hit on the first pitch has gone down since 2006, it’s an interesting one.

If your plate appearance doesn’t end on the first pitch there’s pretty much only two things that can happen. You can be down 0-1 or up 1-0 in the count. When you compare his OPS in those situations to his total OPS for the year the numbers for 2008 are much more similar to his ’07 and ’06 numbers than what he’s doing on plate appearances that end in one pitch:

After 0-1

Year

TPA

0-1

% 1P

OPS 1P PA

Total OPS
2006 704 308 43.8 .956 1.084
2007 648 284 43.8 .720 .976
2008 278 124 44.6 .653 .775

After 1-0

Year

TPA

0-1

% 1P

OPS 1P PA

Total OPS
2006 704 313 44.5 1.153 1.084
2007 648 307 47.4 1.152 .976
2008 278 124 44.6 .917 .775

By a very small margin, Howard is getting behind 0-1 this season more than he did in the previous two seasons. Overall, however, the numbers when he gets behind 0-1 or ahead 1-0 compared to his OPS for the season are a lot more similar than what’s happening when he puts the ball in play on the first pitch.

Brett Myers (3-7, 5.13) faces righty Ricky Nolasco (5-4, 5.05) tonight in Florida. Nolasco faced the Phillies in Philadelphia on May 31 and held them to two runs on four hits over 6 2/3 innings. He’s made one start since and was blasted by the Braves on Thursday, allowing seven runs in 5 2/3 innings. He’s been very strong against righties this season — they are hitting just .224 against him and have hit just one home run. Lefties are another story. They’re hitting .324 against him and have hit 11 of the 12 bombs he has allowed. The Phillies have lost seven of the last eight games that Myers has started despite the fact that Myers has been very solid in his last four starts. Over his last four outings Myers has allowed 11 earned runs in 27 1/3 innings (3.62 ERA). The Phillies have gone 1-3. Over those 27 1/3 innings Myers hasn’t allowed a home run. Excluding those innings he’s allowed 15 in 53 1/3 innings on the season. Righties are hitting .305 against him for the season. He has made one start against Florida this season and was good, holding the Fish to three runs on six hits over eight innings on May 30 (the Phils won the game 12-3, their only win in his last eight starts).


First and second impressions

Here’s what the players that saw the most time at first base and second base for each of the teams in the NL East did last season with the bat:


Team

Player

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
PHI Utley 530 .332 .410 .566 .976
PHI Howard 529 .268 .392 .584 .976
PHI Total 1059 .300 .401 .575 .976
WAS Belliard 511 .290 .332 .427 .759
WAS Young 460 .320 .378 .491 .869
WAS Total 971 .304 .354 .457 .811
FLA Uggla 632 .245 .326 .479 .805
FLA Jacobs 426 .265 .317 .458 .775
FLA Total 1058 .253 .323 .471 .793
NYM Castillo 199 .296 .371 .372 .742
NYM Delgado 538 .258 .333 .448 .781
NYM Total 737 .269 .343 .427 .770
ATL Johnson 521 .276 .375 .457 .831
ATL Thorman 287 .216 .258 .394 .652
ATL Total 808 .255 .336 .434 .770

The Phils’ dynamic duo of Utley and Howard were the class of the group. Nobody else was real close. When looking at the overall numbers for the pairs you should remember that the numbers for the Mets are skewed towards Delgado because he got so many more at-bats than Castillo. Ditto for Kelly Johnson with the Braves given the number of at-bats for Scott Thorman.

Notably absent is Mark Teixeira, of course, who got less time at first for Atlanta than Thorman in ’07. Here’s what the numbers for Johnson and Teixeira look like (includes Teixeira’s numbers with both teams, not just the Braves):


Team

Player

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
ATL Johnson 521 .276 .375 .457 .831
ATL Teixeira 494 .306 .400 .563 .963
ATL Total 1015 .291 .387 .508 .895

And here is what the numbers look like if you use all of the players that got at-bats as first baseman and second baseman rather than just the players that saw the most time at the position:


Team

Player

AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
PHI 2B 662 .325 .400 .535 .935
PHI 1B 616 .268 .383 .547 .930
PHI Total 1278 .297 .391 .541 .932
WAS 2B 663 .267 .316 .404 .720
WAS 1B 627 .297 .359 .437 .796
WAS Total 1290 .281 .337 .420 .758
FLA 2B 655 .246 .327 .475 .802
FLA 1B 619 .265 .337 .430 .766
FLA Total 1274 .255 .332 .453 .785
NYM 2B 618 .278 .348 .405 .752
NYM 1B 622 .260 .344 .453 .797
NYM Total 1240 .269 .346 .429 .775
ATL 2B 653 .289 .373 .455 .828
ATL 1B 601 .248 .318 .449 .767
ATL Total 1254 .270 .347 .452 .799

Thanks to Teixeira, Atlanta’s numbers surge up to second best in the division.

For the Phillies it’s interesting to note that the non-Utley guys who played second, led by Iguchi, outpaced the non-Howard guys who played first (hence the second basemen were better offensively overall using OPS as the measure despite the fact that Utley and Howard hit to the same .976).

For the Nationals, the guys other than Young and Belliard who manned first and second, Robert Fick and Felipe Lopez especially, were much worse and brought the numbers for the team down overall.

The Marlins numbers overall were pretty close to what their primary guys did. Ditto for the Mets, who saw Valentin, Easley and Gotay all get a lot of time at second base.

As you look to 2008, Utley and Howard seemingly guarantee the Phils will lead the pack. I’d guess Teixeira and Johnson will have Atlanta second. The other three teams were closely packed last season and it looks like there’s a good chance they will be again this season. The Nationals add Nick Johnson to the mix at first, which could be a significant boost, but the group went Flordia-New York-Washington last year and I think there’s a good chance they go that way again.

The Phils did not play yesterday. Chad Durbin pitched in a minor league game and allowed two runs on six hits and a walk over three innings.

Scott Mathieson was not actually demoted to the Phils minor league camp in the first big wave of moves. The Phils tried to demote him but were prevented from doing so because of his injury status during the 2007 season.


Situational walking

Here is a chart of the 35 intentional walks that were issued to Howard last season, who the Phils were playing, what the situation was and my opinion about whether or not walking Howard in that situation benefited the team that did so for each walk (there’s not enough room for it, so it should pop-up in another window).

Whether or not the walk worked or not is obviously subjective. And it’s important to remember that not walking Howard intentionally clearly would have had poor outcomes in many cases as well. Howard hit 47 home runs in 648 plate appearances last season. Take away the 35 plate appearances in which he was not intentionally walked and he hit 47 bombs in 613 plate appearances or one about every 13 plate appearances. That’s about three home runs he would have hit in the 35 times he was intentionally walked if he continued to hit home runs at that rate.

Still, by my count, 11 of the 35 times Howard was walked intentionally it didn’t have a good outcome for the other team. And that’s with, as I wrote yesterday, miserable results for the hitters that came up behind Howard after he was intentionally walked.

Regardless of what followed after the intentional walk, I think most would agree that Howard was issued some intentional walks in unusual situations.

Six times he was walked intentionally in the first inning. For three of those walks there was no score in the game.

On April 2 against the Braves, with two outs and Victorino on second with the score tied at 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, righty Bob Wickman walked Howard intentionally to pitch to Utley. Utley popped to third to end the inning, so it worked. But a hit still wins the game and Utley is more likely to bring the runner home from second with two outs than Howard (although that was before Utley had hit .332 in ’07 while Howard hit .268. Worked for the Braves, but I would have pitched to Howard).

On June 4 the Giants had lefty Barry Zito on the mound. With runners on second and third and one out in the first, the lefty Zito walked the lefty Howard with two righties behind him. They didn’t get the double-play but it worked anyway — Werth flew out and Rowand followed with a ground out.

On June 12 the White Sox walked him in the fourth inning when the Phillies were already winning by five runs. It worked, too. It put men on first and second with one out for Rowand and Rowand hit into a double-play.

On July 21 the Padres walked him with two outs in ninth and the Phils up by three runs already. Righty Cla Meredith walked Howard. Rowand followed and reached on an error — the Phils would score five times before the Padres got the third out.

It’s just a ton of intentional walks for Howard. It seems like it should cost the opponent and sometimes it does help to contribute to a big inning. But often it doesn’t, especially given how poorly Phillies’ hitters fared last year.

The other thing that’s interesting to me is the difference between the number of intentional walks Howard got last year and the number that Utley got. Utley and Howard each posted a .976 OPS, but Howard was walked intentionally 35 times and Utley was walked intentionally once. Not all hitters that post a .976 OPS are the same kind of hitter and obviously nobody is going to walk Utley with Howard hitting behind him to pitch to Howard, but that is still a fantastic difference.

One issue that may contribute to all the intentional walks for Howard is all the doubles that Utley hits. Utley had 48 last season, which tied him for third in the NL. Every time he hits a double in front of Howard it means that Howard comes up with first base open. With a righty on the mound and a righty hitting behind Howard there’s always the case to be made for putting Howard on and going after the righty.

By my count, 31 of the 35 intentional walks to Howard in 2007 came with both 1) a right-handed pitcher on the mound and 2) a right-handed hitter due to hit behind Howard. So the righty pitcher puts the lefty Howard on to get to the righty behind him. One way to prevent that is putting a lefty, Utley or Jenkins, behind Howard. I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all. But I also don’t think you can put Utley-Howard-Jenkins all in a row, either, which would let a single lefty come in and deal with all three of them. I don’t think that a lineup that went Rollins-Utley-Burrell-Howard-Jenkins one through five against a righty is a terrible idea — you’d like to see Utley coming up to bat with more runners on base a little more often than he would hitting second, but the Phils don’t really have a two-hitter anyway.

Another way to go would just be to try and hit higher than .156 after he gets walked intentionally.

The Phillies pounded the Reds yesterday, winning their exhibition opener 8-1. Travis Blackley was very good as he makes his bid for the 25-man roster. He allowed one hit in three innings and picked off the only runner he allowed to reach base. Moyer threw three scoreless innings, striking out three while allowing one hit. Carrasco threw a 1-2-3 frame with the help of two nice defensive plays. Madson gave up two singles in his inning but got out of it with a double-play. Clay Condrey is presumably also fighting for a roster spot along with Blackley. He struck out two in his inning, but allowed the Reds’ lone run on a solo homer by Adam Rosales.

Dobbs stroked a three-run homer as part of a seven-run fifth for the Phils. Feliz was 2-for-2 with a double, Bruntlett 2-for-2 with a double. Helms was 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

Phils play the Pirates today.

Article about the Phillies’ payroll here.

Article about Jason Jaramillo here.

Some of the Phillies turn out to have been good at other sports as well.


Maybe it would help if we spent another two months talking about Alfonso Soriano

Remember last off-season when the panic of the moment revolved around who was going to protect Ryan Howard in the lineup? Given the hitters the Phillies have I think that’s pretty much a non-issue. It doesn’t change the fact that the results in 2007 after Howard was walked intentionally weren’t very good for the Phils.

Howard was walked intentionally 35 times in 2007, creating 35 chances to hit immediately following the intentional walk. Here’s what the Phils did with those times at-bats:


Player

Times followed IBB to Howard


Results

Rowand 20
3-for-19 with three singles and a walk
Burrell 11
2-for-9 with a single, a home run and two walks
Utley 1
0-for-1
Helms 1
0-for-1
Werth 1
0-for-1
Bourn 1
0-for-1
Total 35
5-for-32 with four singles, three walks and a home run

That, 5-for-32 (.156), just isn’t good. You have to believe that teams don’t want to issue an intentional walk in front of a pitching matchup that’s bad for them, but the results for the Phils overall last season after Howard was walked intentionally were just bad overall.

The game the Phillies had scheduled with Florida State last night was rained out. The Phils play the Reds this afternoon. Moyer, Blackley, Condrey, Carrasco and Madson are scheduled to pitch.

Brett Myers will get the start in the Phillies regular season opener on March 31 against the Nationals. I think that’s a very good idea.

According to the same article, the Phillies claimed middle infielder Ray Olmedo off of waivers and designated John Ennis for assignment. The switch-hitter Olmedo turns 27 in May and has seen time with the Reds and the Blue Jays. In 403 career at-bats he has a 228/276/293 line and that, well, that’s really just not good. Nunez has outslugged him by 21 points over his career. Ennis threw to an 8.22 ERA in three appearances with the Phillies last year, including one start.

Piece from the Traverse City Beach Bums about lefty Jared Locke here.

Madson still wants to start.


Walk talk

Despite the firepower of the Phillies’ offense, Ryan Howard continues to gather intentional walks at a tremendous pace. Howard received 35 intentional walks in 2007 after being passed intentionally 37 times in 2006. If you look at the single-season leaders in intentional walks, Howard has put his name in the top eleven of the all-time list in each of the last two seasons.

I wrote about Howard’s intentional walk rate last year as well. Howard was walked intentionally 37 times in 2006 and 35 times in 2007. Seems like the decrease should be good news, but you have to remember that Howard got fewer plate appearances in 2007. The rate at which he was passed intentionally went up.

 
PA

IBB

PA/IBB
2007 648 35 18.5
2006 704 37 19.0

One of the differences between 2007 and 2006 was that in ’06 Howard hadn’t settled in the cleanup spot. In 2006 just 351 of his 704 plate appearances, just under half, came as a cleanup hitter. In his time hitting fourth he was walked intentionally 28 times or about once every 12.5 plate appearances. In 2007, 633 of 648 of his plate appearances (almost 98%) came hitting fourth. In those 648 plate appearances he was walked intentionally 34 times or about once every 19 plate appearances.

So while he was walked intentionally more frequently overall in 2007, the rate at which he was walked intentionally as a cleanup hitter was much lower.

And that, no doubt, is because the Phillies’ five hitters were so much better in 2007 than in 2006, right? Here’s the problem with that if you look at what the Phillies’ #5 hitters did in 2006 and 2007:

 
AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
2007 .273 .365 .466 .830
2006 .266 .356 .544 .900

The Phillies’ five-hitters sure look like they were better in 2006 than they were in 2007. And they were, but they were better because of Howard himself hitting fifth.

Here’s what the numbers for the five-hitters look like if you take out Howard’s plate appearances as a #5 hitter from 2006:

 
AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
2007 .273 .365 .466 .830
2006 w/o Howard .251 .346 .473 .819

It’s still not as dramatic as I would have guessed, but at least the 2007 numbers for the five-hitters are better than the 2006 now. In ’07 Rowand got the most at-bats as a five-hitter for the Phils, posting an .874 OPS while hitting fifth. Burrell saw a lot of time there, too, but wasn’t as successful. He put up an .806 OPS as a five hitter but crushed the ball while hitting sixth (1.179 OPS in 118 at-bats), bringing the numbers down overall. In 2006 Howard got the most at-bats hitting fifth and Burrell was next, posting a .918 OPS in 148 at-bats in a much better season in the five-hole.

Brad Lidge had surgery on his right knee and it went well. He is expected to miss three to six weeks.

Lidge sounds a little tired of talking about the home run that Pujols hit against him in 2005.

The Phillies play a game tonight against Florida State. Joe Savery will get the start. Happ, Outman, Carrasco and Bisenius are also scheduled to pitch.

The Phillies signed left-handed pitcher Jared Locke and right-handed pitcher Charles Vartanian from a tryout camp.

This interesting article from over the weekend reviews Phillies’ outfield prospects. Everything’s just ducky until it suggests that in 2009 the Phils could put Jenkins/Werth in left, Victorino in right and Golson in center. That would be a really miserable outfield. I’d guess the chances of that happening are just about zero.


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