Phillies Player Review: Ryan Howard – Phillies Nation
2012 Player Reviews

Phillies Player Review: Ryan Howard

2012 may have been Ryan Howard's rock bottom.

I’d like to preface this post by saying I’m a Ryan Howard supporter. He’s often the center of debate in this region, and I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt in most instances. That needed to be said. Because what you’re about to read is going to be a harsh evaluation for one of the Phillies’ highest paid players.

Without question, 2012 was Ryan Howard‘s most trying in the big leagues. From the beginning of Spring Training, when Howard suffered a setback during the healing of his torn Achilles tendon, it seemed the stars were aligned against the man Charlie Manuel has become fond of calling The Big Piece.

He was absent for the first half of the season. When he finally did make his debut on July 6, his team was 9 games under .500 and 13 games back in the division, settling into the cellar nicely, five games behind the fourth place Marlins.

At that time, Howard was seen as a beacon of hope. His presence would surely stabilize a lineup that had been wrought with inconsistency, and his power and run production would help the team to turn things around. The Phils were getting their best run producer back for a second half push.

And, for the most part, that’s what happened. The Phillies did make a second half push. They turned it around and played themselves into contention for the second wild card spot in September. They played crisper, more energetic baseball and posted 44 wins after the All Star break. Everything had gone as planned. Except Howard wasn’t really apart of the change in direction. The Phils righted themselves because of guys like Kevin Frandsen and Erik Kratz–players who stepped up and probably played a little above their heads down the stretch. Howard was generally nowhere to be found.

The numbers tell an ugly story.

In 260 at bats out of the four hole, Howard posted career lows in average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage (.219/.295/.423), along with OPS (.718) and OPS+ (91). He walked at an all time low percentage (his walk rate was 8.6%) for a season where he’s had at least 50 AB. His more advanced statistics are equally bad. Howard had a .303 wOBA (down from .381 for his career), a 87 wRC+ and a .204 ISO (all career lows).

Actually the term career low turns up all over Howard’s stat charts. In fact, the only statistic where Howard topped his career high is one where career highs are a bad thing: Strikeout rate (33.9%).

Howard did shine  in one area. Of his 57 hits, 14 of them were home runs. He also managed to drive in 56 runs in 71 games, something that I believe can largely be attributed to the fact the Howard hit .329 with RISP. And that’s really the only silver lining here. As bad as Howard was, he still managed to find ways to come through when it counted most–in the clutch (sabers everywhere shudder at the suggestion).

Still, there’s really no way to spin this as a positive season for Howard. It was nowhere near the realm of good. His -1.0 WAR on Fangraphs ranked him in the bottom ten among players with a minimum of 290 plate appearances. It was that bad.

His abridged season came to end, perhaps mercifully, on September 27 when he broke his toe by dropping a weighted pole on his foot standing in the on deck circle. It was an ending to his season so poetic, so indicative of how the year had gone for him, it was almost humorous. The perfect finale to an abysmal season.

Grade: D I don’t like giving Howard such a poor grade, but his play this season warrants it. The only reason it’s not an F is because of his very small sample size (292 PAs). I also don’t think he deserves an F because we can’t know just how much his Achilles heel affected him. While he maintained that he was healthy, he certainly appeared to be hampered by the lame hoof. I do think Howard can put this behind him, come back healthy next season and try to rediscover the player he used to be. Still owed $95M on his current contract, the Phillies are counting on it.



  1. TheDipsy

    October 13, 2012 at 9:14 am

    I will frame my issue:

    “Do the facts that he is so highly paid, so well thought of by fans, and such a prolific home run hitter, provide a basis grounded is sound baseball reason, to keep Ryan Howard in the 4 hole against lefties?”

    I like Ryan Howard. I do. He’s a nice guy. He hustles. But he is a complete waste against left handed pitchers. That said, I understand the man makes 25m a year. I don’t begrudge him for that and its not the point, well it is only in so far as the manager, and the FO, feel compelled to try and justify his value by keeping him in he four hole. If you like window dressing I guess he can stay there.

    The fact of the matter is tat Ryan can’t hit lefties and has shown no willingness to try. I have seen obvious signs of a batting approach where he will A) take more pitches from lefties so he can get in a fastball count (which is the only pitch he could ever hit off a LHP) or B) lay off the slop they throw on the outside corner. Dude, just eliminate that side of the plate for breaking balls against LHP. Is it so hard? You wanna pull everything so you’re not gonna hit that pitch anyway so stop trying.

    Ryan Howard cannot hit left handed pitching. A lot of lefties can’t. Get him down in the 6 hole against lefties and put Chooch in the 4 hole against righties, or someone else that we find in the off season. Jimmy would be more efective there. Just do it. Are you afraid he’s going to get angry? Tough sh!t. You’rea pro – go count all that money until you come up with a way to improve to the point where you are merely “below average” against LHP. I would take that.

    The Dipsy

  2. TheDipsy

    October 13, 2012 at 9:17 am

    *NOT seen obvious signs of a batting approach

    The Dipsy

  3. Ken Bland

    October 13, 2012 at 9:34 am

    “As bad as Howard was, he still managed to find ways to come through when it counted most–in the clutch.”

    I I don’t believe you’re remiss to acknowledge some credit for an ability to step up in clutch type situations, but it’s not quite that simple. The defense positions so differently when this guy bats with empty versus occupied bases. I’m no fan of his strikeout rate, but if the shift was voided when he batted with empty bases, or better still, if he adjusted to it, his overall digits might take a good amount of the impatience RyHo draws from observors. To me, that’s a larger factor than his ability to hit in the clutch. But he’s got a knack for it. And no matter what statiistical evidence there is that nullifies clutch thinking, it’s a fact of life that hitters hit differently with men on than not, and some degree of that individuality still has a place in assessing player performances.

    • Ryne Duren

      October 13, 2012 at 9:48 am

      hey there ken! good points made. if you remember ken howard hit lefty’s decently when he first came up. i notice that after that allstar HR derby that he won he changed his approach. he tried to pull everything. i think charlie had something to do with that. what are your thoughts? i also remember that he jit over .300 or close to it the first few years. and he used to bop almost half of his homers to left-left ctr. not so much the last few years. thoughts?

      • Ken Bland

        October 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm

        You could say he hit .300 twice, because .288 is reasonably close. And I suspect that management has at times steered him toward the thinking that he’s paid to drive in runs.
        Concentration on that, assuming it’s true, has led to a fair amount of frustration when he’s cold, but you really can’t say it’s a total failure. Being on the sidelines, it’s a little hard for me to understand a semblance of compromise, but that’s easy for me to say.

      • schmenkman

        October 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm

        I don’t think management steered him towards worrying less about his batting average. I believe his average fell because teams started employing the shift.

        Also, the last time I looked at the stats, they showed that he hits the ball the other way as much as he ever has.

      • chuck schreiber

        October 13, 2012 at 8:41 pm

        Schmenk, but not against the shift. He’s always tries to hit through the shift instead of just getting his bat on the ball toward left field. He’d probably hit another 40 to 60 points if he just hit toward left against the shift.

      • schmenkman

        October 13, 2012 at 11:18 pm

        Sure. Apparently he decided, rightly or wrongly, that he’ll have better success overall if he doesn’t try to change his batting style in those situations.

  4. Ryne Duren

    October 13, 2012 at 9:34 am

    ryan i’m with you pal. i’m a howard supporter. i was always a supporter with many complaints also. until last years achillies injury. i will complain no more! why? cause even though he has some offense problems (which i think can be corrected once charlies gone) i will never complain again no matter what for his guts . by that i mean, when he blew out his achillies he initially hobbled then in my eyes he did what many players would not do! he tried his damnest to continue to run! but the pain must have been unbearable! yet he tried. you remember ricky waters when he caned that phrase (for what for who?) well in my eyes howard did it for what? (for his pride) for who? his teamates and for us fans! thats who! and i will forever respect him for that! and the fact that when he came back much earlier than anyone ever suspected and wasn’t fully recovered , which was obvious by his running and fielding limitations. and i think he did it with risk to himself for who or what? well the same reasons i stated above. he saw the team was slowly sinking and came back to help their chances. and even in a diminished roll pysically helped almost getting us there! yea he couldn’t run and struck out a gazillion times but with all that he still managed to be on a pace for what 30-35 HR’s and about 127rbi!. i’ll give him a pass on his deficiencies this year as to the fielding and the strikouts. but if he’s healthy next year i don’t see any reason not to believe he could do a 40+ HR year and 140rbi. and i don’t care about the S.O.’s i know in my heart he plays for us and his team and gives it his all! that’s all you can ask from someone. there’s another person on this team who packed it in the first half. he saw the team was gonna have trouble and in my eyes didn’t give his all . he didn’t hustle on routine plays, and didn’t hit for pretty much of the first half. but when the team started to have a resurgence he turned it on and had an MVP type second half. good for him but to me that showed the complete oposite of howards demeanor. he’ll try 100% of what he’s got all the time under any circumstance.

    • schmenkman

      October 13, 2012 at 11:19 am

      Ryne, the facts don’t agree with your perception. The “other person on this team” started hitting in early May:

      through May 9: .549 OPS (.230/.279/.270)
      May 11-on: .791 OPS (.255/.324/.466)

      He had his streaks throughout the year though. In August, for example his OPS was only .700 (.213/.283/.417). He was inconsistent, no doubt. But I think it’s way off to say that he turned it on in the second half.

      • Ryne Duren

        October 14, 2012 at 9:10 am

        well schmenk maybe that also was another misperseption on my part. thanks for pointing those stats out to me. it did seem that out of the 3 hole he was abysmal for the longest time and it wasn’t until (now correct me if i’m wrong) almost the end of june that he finally passed the light hitting galvis in rbi. and he was in the 3 hole and galvis what 7th 8th and with fewer AB’s. and maybe i missed something but he had way too many cold streaks and just a few hot streaks. he was just so inconsistant for his skillset IMO. allthough the final numbers were very good in my eyes they are decieving in the type of year he had. maybe i’m being too hard on the guy. i do like him as much as i complain about him. he just rubs me the wrong way with his approach. it’s a shame he doesn’t apply himself all season! he’s had in my eyes the talent and the longevity through his career here that’s been good. he could have been great. and for the record. again i complain yet he probably is IMO the greatest SS phillie has ever had. and i loved larry bowa but jimmy has unseated him.

      • schmenkman

        October 14, 2012 at 10:25 am

        “it’s a shame he doesn’t apply himself all season!”

        See, I just don’t think this is true.

  5. Adrian M.

    October 13, 2012 at 10:31 am

    I am a proponent of sabermetrics, but like a lot of baseball fans, I can’t completely discount the concept of clutch hitting. Every sport has a major pyschological aspect to it, and positive thinking goes a long way in achieving desired results. There are certain guys who love hitting in pressure situations, and if you’re standing at the plate without any anxiety, your chances of getting a big hit increase. I’ve heard over and over during this postseason about guys trying to do too much, and their hitting suffered as a result. There’s opposite end to that as well.
    Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of randomness in this game, but if you’re relaxed at the plate, you’re more likely to recognize a pitcher’s mistakes and at least put the ball in play rather than walk back to the dugout shaking your head. That automatically increases your chances of getting a hit.

    • George

      October 13, 2012 at 11:21 am

      I totally agree. It’s also possible that a pitcher can recognize a batter’s relaxation and confidence, and tries too hard to be perfect against those “clutch” hitters.

      • ARc

        October 13, 2012 at 2:15 pm

        i think thats ridiculous. like the poster said above you; some players thrive on pressure, some dont, some get lucky some dont, some are consistent, some aren’t.

    • Ken Bland

      October 13, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      In general, as opposed to Howard in particular, I think you might be oversimplifying it when you talk so respectfully of a confidence and psychological reason for success under pressure. You can’t forget some guys change their approach in those situations, just like they adjust within an at bat depending on the count. I’m not denouncing the eye of the tiger mentality, but the willingness to be flexible helps. So there might be something to be said for taking the emotion out of it. It’s a mix, not so much one or the other.

      • George

        October 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm

        Anyone who has ever played should notice that he’ll do better when he’s confident. Some batters have even stated that they visualize what they are going to do before they’ve done it. And nearly all players talk of “momentum,” and “momentum swings,” which is more about attitude than about luck, good or bad calls, or what-have-you.

        Say what you will about the mental part of ANY game, but I’ll continue to believe that the psychological stuff is very important. If I was at all worried when I played, I’d generally strike out, miss a lay-up, hit the edge of the dart board, miss the spare, or putt short of the hole.

  6. TheDipsy

    October 13, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Can’t hit lefties. Period. Which make his numbers all the more amazing.

    The Dipsy

  7. Nina Hartley

    October 13, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    i like Ryan. i think he’ll have a big year in 2013. Utley will be back healthy to hit in from of him.

  8. TradeDomBrown

    October 13, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Really? Nobody’s mentioned the fact he looks like Big Bird from Sesame Street now? I don’t really care what Ryan Howard does this offseason, as long as he comes to spring training looking like an athlete, not a giant muppet.

  9. ARc

    October 13, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    I saw better offensive play in 1 inning of Cardinals at bats then i saw in the last 3 seasons of the Phillies line up. For me, it is down right frustrating to watch our offense season after season, and nothing has been done. The Cardinals lose their top pitcher and batter in 2012, and still manage to win. Where does that f88cking carpenter come from? Its like they save him for the post season. Im sorry stats or no stats, theres something fundamentally wrong with this teams offensive approach. There is no way a line up as talented as this should be performing the way they are. I believe mark Mcguire is the reason. I think batting coaches matter. Although I think Charlie Manuels approach has killed this teams offensive ability. The long ball theory for this team is dead, On that note i came across an article: “What makes the St. Louis Cardinals hitters so good”

    For a power-hitting team, the Cardinals don’t strike out a lot, only 18.8 percent of the time during the regular season, which is near the bottom of the majors. They’re selective: they swing at a lot of pitches inside the strike zone, but when it’s outside of it, they swing only 30.4 percent of the time, 11th best in the majors. And when they swing, they make contact: eighth-best contact percentage (81.1 percent).

    “They’re just patient hitters,” reliever Ryan Mattheus said. “They don’t swing at balls. They don’t really expand the strike zone very much. They don’t get out of their plan. You can tell when you face those guys that they have a plan. They don’t chase breaking balls. They don’t chase letter-high fastballs very often. They try to work and get into hitters’ counts. And they work for their pitch to hit and don’t give into that very much. When you’re pitching them, you can’t fall behind.”

    The Cardinals also thrived on first pitches during the season, hitting .364 in that situation during the regular season, second-best in the majors. On full counts, too, they led all teams with a .480 on-base percentage.

  10. frank

    October 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Why can’t Ryan Howard or any other left hander move almost on top of the plate with two strikes. Its not just Ryan. It seems like most left handler’s strike out a lot against left handed pitchers that get two strikes on them. Move on top of the plate and take away that outside pitch you can’t hit or get hit by the pitch. Easy for me to say.

  11. Jaron B

    October 13, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    “In 260 at bats out of the four hole, Howard posted career lows in average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage (.219/.295/.423), along with OPS (.718) and OPS+ (91). He walked at an all time low percentage (his walk rate was 8.6%) for a season where he’s had at least 50 AB. His more advanced statistics are equally bad. Howard had a .303 wOBA (down from .381 for his career), a 87 wRC+ and a .204 ISO (all career lows).”

    What are his post-2008 numbers, Ryan D? Plz include WAR.

  12. Jeff Dowder

    October 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    If you count the $10 million buyout for 2017, Howard is guaranteed $105 million over four seasons (an average of $26.25 million over that time frame). It’s hard to imagine any scenario where the 2017 option is picked up ($23 million at age 37).

  13. Ryan H

    October 13, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Should be an incomplete. You simply cant expect someone to play well coming off such an injury. Pass

  14. Lefty

    October 13, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Never thought I’d see the day when such a daring Ryan Howard player review would be done on PN.

    I don’t agree with your grade. As maddening as he can be sometimes for all the reasons people have already mentioned, I think a bad, nearly crippled Ryan Howard is still better than an average player, meaning I’d give him a “C+ or B-” for this season.

    I believe he can and will do better if he heals properly.

    But I salute your courage Ryan D., It’s refreshing.

    • EricL

      October 15, 2012 at 1:11 pm

      Eh, I disagree that a crippled Ryan Howard is better than an average player at his position. In fact, when you include things like base running and defense, I’m pretty sure he’s worse than the average player at his position.

    • wbramh

      February 22, 2013 at 11:21 am

      Currently ranked tenth worst performing player in MLB in value vs. salary.
      Defensively ranked second worst starting first basemen in MLB
      Worst runner on the team.
      Abysmal OBP
      Charts show a perpetually declining output each year with few bump-up points..
      Nagging injuries.
      At this stage, a salary no where near commensurate with his contribution to the team.

      It’s sad because his RBI production was once spectacular – an undeniable star and HR king.
      In the absence of any other power source on this team it’s still hard to dismiss Howard’s current RBI output but I believe the down sides to his play at this stage of his career, particularly Howard’s terrible performance against lefties (and the growing need to platoon him), has at best marginalized the value of his remaining plusses.

      Then again, who’s on first? There’s not much that the team can do since no other team would want to eat that salary and the only options would be not much better defensively and no better in the RBI department.. Howard’s only real value to another team would be as a pinch hitter against right-handed pitching or starting designated hitter against same – and I’m not sure any team has every paid a skillion dollars for that service.

      • Andrew from Waldorf

        February 22, 2013 at 11:28 am

        I do not troll. I only post as the one and only origial AFW lol

        Those have been my talking points for awhile though.

        Now Howard use your bat to shove our words down our throats.

        Id love to see it. But as a gambling man.

        The chances of him being a premier elite hitter again are less than 7%

      • schmenkman

        February 22, 2013 at 11:30 am

        wbramh, that’s one way to look at Howard.

        The other (and I think more accurate) way is that he was essentially the same hitter in 2008, 2010, and 2011, with an unusually good year in 2009 in between, and that his 2012 issues were not part of a trend, but were directly related to his injury and coming back before he was fully healed.

        And his RBIs have declined not because he is hitting much worse, because he is not, but rather because a) league offense has been trending down overall, and b) there are fewer runners on base for him than there used to be.

        That doesn’t make him a great player, or even come close to make his value match his contract, but it certainly makes me much more hopeful about 2013 than your outlook does.

    • Andrew from Waldorf

      February 22, 2013 at 11:31 am

      Lefty needs to have hope.

      Hope is the #1 basic human emotion and need.

      I realy dont need it. For me its more about being honest about the situation.

      But I do hope the best for the Phillies and Howard.

      • Lefty

        February 22, 2013 at 1:52 pm

        45 years of ups and downs, and the faith remains, I guess it always will.

        They just keep bashing you on here Andrew, I can’t for the life of me understand it. Can you believe they even said that for lunch you eat sh!t sandwiches? But don’t worry pal, I got your back, I defended you to the hilt. I told them I know for a fact that it’s not true, because I know you don’t eat bread. 🙂

  15. The Original Chuck P

    October 15, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I would have a really tough time finding an appropriate grade for Howard in 2012… you have to commend him for trying to come back but the numbers were pretty bad. Realistically, no one expected him to do well in 2012 – the achilles is not a quick or easy fix. Howard did the best he could to come back, be a source of energy, drive in runs and belt some long balls (something the team really lacked prior to his return) but those minor successes came at the expense of a lot of other things (like his batting average, his “base running” and his defenses, which were never great to begin with). Those other things, which have always been criticized were very ugly.

    One thing I’ll say about Howard hitting with RISP… it shouldn’t be a surprise. He has always been a decent “mistake” hitter. When the opposing pitcher doesn’t have a base to work with or when he has to throw a fastball for a strike, Howard can do damage.

    I like Howard… I think what he does goes unappreciated by a lot of folks that fail to subscribe to the “clutch” theory (or those that don’t feel like RBI’s are a meaningful stat) but even I would grade his performance relative to his career very low. A D+ might be appropriate… but I’d give him a little higher grade relative to my expectations for him in 2012. You had to expect this year to be a career low year… coming off of achilles surgery. Might give him a C in that light but make no mistake, he has to spend this offseason training and getting himself in shape. He has to come back ready to play because we absolutely need him.

    My 2013 expectations:

    .265/.360/.555, 37 HR, 115 RBI

  16. Nina Hartley

    October 15, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Yes, we do need the Big Piece. Washington will be hungry to get first place next year after just missing the NLCS.

  17. fansxqc

    January 7, 2013 at 9:43 am

    The organization was first arrange back 1919 along with travelled about producing wrist watches which had been innovative together with charming. The leading Mido observe that basically stirred the actual inventiveness in the open community was the Multifort. It acquired all the look associated that has a traditional mechanised see aside from it injure once again up.

  18. Andrew from Waldorf

    February 22, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Thank you for the support lefty.

    The support you and Ken E. Baseball and the Chucks and Brooks means alot to me.

    Also welcome aboard Nina Hartley. Ive been a fan for many years.

    Loved you in Boogie Nights.

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