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.

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16 comments

  1. George Callanan

    May 29, 2014 08:26 AM

    If Howard does what he has done his last two starts there is hope. The Phillies are only four games back. If is the big word. Time will tell I hope if becomes actual . He has played better in warm weather over his career. As the weather gets hotter maybe Ryan will too.

  2. bubba0101

    May 29, 2014 08:31 AM

    Howard is notorious for heating up through summer. If he can reproduce this trend even moderately, he should have his best year since 2011. Its still not worth the 25Mil hes getting but its a small consolation.

  3. Alex Riley - Hitter's Count

    May 29, 2014 08:33 AM

    Gotta take 4 from the Mets. And Howard has to hit two in the series.

    LESSSGGGOOOOO!!!

  4. Duane

    May 29, 2014 12:57 PM

    I’ll take replacement level for now. A lot better than negative WAR.

    • Greg

      June 03, 2014 10:35 AM

      I hear that, but its sad that we’re okay with a guy getting $25 mil replacement level player. I’m not going to bury Howard though, I respect that he’s playing with integrity when I feel like some juice could get him back to his 07-08 self.

  5. Mitre

    May 29, 2014 01:37 PM

    We’ve seen two signs of the apocalypse- Ben Revere hitting a home run and Ryan Howard hitting a home run off a left hander. (actually not nearly as rare as the former)
    Since 2008 Howard has done this vs lefties
    ab h so avg obp slg ops
    1055 231 404 0.219 0.275 0.403 0.677
    The Big Whiff strikes out about 35% of the time vs lefties. In his defense he somehow hit 47 homeruns during that period too. Nevertheless he’s worse than Carlos Pena vs lefties who long ago became a platoon player looking for a job.

  6. Richard

    May 29, 2014 03:43 PM

    Good info to consider. Only thing I’d quibble with is this sentence:

    “This is Howard’s first attempt at a completely healthy season since 2011…”

    I don’t think Howard’s been completely healthy since 2009.

    • Bill Baer

      May 29, 2014 04:46 PM

      He sprained his ankle — the same side as the Achilles he would rupture — in 2010, so you’re right, but they weren’t catastrophic, career-altering injuries the way his ruptured Achillies and meniscus tear were.

      • Richard

        May 29, 2014 09:20 PM

        Oh, I wasn’t making any commentary on that.

        Except… surely they are related?

  7. dang

    May 29, 2014 04:09 PM

    Ryan Howard is older. He is not as strong as he used to be.

    Here are his average fly ball distances in feet going back to 2007 –
    2007 – 320.60 (1st)
    2008 – 314.61 (4th)
    2009 – 313.21 (3rd)
    2010 – 297.33 (65th)
    2011 – 307.40 (5th)
    2012 – 304.52 (10th)
    2013 – 292.92 (43rd)
    2014 – 288.88 (65th)

    Unless he drives the ball farther, those balls aren’t going to leave the yard.

    • crow

      May 29, 2014 04:32 PM

      Interesting stat.

  8. Joecatz

    May 29, 2014 07:18 PM

    Bill I agree with everything you have to say here. that said, sometimes we just need to enjoy a home run if that makes sense. Especially in a mediocre season like this.

    Also, for the lefty theorists out there, Howard is now 4-6 vs Logan lifetime. He just hits him very well.

    • Bill Baer

      May 29, 2014 07:54 PM

      People come here for objective analysis of the Phillies. I’m not going to postpone writing about something, especially if it’s timely, because people want a couple extra minutes to forget that Ryan Howard is still kinda bad.

      • Jesse

        May 29, 2014 09:28 PM

        It is sometimes possible to be objective and still enjoy the good times. We all know Howard is a mediocre player with a ceiling (unlikely to be reached) of average at this point in his career. Still nice to see him hit one out, though.

  9. Major Malfunction

    May 30, 2014 12:13 PM

    The other day he hit a long HR to right center, about 10 rows deep and almost into the bullpen. Watching the replay of the swing, I was amazed by 2 things.

    One, he never appeared to have any movement of this front foot. Two, based off of #1 observation, I can’t believe how far he hit the ball. If you look at this walk off HR linked by the article, you can see he squares his foot to the pitcher before the pitcher even delivers the ball and that’s it. That’s his stride. He seems to be developing all his power by his upper body. Could this swing be a result of all the leg injuries the last couple of years? I don’t know where to look up older videos of his swings to see if there is any difference.

    So while he generated the needed distance, I would concur with the other post about fly ball distance. How can he generate HRs consistently if hes not transferring his weight AT ALL during a swing? While forward stride does not automatically equal increase in power, you need a decisive weight transfer to generate power.

    Am I wrong on this observation?

  10. AP

    May 31, 2014 09:25 AM

    He stands as far away from the plate as any in MLB. Am I missing something or should he alter his position in the batter’s for better plate coverage?

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