Despite Walk-Off Homer, Ryan Howard Still Isn’t Back
Ending what at many points appeared to be another signed, sealed, and delivered frustrating loss for the Phillies, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard teamed up to hang a four-spot on the Colorado Rockies in the bottom of the ninth inning. Howard blasted a walk-off three-run home run to left field off of lefty reliever Boone Logan.
Howard also had an RBI single earlier in the game, giving him four RBI on the night — the most he has driven in a game since, well, Monday.
While Howard’s nine home runs and 34 RBI — three and 13 of which, respectively, have come against left-handed pitchers — are nice, the first baseman’s numbers are still well below where they should be, even compared to himself over his past two injury-plagued seasons. Wednesday night’s effort brought his OPS up to .756 and his isolated power up to .197, very similar to last year’s .784 and .199, respectively. In 2012, he was at .718 and .204, respectively. This is Howard’s first attempt at a completely healthy season since 2011 but his numbers still aren’t there yet.
By weighted on-base average, Howard’s .324 mark ranks 21st out of 29 Major League first basemen (min. 150 plate appearances). The league average is .340.
There are a couple of good signs: Howard is drawing walks at a ten percent clip, his highest rate since 2011. And he’s striking out at a 28 percent clip, his lowest rate since 2011. Howard is also hitting a ton of fly balls. His 42 percent fly ball rate is his highest since 2007.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t have 2007 power anymore, as his conversion rate of turning fly balls into home runs, presently at 17 percent, is ten percent below his career average and nearly 15 percent below 2007′s rate.
That’s not to say that a 17 percent HR/FB is bad — the league average is ten percent — but Howard needs to find the outfield fence on a more frequent basis if he is ever going to find himself above the 50th percentile for first basemen between now and the end of his contract. As of right now, he is passably productive offensively and a defensive burden, making him essentially a replacement-level first baseman.