More Thoughts on Trading Ryan Howard

In baseball, a five-tool player is one who excels at hitting for average, hitting for power, baserunning skills and speed, throwing ability, and fielding abilities.

Let’s play a game. You are the general manager of a Major League Baseball franchise and you are faced with the burden of choosing between Player A and Player B. You may only keep one.

  • Player A is a four-tool player who was worth between 4.5 and 5.0 WAR last year and averaged about 4.5 WAR over the past three seasons
  • Player B is a one-tool player who was worth between 4.5 and 5.0 WAR last year and averaged about 4.5 WAR over the past three seasons

The decision is obvious, right? Clearly you’d take the four-tool player. No questions asked. When one (or even two) of Player A’s tools aren’t useful, he can still rely on his other tools to contribute to the team. When Player B’s only tool falters, he becomes a detriment to his team.

Time to attach names to the faces. Player A is Jayson Werth, who I think we can all agree is a four-tool player (power, base running, throwing, fielding). Player B is Ryan Howard, who I think we can all agree is a one-tool player (power). In case you’re not convinced…

  • Average (not a tool for either player), 2007-09: Werth, .276; Howard, .266
  • Power (SLG), 2007-09: Werth, .494; Howard, .565
  • Base running (EQBRR), 2007-09: Werth, 8.7; Howard, -11.9
  • Throwing: Can’t really compare an outfielder’s arm to a first baseman’s but I don’t think anyone will disagree with the statement that Jayson Werth has a great arm and Ryan Howard does not. Howard has committed 20 throwing errors as a first baseman in his career; Werth has never committed a throwing error as an outfielder, and he has accrued 29 assists.
  • Fielding (UZR/150), 2007, ’08, and ’09: Werth (as OF), 35.3+35.3+3.4; Howard, 0.4+2.4+1.2

I recently suggested that, after the 2010 season, the Phillies should trade Howard to create enough payroll space to sign Werth to a contract extension. If you take the time to peruse the comments left on the article, you can see that a lot of fans balked at the suggestion. Both Werth and Howard were worth about the same in terms of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) last year; Werth has had the higher WAR average from 2007-09. And Werth, of course, is a much more versatile player. That’s not to say that Werth is the more valuable player, but that his value is spread out into more areas which in itself has value.

Both players bring with them some concerns. With Werth, the question is whether or not he can sustain his recent level of production going forward. Personally, I think you can set your watch to Jayson as he has finished each of the past three seasons with an OPS between .861 and .879. Others are worried about the wrist issue that plagued him prior to his time with the Phillies but that has not come back on the radar at any time in the past three years.

As for Howard, those of us who use statistics have compared him to past sluggers who did not age gracefully. In his age 26 and 27 seasons, Baseball Reference thinks his closest comparison is Norm Cash, which is not an upsetting comparison — he was a very productive hitter. However, Howard is compared to Cecil Fielder in his age 28 season. Fielder flamed out in 1997 at age 33 and was out of baseball entirely one year later. Richie Sexson is Howard’s best comparison for his age 29 season. Sexson hit the skids in 2007 in his age 32 season and was out of baseball entirely one year later.

A lot of casual baseball fans are skeptical of these comparisons and the raised eyebrows are not unwarranted. I cannot think of many baseball players who really fit the Ryan Howard mold, and those I can think of are Hall of Famers like Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey. There is a lot of bias in there, though, as I will be primarily reminded of players who made a positive impact (for instance, try to remember anything former Phillie Dave Doster has ever done on a baseball diamond), and my Phillies fandom also biases my perception. Still, I think Stargell and McCovey are better comparisons than Fielder and Sexson.

In addition to the unpredictable aging process, Howard has performed gradually worse against left-handed pitchers and he’s been seeing them gradually more — a bad trend:

  • 2006: 225 PA vs LHP, .923 OPS
  • 2007: 246 PA vs LHP, .826 OPS
  • 2008: 265 PA vs LHP, .746 OPS
  • 2009: 252 PA vs LHP, .653 OPS

Howard’s walk rate has also decreased from 16.5% in 2007 to 11.6% in ’08 to 10.7% in ’09.

So, both players have some question marks going forward and they are questions that the Phillies’ front office will have to answer when deciding to keep both, neither, or one of the two players. Personally, if I have the opportunity to clear a large amount of payroll space, re-sign a similarly-valuable but more versatile player, and acquire Major League talent and/or prospects by trading Ryan Howard (who is owed $20 million in 2011), I’m going to do it in a heartbeat.

As for moving Utley to first, a few commenters have come up with alternatives that still involve trading Howard. Instead of shifting Utley to first base, Raul Ibanez would instead move from left field and Domonic Brown would take his place. Ibanez is a free agent after 2011 though, so the Phillies would have to either shift another player to first base or sign a slugger via free agency. I actually like this idea better than the one I originally proposed especially due to its Occam’s Razor nature.

I know fans wanted — and still want — Ruben Amaro to pull out all the stops and go for another World Series in 2010, the future of the franchise be damned, but I imagine most would opt for a much more conservative strategy if they were responsible for balancing the ledger. Amaro’s job is not just to put together a competitive roster in 2010, but ensure that he and his successors are able to do so down the road as well. Ultimately, trading Ryan Howard may chip away a percentage point or two in terms of probability of winning it all in 2011, but it makes future Phillies teams much more likely to have that same shot down the road. Losing Jayson Werth after 2010 and Howard after ’11 is simply not worth gunning for another championship.

To put it simply: keeping Howard until he leaves via free agency — resulting in Werth leaving after 2010 to free agency — is gambling. The “keep Howard” strategy mortgages future assets in attempt to increase present assets. It’s not a good strategy because baseball’s post-season is a crapshoot. The team with the best record in the Majors has won the World Series just twice in the 2000’s: the ’09 Yankees and the ’07 Red Sox. Since the inception of the wild card in 1995, the World Series has been won by a wild card winner four times: the ’04 Red Sox, ’03 Marlins, ’02 Angels, and ’97 Marlins. Having the best team does not ensure anything in the post-season.

Successful gamblers know when to stop rolling the dice. That time would be after the 2010 season when Ryan Howard’s trade value will be at its highest (assuming he has a typical Ryan Howard year) and the Phillies can wait no longer to retain Jayson Werth.

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38 comments

  1. Phillibustering

    March 01, 2010 08:25 AM

    I love the convincing use of stats as much as the next sabermetrics fan, but here’s the problem I see here. Taking a step back from the numbers, I do agree with the point that Ryan Howard’s value is more than just his power hitting, but the aura he brings to the team. Take stories like his “just get me to the plate, guys” during the NLDS game 4 comeback last year. As important it is to maximize our winning potential, many fans also live for such moments, after World Series titles of course. While I am convinced, if things stand at the end of this season as they do, that a Howard trade makes sense, I don’t think Ruben would be able to pull it off without a mass revolt, and that’s something I’m sure he’d take into account. At the end of this season, either the Phillies will win won another title or they won’t. That’s an obvious statement, but the implications for Ruben, as I see it, are more complicated. If we don’t win, he’ll be taking a lot of heat as it is for not keeping both Halladay and Lee and going all in for 2010, so he’ll have very little capital to spend on an unpopular trade like this. If we do win, Howard will undoubtedly be a critical part of that, or at least will be seen as being a critical part of that, making the fan revolt worse. I know you’re arguing simply from the numbers perspective and I respect that. This is just some thoughts of mine on this important issue for the Phils.

  2. Dan

    March 01, 2010 08:44 AM

    RAJ will wait:

    RH has improved year against LHP and with OBP in general – Sign him in the offseason, buying out his last year of FA and let Werth walk.

    RH continues to decline – Explore trading him, and if you get the right offer do so, re-sign Werth, etc. If no right offer, let Werth walk, retain RH one more year, let him go as class A FA with comp picks.

    Of course, if any of our high ceiling OF prospects have a break through year, then all bets are off. Werth will be gone if Brown explodes, no matter what RH does.

    Final picture is too cloudy to judge right now.

  3. ShooterB

    March 01, 2010 11:03 AM

    But nobody sells a Subway sandwich like Ryan Howard.

  4. Dan

    March 01, 2010 01:55 PM

    Let’s look at the Werth vs. Howard question in this way: which would be easier to replace? Take the option of resigning Werth and trading Howard vs. letting Werth go and signing a FA.

    Looking at the VORP for RF and for 1B, you can see in 2009 that Werth was the 3rd most valuable player in RF with a VORP of 43. The average of the top 30 players was about 23, meaning Werth was worth about 20 VORP above the average starting RF, or about 2 wins.

    Howard was worth about 48 VORP in 2009, which was the 9th most valuable 1B. The top 30 1B has an average VORP of about 32 (lead by Pujols’ ridiculous 98), meaning Howard was worth about 16 VORP above average for his position, or about 1.6 wins.

    All this to ask the question, how expensive would it be to replace either player on the open market? If you ignore declining skills, it’s intuitively obvious you can replace the 9th most valuable player easier than the 3rd. Thow in the fact that Werth is likely going to be the most valuable RF of his class, while Howards’ class will be lead by Fielder at 70 VORP, and in a perfectly effecient market, Werth would get more than Howard.

    Things being what they are, this likely won’t happen. Or maybe baseball has learned a few things, and if Howard is thinking he’ll get $25MM a year for 5 years, he’s in for a rude awakening. But assuming he does sign for $25MM somewhere, then which would you rather have? An only slightly above average player for $25MM, or a top 3 player for $13-$14MM?

    How about this for an idea, sign Werth, trade Howard, and sign Dunn, who is about as productive as Howard, but will play for a lot less $$????

  5. hk

    March 01, 2010 01:58 PM

    Since they’ve both produced the same WAR over the past 3 years, I wouldn’t be too concerned with how many tools they have. Rather, I’d assess them on factors like age, cost and how likely they are to continue to produce. In this regard, Werth seems like he’ll be the better value option, especially when you consider the prospects the Phils should be able to acquire for Howard.

  6. Phylan

    March 01, 2010 03:47 PM

    Well I think it has been proven, at least, that players with better plate discipline age better, “old player skills” and all that. Werth was at the top or close to the top in Pitches/PA last year, and obviously has the OBP edge (although I was pleased that Howard improved in that regard last season).

  7. Phillies Red

    March 01, 2010 04:18 PM

    First off, I’m starting to really come around on the idea of Werth over Howard, if only because one will require more money and more years for about the same production. On the one hand, that seems like all it should be about, but, on the other hand, as two solid posts here and lots of comments have shown, it hardly feels or seems that simple.

    One thing that does nag me is trying to understand the impact that Howard or Werth have on the rest of the offense/lineup. I’m not a real believer in things like lineup “protection” but I do wonder if having someone like Howard, who is always a homer threat, somehow impacts the way that managers or pitchers approach our lineup. Who knows, maybe taking out Howard’s Ks and futility against lefties would make us better, on the whole. My point is only that given two very good, but distinct offensive players, one a monster power threat and the other a dynamic, hurt-you-many-ways type, I worry that simply comparing WAR or wOBA doesn’t fully capture their impact on the offense. Maybe that’s just the fan in me?

    Dunn has occurred to me before as well, but the guy is a butcher with the glove. If Glaus has a good, year, he might fit at first. Lowell strikes me as a versatile option, if healthy.

  8. Phillies Red

    March 01, 2010 04:28 PM

    A couple of other thoughts: we keep assuming that Howard will get more money and years, but if you compare Werth and Howard’s free agent classes, it’s possible this assumption is incorrect. Werth will compete with Crawford as the multi-tool, everyday, top of the line corner outfielder. The redsox, yankees, phils, braves, mets, and many other teams will be interested. Two guys, many spots. Howard will go against Pujols, Fielder, and Gonzales, assuming they all get to the market. We know the yanks won’t be in, and the mets are eagerly awaiting their stud prospect. That leaves the Phils, the Rsox, and the cardinals as big market teams looking for 1b. Perhaps more premium talent than spots available? (this is just back of the envelope stuff, so correct me if I missed major FA or big market teams).

    Along those same lines, I wonder if teams will be less inclined to trade real talent for Howard, knowing they can wait until the off season and pick their favorite amongst the group of power hitting 1b?

  9. Phillies Red

    March 01, 2010 04:35 PM

    One final thought: because of Werth’s salary ($7M) this year, the Phils will def offer him arb, meaning that if he leaves, we’ll get two picks. But the Phils have been so arb-averse, I wonder if there’s a chance they wouldn’t offer it to Howard (coming off $20M). The market may still be sagging in 2011, and as there may be more players than spots to go around, the Phils may want to be sure they don’t end up paying Howard $24M through arb. Then again, Howard obviously wants the big pay day, so maybe the Phils would offer it, knowing that he would take the years over the annual $$.

  10. Matt

    March 01, 2010 05:00 PM

    One other thing that concerns me is that without Werth we have no right-handed hitter in the middle of a lineup that is rally weak against lefties.
    I’ve actually been on the trading howard bandwagon since last year for the same reasons as Bill has developed here. He just seems like an overvalued commodity what with the extreme power blinding people to his other faults. i mean he is still a great player but he isnt as good as phils fans and everyone else thinks he is.
    Also resigning Werth allows Brown to replace Ibanez instead of Werth, because when Ibanez’s contract runs out we’re gonna have two outfield holes to fill and only one close prospect to fill them (Brown).

  11. Phylan

    March 01, 2010 08:06 PM

    It’s worth pointing out that Utley in 2009 hit .288/.417/.545 against LHP, for an OPS that was 85 points higher than he had against RHP. In his career the split is only 32 points of OPS in favor of RHP. He definitely holds his own against lefties.

  12. Philly Transplant

    March 01, 2010 08:37 PM

    The biggest if of course is trade him for what? Almost everyone agrees they should at least be open to the possibility of trading RH. Heck about the only guy who should be totally offlimits is Chase – as long as he and any 6 of the other field players stay most will still see the Phils as the team to beat. Also, the contract status of Fielder plays a part too because if Prince goes to Boston it kills what many see as one of the few matches for RH – they need LH power and have the money plus are in the AL. And of course they have somethign else that the Phils need: players. If they got Youk (depending on his contract) and 2 high minor leaguers then it would be the right move. If Polanco aces 3B this year, Youk plays first and if he struggles, Youk plays third and the right side is reconfigured. The move is somethign that has to be considered but only made if the deal is right.

  13. Jerxton

    March 02, 2010 09:09 AM

    This analysis reminds me of an economics class discussing capital allocation, risk premia, expected returns on the effecient frontier, etc. All very interesting and somewhat impractical at times. This is fun barroom type chat, but I don’t see this scenario as having even a 1% chance of happening.

    Emotionally, and as just an everyday fan, I’m a bigger fan of Howard. I enjoy his pimp walk after his monster HRs. I enjoy monster HRs. He hits more HRs than Werth, therefore when a Howard AB is coming around I tend to make sure I watch more than anyother Phil. The Phils likely have a 1 or 2 year window with this team, any trades might just be simple band aids if they don’t get some more production from the minors or from a hidden gem already on the bench that hasn’t fully developed yet.

    If Werth was significantly younger than Howard this idea would sway me more. If Werth had done last year a couple more times, I’d be swayed more. If we knew the kind of minor leaguers we could get (which we don’t since we’re not GMs) maybe I’d be swayed more. Maybe at the end of this year we could revise these scenarios, but right now, I don’t see this as happening but 1 out of 1000 scenarios

  14. Dan

    March 02, 2010 10:55 AM

    Final words on RH – we will not trade him because we would not get anything for him unless we ate a lot of his salary. In 2010, he’s projected to be worth about $19.8MM (www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=2154&position=1B) and earn about $19.0MM.

    Next year, he’s going to earn probably another $20, and be worth less. What team in their right minds would trade for that when they can sign Lee for about $10-13MM or Fielder for $15MM or so? There are only so many high dollar teams we could negotiate with, and the Yankees don’t need a 1B. That don’t leave a lot of suitors for RH.

    My concern now is that maybe RAJ might get into a bidding war with himself after next year, and pay RH something close to what he seems to think he’s worth. RH is worth a lot, but he isn’t worth $25MM per year for 4 or 5 years.

    My hope is Werth walks and we get picks. Then RH walks and we get picks. We have Brown start in the OF next year to compensate for Werth, and when RH walks we replace him with a FA who can give us 80% of RH for about $6 or $7MM per year (Dunn is a possibility, I suppose). Use the money saved for other needs.

  15. Tom

    March 02, 2010 12:50 PM

    A few other things to consider:

    1) The revenue each player adds to the team (thereby affecting payroll). I imagine Howard contributes a LOT more.

    2) I think it is safe to say the reason Howard struggles mightily (one of) against lefties is because of the slider. In 07 and 08, Howard avg’d -1.5 runs above avg per 100 pitches. In 09 though, he turned it around to +2.37. This came at the expense of not hitting the fb the same way. I can’t prove it, but I believe history usually follows that these situations are very + for a hitter changing the way he handles certain pitches. My guess is that he returns to crushing the FB and the slider comes in around +1. And as crazy as this sounds, that may actually cause his batting avg to be around .280s.

  16. don

    March 02, 2010 01:31 PM

    Your prior post seems to include the assumption that it will be as easy and cheap to find a 2.4 WAR 3B as a .9 WAR 1B (calling both ‘average’) which strikes me as a little strange. MLB average hitters and fielders at third are a less common than at first.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think that some team will sign Howard to a costly long extension post 2011 and whichever team does that will be making a mistake, so at that level I agree with your reasoning. But having a guy who can play a good to great 2B while hitting like Utley is a huge asset. If you trade Howard, leave Utley where he is and try to bring a cheaper all bat no glove guy to put at first.

  17. Tom

    March 02, 2010 02:20 PM

    Based on Cot’s site, the following are scheduled to hit FA next year:

    Paul Konerko
    Derrek Lee
    Carlos Pena
    Berkman, Ortiz, Pujols have options

    Pena seems to be a pretty interesting option. He has been good for an avg of 4.2 war the last 3 years (07 was an outlier, but 09 battled a babip of .250). Realistically, he’s good for closer to 4 war and is one of the closest in terms of skill set to Howard out there. He has nearly the same power, eye, and fielding skills. He is scheduled to make 10.125m this year (signed a 3yr-24 mil contract after his 07 season). I’m not quite sure what he’s worth in the open market, but I’d venture to say $12-14/yr. By trading Howard and signing Pena, the Phillies would end up netting a bunch of value imo.

    Adam Dunn was another good candidate. He comes in about 3 war if playing 1B and is being paid 12m this year. He might not offer as much value as Pena, but the differences might end up negligible.

  18. schmenkman

    March 03, 2010 07:36 AM

    I hate to admit it but I think it may make sense to trade Howard. And while it’s early to be eulogizing his Phillies career, I will throw out this tidbit as a reminder of how good he has been: Howard gets a lot of opportunities to drive in runs and some people discount his stats somewhat for that, but over the past 3 years, no one in baseball has driven in a higher PERCENTAGE of the runners they are presented than Ryan Howard:

    % of runners on base driven in, 2007-2009 (out of 188 with 750+ PAs):
    1. Ryan Howard 19.1%
    2. Victor Martinez 19.0%
    3. Aramis Ramirez 18.9%
    4. Matt Holliday 18.8%
    5. Joe Mauer 18.4%

    (by the way)
    91. Adam Dunn 15.0%

    And as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Howard has not been helped by CBP. CBP is one of the more fair parks in MLB, consistently boosting scoring by only 3% for the past 3 years (ranking 14th, 15th, and 13th), and while Howard has a slightly higher OPS at home, he has more HRs and RBIs on the road.

  19. Dan

    March 03, 2010 09:14 AM

    schmenkman – Adam Dunn did not drive in as many runs as Howard as % of baserunners, true. The question is why? The answer is easy:

    Walks – RH
    2006 – 108
    2007 – 107
    2008 – 81
    2009 – 75

    Walks – AD
    2006 – 112
    2007 – 101
    2008 – 122
    2009 – 116

    Consequentially, as RH has driven in runs, he’s also made a whole lot of outs, while Dunn has been more content to walk. RH has a higher SLG than Dunn, but a lower OBP. Since most fans value SGL over OBP, he’s considered a vastly superior player to Dunn.

    EQA, which attempts to normalize OBP and Slg, shows that other than his 2006 season, these 2 players have been fairly equal, with Dunns superior OBP negating Howard’s higher SLG.

    Considering that historically, OBP is a skill which lasts longer than SLG, it’s likely that Dunn will have a longer career going forward than Howard (they are about the same age).

  20. schmenkman

    March 03, 2010 09:54 AM

    Dan, points taken (and as a fan I hope Howard winds up on the McCovey/Stargell path, rather than Fielder’s).

    Dunn’s higher walk rates only explain about 1/4 of the difference in % of runners driven in. If you exclude PA’s with walks, and assume that the number of baserunners goes down proportionately, the difference is still 21.9% vs. 18.6% (16-17 runs over a season).

    But you’re absolutely right that he offsets that (at least partly) by being on base more.

  21. Jerxton

    March 03, 2010 08:23 PM

    Dan,
    If I owned a farm I would bet it that Howard has a better, longer, more successful career than Dunn. You are ignoring Defense. Dunn is horrible at first, while Howard is probably average to slightly above average. Why would you want to equalize OBP and SLG from the guy batting 4th it just is not optimal, esp on a team like the Nats.

  22. derekcarstairs

    March 04, 2010 06:01 AM

    Schmenkman – % of runners driven in is an interesting statistic, one more useful than RBIs. I like your tidbit.

    I did some quick calculations and found that Howard came to the plate with 1,482 base runners over the 2007-2009 period (I assumed that homers and runs scored on GIDP don’t count.). That means an average of under 500 base runners per season, and that 1% of runners driven in amounts to 5 runs.

    Howard’s RBIs are noticeably higher than everybody else’s. If you look at % of runners driven, though, Howard is not significantly more productive than players 2 through 5. Where do Pujols, Fielder, ARod, Manny and some of the other sluggers rank?

  23. Dan

    March 04, 2010 09:22 AM

    Jerxton “If I owned a farm I would bet it that Howard has a better, longer, more successful career than Dunn.”

    According to BP, here are Howard’s top comparisons:

    MIKE EPSTEIN 1972 – After 1972 he played in 136 more games his career.

    CECIL FIELDER 1993 – After 1993 Cecil hung aroung another 6 years, accumulating a grand total of 5 WAR over those years, never getting more than 495 ABs, never hitting more than 31 HRs, and his last 3 years he didn’t top 20.

    David Ortiz 2005 – Had a great 2006 and 2007, then has fallen off the table since then.

    JIM GENTILE 1964 – Never played more than 81 games the rest of his (4 year) career.

    WILLIE STARGELL 1969 – Had a long and productive career after 1969!!!!!

    So, we get the top 5 comparables, and the first with a real career longer than 2 years is Stargell. I don’t see 1 in 5 as odds good enough to bet the farm on, but then again I’m not really a gambling man. Maybe you have a good feeling about Howard, and maybe you’re right. But I would not bet the farm, the house, or a dollar that Howard will have a career that will be very productive longer than 2 or 3 more years.

    Frankly, the guy I see Howard most like is Mo Vaughn, who also fell off the table in his early 30s. Hope I’m wrong in all this, but the magic 8 ball says “All signs point to….no!”

  24. Bill Baer

    March 04, 2010 10:31 AM

    I would definitely not compare Ryan Howard to Mo Vaughn. Willie Stargell is a great comparison in my opinion, but I may be biased.

  25. Dan

    March 04, 2010 10:49 AM

    Bill, I hope you’re right, too, as Stargell was one of the best players of his generation. He was primarily an outfielder until late in his career, which implies more athleticism than Howard, but his batting skills were failry similar to RH’s, so who knows?

    All I know is that given his declining OBP and his defensive position, the second Howard can’t hit 30 or more HRs a year, he’s toast.

  26. MplsPhilliesFan

    March 04, 2010 11:09 AM

    Personally, I hope that the Phillies are able to re-sign Howard for a reasonable contract (say 3 years at 20 million per year), but I do no think that is a likely outcome. Much like Jayson Werth, I think both players would like to test the free agent market, and negotiate long term deals above what the Phillies would be willing to pay.

    Trading Werth this year would be foolish (unless the Phils find themselves out of the pennant race in which case the possibility shoudl be considered), so it comes down to does RAJ feel he can match what Ryan might be able to receive on the free agent market (recognizing that neither Boston nor the Yankees will be bidding on Ryan might depress his value slightly) or what type of prospects they would be looking to acquire should he be traded.

    Outfield is a position of strength in the minor leagues, as is pitching in the lower levels, so RAJ would probably look at teams that have farm systems strong with middle infielders or catchers. The team that trades for Howard would also be looking to sign him, which would cost a significant amount, thus eliminating teams like the Pirates or Marlins (and the Marlins also are disqualified for being in the same division).

    They probably do not want to trade within the NL, one because they do not want to face Howard regularly, but also because even in a best case scenario (and I would agree that a Stargell type career is a best outcome) he will transition to a DH role within a couple of years. The two most likely teams that RAJ should explore trading Howard to would be the Texas Rangers and the Baltimore Orioles. Both have a need for a marquee name, have finances to add a top talent (or Texas will, once the Hicks sale is complete), and the farm system to trade the young talent the Phillies need, especially in the infield.

  27. Jerxton

    March 04, 2010 11:36 AM

    Dan, you are changing my words around. U said: “But I would not bet the farm, the house, or a dollar that Howard will have a career that will be very productive longer than 2 or 3 more years.” I only was responding to your claim that Dunn would be better than howard. Are u now backing off saying Dunn will be better?

  28. Dan

    March 04, 2010 01:15 PM

    Jerxton – nope, I thought your basic point was that RH would have a long and productive career, which I doubt based on his comparables.

    For some reason, I can’t pull up Dunn’s comparables on BP but I could pull up RH, which is why I focused on him. FWIW, according to Bill James, AD is projected to have a line of .389 OBP and .518 SLG, with a wOBA of .391 in 2009.

  29. Mike G

    March 05, 2010 02:32 PM

    When considering releasing or trading an individual, one must, of course, consider the obvious statistics to evaluate the pros/cons of such action. With that said, it has become apparent to me that getting rid of Ryan Howard is not only a bad move — it’s a senseless move.

    How and where do you project we replace 45+ homeruns and 140+ rbi’s? I’m sure I don’t have to educate all of you statisticians on the probable outcome of acquiring another guys with that kind of power — the man is prodigious.

    Also, having a man of his stature in the middle of the lineup protects the Utley’s, Werth’s, Ibanez’s, etc. Yes, those guys are very good hitters with or without Ryan Howard, however I argue that the pitches they see are influenced — in some degree — by having the big guy in there.

    Bottom line: He plays a low-risk position for injury, he can hit for power, he’s left-handed, and a long ball threat every time he is in the batter’s box.

    The guy should be a Phillie for life.

  30. Mark

    March 05, 2010 02:55 PM

    I highly doubt the Phillies will base a decision of this magnitude off of secondary stats such as “walk rate” or “OPS v. LHP”. Better yet, I doubt they would base this decision off of speculations.

    “I can’t prove it, but I think intuitively players with more skills age better.”

    Really, great manipulation of statistics that you claim to use so well.

    With a couple outfield prospects in the system, it’s much easier to replace Werth in the outfield. Moving Utley to first base everyday is not an option, and Ibanez most likely won’t be a phillie after the following season anyway. I’m with Mike G… as long as Howard puts up 140+ rbi’s and 45+ home runs his value is unmatched. It is, in my opinion, incorrect to sell the rest of Howard’s career after the 2010 season.

  31. derekcarstairs

    March 05, 2010 07:14 PM

    I am not against trading Howard for good value. I just don’t think the Phils would get a good major-league-ready package in return, either through a trade or by signing cheaper free agents.

    If the Phils trade Howard, they need a power bat at first, but the rest of the every-day lineup is settled for the next two years (assuming Brown replaces Ibanez). So, if the Phils could get a decent power bat to play first and a quality SP to go along with Halladay and Hamels, I might trade Howard.

    The Red Sox would not make this trade, but if the Phils could get a Jon Lester and a Kevin Youkilis for Howard, I would make the deal. Unfortunately, I don’t think other teams would value Howard so highly that they would give up such young, cheaper talent.

  32. Bill Baer

    March 06, 2010 12:42 AM

    @ Mike G

    Last year, Howard contributed 35.6 batting runs according to FanGraphs. Since 2006, he has averaged 37.5 batting runs. Last year, that ranked 18th in the Majors. That’s very good, but it’s not “prodigious” as you say.

    When you consider that Howard is an average to a very slightly above-average defender at a non-premium position, his value is a lot less than is perceived.

    I’m sure you’ve heard it before but RBI are a poor method of evaluating offensive talent as they are determined more by the player’s spot in the lineup and the OBP and speed of the hitters ahead of him.

    As for protection, that is a myth. There has been no evidence that a good hitter protects hitters behind him.

    See: www.sabernomics.com/sabernomics/index.php/2004/09/the-protection-externality-it-doesnt-exist/

    @ Mark

    Really, great manipulation of statistics that you claim to use so well.

    How is that a manipulation? I clearly stated that I did not know whether or not my statement held true. It’s up to you to agree or disagree with it. Clearly, you disagree but neither of us has any evidence to our case so it’s rather silly to get flustered about it.

    However, I do think — without readily-available data — that it makes intuitive sense that a player with more than one primary skill (like Werth) will age better than a player with just one primary skill (like Howard).

    When Howard’s bat speed slows down, when his eyes can’t pick up the speed and spin on pitches as quickly, etc. his one skill — his bat — will become useless and then what use will he have to a team? He’s not a great defender whether we’re talking about range, the ability to catch the ball cleanly, or making throws. He won’t hit for average, and he plays a non-premium position.

    On the other hand, when Werth experiences the symptoms mentioned above — slow bat, bad eyesight — he will still have use as a great base runner, as an above-average defender with range and a great arm, etc.

    With a couple outfield prospects in the system, it’s much easier to replace Werth in the outfield.

    It’s not quite as simple as that. Werth is just as valuable as Howard and projects better going forward. If you have the ability to retain Werth — even at the expense of Howard, unless Howard is willing to give the Phillies a big discount — you do it.

    Domonic Brown, as hyped-up as he is, is still an unknown quantity. You don’t make personnel decisions at the Major League level making assumptions that you will replace a 4.5 WAR player with a prospect.

    as long as Howard puts up 140+ rbi’s and 45+ home runs his value is unmatched.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t true when you take into account his defense and his position. Werth is just as valuable as Howard and projects better.

    @ Derek

    Howard for Lester + Youkilis will never happen. Maybe if Dayton Moore was at the helm, but not with Theo Epstein.

    However, I do agree with you that the Red Sox match up best with the Phillies, but the availability of Adrian Gonzalez may suppress the value the Phillies can get out of Howard a bit.

  33. Mike G

    March 08, 2010 03:47 PM

    “Last year, Howard contributed 35.6 batting runs according to FanGraphs. Since 2006, he has averaged 37.5 batting runs. Last year, that ranked 18th in the Majors. That’s very good, but it’s not “prodigious” as you say.”

    That’s a fair statistic — one that I was unaware of, to be honest. I acknowledge your fair in Werth’s projections, however I ask you to lend an ear for my following argument.

    According to a recent Phillies article, Howard saw left-handed pitchers in 35.8 percent of his plate appearances; Howard also got a breaking ball 39.7 percent of the time. For a guy to continue to produce with the same level of power that he does — considering the pitch selection — I think he is more than worth having around.

    Bat slowing down? Yes, in time. Pitchers slow down, too, but they learn to redevelop pitches and command the strike zone. Frank Thomas is a nice, recent example of power over a prolonged period of time. Howard is ahead of Thomas, in my opinion.

    As previously stated, we can certainly use Howard. As for the protection in the lineup being a “myth,” I respectfully disagree.

  34. Mark

    March 08, 2010 03:51 PM

    It is common for players like Howard to move to the AL at an older age to become a DH, so I’m not too worried about Howard losing bat speed or having vision problems. I feel players usually lose their speed before their ability to hit.

    Though his throwing errors are absolutely mind blowing and frustrating, you are right that he doesn’t play a premium position. Not condoning his poor throwing, but because of his position he is not as big a liability in the field as his errors suggest.

    Obviously this is a good topic to debate from either view and I would love to keep both guys, but with the make-up of our farm system right now I think it would be hard to let Howard go in favor of Werth.

  35. Bill Baer

    March 09, 2010 07:15 AM

    @Mike G

    Howard saw left-handed pitchers in 35.8 percent of his plate appearances; Howard also got a breaking ball 39.7 percent of the time.

    This is actually an argument against Howard continuing to produce at such a high level. See above in my article:

    Howard has performed gradually worse against left-handed pitchers and he’s been seeing them gradually more — a bad trend:

    2006: 225 PA vs LHP, .923 OPS
    2007: 246 PA vs LHP, .826 OPS
    2008: 265 PA vs LHP, .746 OPS
    2009: 252 PA vs LHP, .653 OPS
    Howard’s walk rate has also decreased from 16.5% in 2007 to 11.6% in ‘08 to 10.7% in ‘09.

    As for the protection in the lineup being a “myth,” I respectfully disagree.

    It’s not really something you can disagree with. There has been no statistical evidence that the concept of “protection” exists.

    If you can provide some conclusive statistical evidence I am more than willing to change my stance but this has been studied by many smart people and they have all concluded that it doesn’t exist at any significant level.

    @ Mark

    but because of his position he is not as big a liability in the field as his errors suggest.

    He’s compared to a less competent group of fielders (first basemen). Among his peers at first base, he’s an average to slightly above-average fielder. Howard is not a liability by any means but his glove his not a sterling attribute.

  36. Dan

    March 09, 2010 05:03 PM

    Bill: “It’s not really something you can disagree with. There has been no statistical evidence that the concept of “protection” exists.”

    Reminds me of the quote: You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts! Keep putting the facts out there, maybe someday the idea of protection will be as dead as the idea that walks don’t matter is now.

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