Ryan Howard, 1B (LHB)
2008: 610 AB / 105 R / 48 HR / 146 RBI / 81 BB / 199 SO / 1 SB / .251 AVG / .339 OBP / .543 SLG
Summary: As usual, Ryan Howard had a monster season in production, driving in 146 to lead the major leagues. But that total came with lessened averages across the board, especially a .339 on-base mark that was down from 2007’s .392. From that standpoint, 2008 was Howard’s worst full season yet. Still, Howard worked on his opposite-field hitting, which improved, as Howard hit over 40 percent of balls outside the strike zone, his best mark yet. Interestingly, he hit as many ground balls as he did in his MVP 2006 season, but one can attribute his sunken average to pull grounders hit into the shift. And his on-base percentage? Fewer walks. Defensively Howard had a poor season, committing 19 errors at first base. Still, he made many tough plays and spread himself across the position. Many of his blunders came from misjudging throw lengths.
Career Level: Prime 2 (Year 2)
Green Flags: As Howard improves hitting the other way, he might be able to cut down on shift grounders, which would help his average. … Howard’s K-rate was down respectfully from 37 in 2007 to 32 percent in 2008. … Howard remains in his prime, and is still one of the game’s most feared power hitters. He will hit home runs and drive in runners. … Howard has been working on his defense with Scott Proefrock.
Red Flags: The batting average dropped so low that it has caused much concern; likely, it’ll take adjustments for Howard to bring it up. … As Howard nears 30, comparisons to worn-out sluggers of the past will grow. … Howard’s numbers against left-handed pitching didn’t improve. … He remains a poor defensive hitter … and a poor defensive player, period.
Prognostication: Most projections see Howard duplicating his 2008 success, but with a slight less power and a slight more smarts. This projection might be even more radical, with Howard raising his average to respectable levels while keeping his slugging mark down a tad. It’s difficult to bet against a 45+ home run season from Howard, and as long as he plays much of the season, he should accomplish that mark.
2009 Projection: 594 AB / 96 R / 45 HR / 141 RBI / 89 BB / 190 SO / 0 SB / .277 AVG / .381 OBP / .567 SLG