Year in Review: Ryan Howard – Phillies Nation
2009 Year in Review

Year in Review: Ryan Howard

Over the next few weeks, Phillies Nation will break down each player on the Phillies roster and grade their 2009 season on a very unofficial 1-10 scale.  The players will be chosen in no particular order.

Philadelphia Phillies' Ryan Howard leaves the batting cage during baseball practice, Monday, Oct. 26, 2009, in Philadelphia. The Phillies face the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the Major League Baseball World Series on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009, in New York. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)Big Brown.  The Big Piece.  Ryno.  The Big Man.  Call him what you will; it doesn’t really matter.  The dude continues to rake no matter what his nickname is.

Ryan Howard has launched himself into super-stardom, and it’s not because of his Subway commercials.  His four straight seasons of 40-plus homers and 135-plus RBI will do that to a player.  Offensively, he is a juggernaut and provided he stays healthy, the Phillies should be able to enjoy this for many more years.

Defensively, Howard made strides toward becoming a more complete player, although there are still some issues with his fielding.  His errors dropped from 19 to 14  after losing approximately 30 pounds in the off-season prior to ’09. His newfound range on the diamond was apparent from the get-go.  Howard does struggle with the relay to second base on certain throws, and at times has lapses on seemingly simple plays, however, he’s no longer being called a DH.

During the regular season, his numbers once again held steady.  A .279 batting average was a pleasant surprise, especially after many believed he would never trend back toward his MVP-season figure (.313).  He launched 45 homers, knocked in 141 runs, and even stole eight bases.  His doubles jumped from 26 in 2008 to 37 in 2009, a sign that he is moving away from being a “three true outcomes” player.  His 75 walks were tied for 16th in the National League, so a little more selectivity next season would certainly be welcome.

In the playoffs, we saw two different players.  We saw the Ryan Howard that can easily carry a franchise on his broad shoulders.  We also witnessed the transformation from NLCS MVP into World Series goat.  Through the first two postseason rounds, Howard knocked home a ridiculous 14 runs, and in the process tied a record by doing it in eight straight games.  Hot.  Six games later, Howard was mired in a 4-for-23 World Series slump and fingers were being pointed toward him as to why the Phillies lost.  Cold.

There’s not much you can complain about with Ryan Howard.  You know exactly what you will get from him year to year.  He’ll give you jacks, he’ll give you some palpitations defensively, and he’ll strike out a whole bunch. When he gets hot, he’s a veritable sunburst.  When he gets cold, it’s like hell freezing over for a week or two at a time.

Looking past the numbers, Ryan Howard is downright durable. He’s played in 625 of a possible 648 games over his four full major league seasons.  It would be wise for the Phillies to get a respectable backup first baseman to give him a breather on occasion, since the games played are adding up.  Still, it’s nice to know you have a consistent, powerful first baseman that will be there every single day.

Ryan Howard has been, and will be, beloved in Philadelphia as long as he is in red pinstripes.  Was a hell of a year for the Big Guy, or Big Piece, or whatever you want to call him.

2009 numbers: 160 games, .279 avg., 172 H, 45 HR, 141 RBI, 105 R, .931 OPS

GRADE: 9/10 – The only thing keeping Howard from being a “10” is the defensive liabilities, and penchant for strikeouts.

Pat Gallen can be reached via email at



  1. The Dipsy

    November 8, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Um, Pat, respectfully, Ryan Howard is TRULY amazing when you consider that he amassed his stats in the equivalent of about 130 games, this comprising the amount of AB’s against RHPs. While I love Ryan, his performance against lefties is disgusting and shameful. What makes it worse is that its so obvious that he can do better, because he has. And if for some reason you can’t, just don’t swing against them and let Jayson drive you in. THAT’S why he sucked in the series….no righties to bat against. Don’t tell me I have to accept is .208 average LHPs because I don’t. I believe he will work to make himself better in this area.

    The Dipsy

  2. Pat Gallen

    November 8, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Wow, the Dipsy makes an appearance. Ryan Howard is not on the level of Albert Pujols, which is who gets a 10 year in and year out. Thats who I based this 10 scale on.

    He needs to work on his left handed approach, and I should have mentioned that. But how many 1B;s would you rather have, honestly? Not too many.

  3. Cris

    November 8, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I have no quarrel with the grade and there certainly aren’t too many 1st basemen I would trade the big piece for. I was really pleased to see him work on his fielding this off season and in spring training. It really showed a commitment to the team and his game. I am surprised his errors didn’t drop by more. But I’ll bet his assists also went up, although that’s probably a tougher stat for 1st baseman (just guessing there). You also neglected to mention his base running. No J-Roll he, but it did seem his base running improved this year over last. I know I saw some Howard doubles in ’09 that would have been singles in ’08 and I see too recall at least one triple that would probably have been a double last year. His steals probably improved, too (from 0 or 1 to 1 or 2, but still, improvement in an area many power hitters just wouldn’t bother with. This off season, I’d love to see him learn to hit to the left side of the field and, of course, to hit left handed pitching. As bad as he is in those too areas, can you imagine if he just improved a little bit? I’m guessing no one has to tell Howard where he needs work and I’m also guessing he will put it the work he needs to improve. I hope we get to watch him in a Phillies uniform for a long, long, time.

  4. Repeat

    November 8, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Once again the angry wack jobs are out in full force.

    1. Who carried this team in September when Chase and just about the entire O was in a huge slump and chocking away the Div?

    2. Who rightfully won the 2009 NLCS MVP?

    3. How many WS has Howard played in? Same as Albert 2. Both are now 1-1.

    4. What did Jimmy “big mouth”/Vic do in the WS compared to Jeter/Damons?

    Stop going nuts. Howard had a rough WS, but so did RAUUL for the most part, especially so for Rollins, Victorino. Imagine what this O might have done even in Game 6 of the WS if Charlie moves the lineup around. Why was Ruiz batting 9th. Charlie was great for going with the hot hand in 2008. But he was “Deer in Headlightes”/too nice&too loyal in 2009 WS.

    Obviously Alberty is the better all around player. But the gap isn’t as “ocean-wide” as some of you nuts seemed to fantasize about. Check Albert’s WS numbers… Especially 2006 when they won.

    Losing the WS hurts and there’s always plenty of blame to go around. But don’t acting like Ryan Howard was the only one. He carried this team. Someone else should’ve stepped up. Chase/Werth did. But when the 1/2 guys in your order do nothing you’re not going to win. Period!

    -Also- Is it also Ryan’s fault that Cole did not get himself ready for the season? Or that this same guy didn’t man-up and pitch Game 6 on 3day’s rest instead of watching empty-tank Pedro pitch away our season instead?

  5. Pat Gallen

    November 8, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Repeat, am I the whack job? Or was that meant for others?

    This review was about Ryan Howard. If you’ll notice, it doesnt have anything to do with Shane, Jimmy, or Cole.

    You could have looked at all the positives written in this post. Like how consistent he is, how durable he is, how is defense was much better. But you decided to go with the negatives. Oh well.

  6. Repeat

    November 8, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Chill out Pat…. That post wasn’t for you dude……. It was for the Dipsy!

  7. Repeat

    November 8, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    I thought your article was pretty fair on point…

  8. Pat Gallen

    November 8, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Repeat, I’m chill. Just was asking. I was surprised by Dipsy’s breakdown too. On one hand he’s this TRULY amazing player. On the other, he’s a joke because of his hitting against left handers. Kind of odd.

  9. dudley monk

    November 8, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    This was an excellent post about Ryan Howard — honest and accurate. Damn good job. The trouble with frequent contributors to any post is that they are zealots. They tend to look at the world in a less-than-objective manner. I myself am guilty of this. We need to give some of us a good nerve pill so we can chill. Keep up the good work. Negative people, though no fun at all, sometimes make things interesting and they do bring out some good points. Ryan Howard is a great ballplayer. What is amazing is that he posts all those numbers and has room to improve. SCARY for the opponents.

  10. joedad

    November 8, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    He could have a Bonds-like season (steroid era) if he figures out how to hit lefties. In fact, with the protection in front and behind him, he could have a BETTER season.

    Howard’s .200 average against lefties is a big knock against him. Late in a game, a tough lefty reliever can make him look mortal. The best 1st baseman has roughly equal stats against lefties and righties.

    Howard is a special player. His career September and October stats are amazing and shows he is among the top clutch players in history. His problem is that he is compared to Pujols who may be one of the top 10 offensive players ever when all is said and done. Pujols is the only player I would consider trading Howard for.

  11. joedad

    November 8, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    From the Phils website: Phillies decline option on Feliz
    Club will continue talking with 34-year-old third baseman

  12. bflaff

    November 8, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Ryan Howard is a special player, no question. The guy has off the charts power and can change any game with one swing. Without him, the Phillies are hurt significantly. That said, Howard’s approach at the plate can still be improved. That’s not a knock on him so much as a recognition that he can get even better. If he could improve his performance against lefties to even a mediocre level, without losing his awesome numbers against righties, he’d be devastating.

  13. badburn

    November 8, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Here’s the thing about Ryan Howard, we all know that he has not yet reached his true potential level of greatness, although many players never do. See Brett Myers.

    On the surface, I thought he had an above average year for what could have been. He absolutely needs to put the ball in play more with RISP and if he were to do that he could easily have 165 RBIs in a season.

    Yet, when you crunch his numbers, he still scored 100+ runs and had 141 RBIs. Moreover, he exceeded his career best extra base totals, 37 2Bs, 4 3Bs, and 45 HRs. In most years, 86 extra base hits would assure a person an MVP, which goes to show what an exceptional year Albert Puhols had.

    But, in any event, coming off a painful loss and a disappointing World Series performance, less public appearances in tyhe off season, more time to rest and prepare, I fully expect next year to be “the year” for Ryan Howard. You heard it hear first.

  14. The Dipsy

    November 8, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    I love Ryan. He is truly a great hitter. The point I was trying to make is that, while his hitting is remarkable, it could be more so (easily) if he would simply make what I feel (as a layman) are simple adjustments in his approach from the left side (simply employing more discipline). I AM asking more from Ryan because the capacity to do so is well within his reach. I understand that it is odd to most that asking the best power hitter in the game to become better sounds unrealistic and unappreciative. Ryan can and SHOULD hit better than .208 against LHP. He was a better hitter in 2005-2006 when the notion of plate discipline wasn’t merely an afterthought. Can you feel me? That said…go Ryan.

    The Dipsy

    The Dipsy

  15. Repeat

    November 8, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    If Howard improves against lefties he would be illegal…. Imagine of the big piece was a right… Scary… Unfortunately until he ups those numbers, which he was on track to do even thru Game 1 of the WS until he pressed too much.

    My big ? going into next beside the recent update on Feliz is Jimmy Rollins. Is this guy ever going to up his On base%. After his 2nd cons meek WS performance that pretty froze our O the public’s patience is wearing very thin(Game 4 vs Dodgers with standing).

  16. Repeat

    November 8, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    I meant until he does he will continue to be streaky.

  17. Tracey

    November 9, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Regarding Howard’s fielding: just tremendously improved this year, and I’m surprised to see the error numbers as high as they are. Howard has been much more ambitious with his fielding, and perhaps some of those errors are coming up when his reach exceeds his grasp.

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