Amaro: “If Howard is on the field, we’re winning games.”


The latest from Bob Nightengale of USA Today has a pair of interesting quotes. The first is from Team President David Montgomery: “We’re committed to this core. We want to surround them with the best possible players. In time, hopefully we’ll be able to transition to some of younger players.” This seems completely reasonable and is part of the direction everyone believed they were going. The second quote is bound to raise some eyebrows. Nightengale quotes GM Ruben Amaro Jr. as saying the following: “Listen, if Ryan [Howard] is on the field, we are winning games.”

The truth, whether Amaro wants to hear it or not, is that Howard was only slightly above average among first baseman during the last three years that he was healthy. Yes, from 2009 through 2011, Howard ranked fourth among first basemen in homers but he ranked seventh in runs, 17th in BB%, and only Adam Dunn, Carlos Pena, and Russell Branyan were easier to strike out. In the same stretch, Howard ranked 16th in batting average, 17th in OBP, and eighth in slugging. Better than average at first base? Sure. Difference maker after two years of missing significant time due to injury? I’m not so sure.

What are your thoughts on the impact Ryan Howard can/will have on the 2014 Phillies?



  1. beyondinfinity

    February 17, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Well in 151 games the last two seasons he has 99 rbi so yeah i think he can make a difference

  2. Mike B

    February 17, 2014 at 9:38 am

    To be fair, the numbers seem to back him up. He didn’t say “Ryan Howard is the best player in the league”; he referred to the team’s performance when RH is on the field.

    That said, Ruben seems to often confuse correlation for causation.

    • G7

      February 17, 2014 at 10:23 am

      Could RAJ be getting tired of the criticism? Looks like an attempt to deflect toward the high paid 1st baseman..

  3. Eddie H

    February 17, 2014 at 11:15 am

    I think it is important/interesting to look at the numbers of the players batting around him during this time. I would really put some of their success in Ryan Howard being in the lineup, especially looking at the numbers of the 2-5 hitters.

  4. NBourbaki

    February 17, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Obviously, you have to separate 2009 from 2010-11. Is there anyone who wouldn’t take the 45/141 Ryan Howard? That said, 2010-11 is probably (hopefully?) what we mean by a “healthy Ryan Howard”. His average of 32/112 in those years would certainly mean an improved team over 2013. On its own, not enough for contention.

  5. Hogey's Role

    February 17, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    I hope they’re right, I want to see us win and I believe we have talent, I just hope it’s enough talent

  6. betasigmadeltashag

    February 17, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    I know you all like your advanced stats and sabre -metrics and they are the only thing that matters. I’m not one of them. Do they have a place in the game most definetly yes, are the only thing that matters no. I can’t find the stat of Phillies W-L with Ryan in the line up. And it won’t matter to the stat only people on here. But I’m pretty sure they have a better record with him playing. You can not but a stat on how teams react to him playing, whether it is a pitching change early how they pitch to certain guys to the confidence his team mates play with. I know none of that matters because his WAR is 1 and his pFPG and k rate all suck.
    So dispite the eye test and wins are caused by stats. All RAJ was saying was as far he believed when the big guy was in the line-up they win.
    I know he may have the advanced stats to back it up but there were other reasons that back in 1972 when Lefty pitched the Phillies won a truly bad team. Part of it was fear(a little tongue in check) of Lefty part was they knew the were going to do it on “Win Day”

  7. Chuck A.

    February 17, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    If he’s in the lineup ….playing 140-150 games like the plan is thought to be?? Yeah, sure..they’ll probably be at least a .500 team. Will it be enough to get to the playoffs? A LOT will have to go right for that to happen…not just Ryan Howard being on the field.

    • wbramh

      February 17, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      And you just hit the problem on the head.

      The 2014 Phillies have surpassed my “three IFs rule,” which states, “Whenever a team enters a season with three or more question marks their chances of contending (while still possible) are slim.”

      This team has three question marks just from 1st to SS -.
      once againthe big 3 IFs are the health of Howard, the continuing recovery of the amazing Utley and the ability of Rollins to bounce back from a sub par year.


      IF Asche can continue to show growth and pad his OBP, power output and flat WAR.
      IF Hamels and/or Pettibone don’t go under the knife by opening day.
      IF A.J. can have back-to-back miracle bounce back years.
      IF the Gonzalez the team signed is actually a baseball player and not Pancho or Elian.
      IF R. Hernandez shows up as the F. Carmona of seven very long years ago.
      IF Papelbon’s fastball stays above 90 (and he isn’t clubbed to death by his teammates).
      IF Adams can still pitch at all.
      IF Brown is the player he was in the first half of 2013 and not the second half.
      IF Revere is the player he was in the second half of his abbreviated season (and is healed).
      IF Byrd has two miracle career seasons in a row in these his twilight years.
      IF Abreu isn’t well past his twilight years.
      IF Chooch returns to 2012 form.
      IF Chooch has a legitimate (and ready) ML backup.
      IF Anyone among the team’s limited farm talent can make the grade during spring training.
      IF there’s no hidden clause wherein the Pirates can return MiniMart.

      Well, then anything is possible and my “3 IFs Rule” is history.

  8. Lefty

    February 17, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    A team full of league average position players is usually a pretty darn good team, easily capable of winning 90 games. So in that vein Howard being slightly above average would indeed help the team.

    But is this a team with 8 full time league average position players that can play 150 games? That remains to be seen as the majority approach/surpass their mid thirties, and two of the three young guys missed time last year as well.

    • wbramh

      February 17, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      I think your point is well-taken Lefty. When you look at 25-man squads, it’s really doesn’t take an enormous swing of personnel to go from worst to first.

      A point on which we may differ is on Howard’s required performance this year, Considering the (current) players around him I think his numbers have to be more than marginally above average if the Phillies are to climb meaningfully above .500. Even then, either players will have to come to the forefront. A renewed Howard can’t make up the current gap by himself.

      Not being fully schooled on the new math, I’m not sure how “average” is best determined. If it’s by WAR then the Phillies were 11.7 above flat while the Cards had a team WAR of 27.1 while the World champion Sox had a team WAR of 38.6!. The Cards actually had less players registering above a zero WAR than the Phils ( the Phils had 6 players at .1) but the Cards’ core of red hot stars easily made up for that discrepancy.

      Two additional stats are of note here: Ex-Phillie Shane Victorino’s 5.6 WAR was over half the Phillies’ team total while Matt Carpenter’s 7.0 WAR was almost equal to the entire woe-begotten Marlins’ team who registered a paltry 7.9.

      I guess what the Phils- Cards comparison says (if it says anything) is that both good and bad teams are stocked with a lot of average players as you suggested, but without a productive big three core like Carpenter, Holliday & Molina (or Howard, Utley & Rollins) along with better than average pitching, you’re a .500 team at best.

      • Lefty

        February 17, 2014 at 4:30 pm

        The MLB channel program “Clubhouse Confidential” did the historical numbers showing that “league average” is a bit of a misunderstood term. It’s actually much better than you might think. It turns out there are a lot of below average players I guess. It was a few weeks ago and I have forgotten the specific teams, but they named several with one or two really good players that balanced those teams out, enabling them win 90 games. Was there some luck with injuries in those examples? I’m sure there was. And certainly you are better off with team WAR numbers the Cardinals and Boston last year to win it all, no argument there. So yeah I would partially agree by saying that either Howard would have to have a great season, or a lot of other guys would have to bring there game up to league average. For example, how many members of the bullpen were league average last season? I guess Paps was, were there any others?

      • schmenkman

        February 17, 2014 at 4:45 pm

        “It turns out there are a lot of below average players I guess.”

        Stating the obvious I guess, but by definition, if I understand what’s meant by average, at any point in time there are ~360 below-average players on major league rosters (~12 on a mediocre team, fewer on a good team, more on a bad team).

        For the bullpen, I would definitely call Diekman above average, and possibly Bastardo as well.

      • wbramh

        February 17, 2014 at 6:09 pm

        Schmenk: Unlike you, I can only feebly attempt to translate advanced metrics. Not unlike reading while a passenger in the back seat of a car, I throw up on myself if I don’t look up from the page.

        Looking just at WAR (had I factored in additional metrics would have meant a change of shirts), it’s really quite amazing how small a percentage of a total club is really engaged in above average performance – not to mention the even tinier lot that approach star quality.

        The advantage the Red Sox seemed to enjoy was the luxury of having seven players with WARs between 3.4 to 5.8. It’s hard for a team to slump very long when the wealth of superior players is spread that deep – something the Phils enjoyed in 2008 and 2009. The remainder of the offense behind the top five to seven producers are like the three defensive guys who stood behind Eddie Feigner and stayed busy by scouring the grass for 4-leaf clovers.
        They make for good trivia questions.

      • Lefty

        February 17, 2014 at 10:20 pm

        Schmenkman- As I understand it, there are many more than give or take 12 below league average players on a given team per season. The Phillies last year employed 51 players during the season, many of whom performed below league average. IMO- You don’t site sample size in this case because for every poor effort ( particularly bullpen) there was a decided outcome. For instance, when Casper Wells was forced to pitch the 18th inning v. the Diamondbacks, allowing 5 earned runs, the Phillies lost the game.

        My point was that if every player played at “league average” you could have a pretty good team, one more than capable of winning 90 or more games. But that includes every player that steps onto the field during a given season, not a percentage of a fluid 25 man roster.

        According to B-R there were 16 other RP’s and if only 2 were league average or better- that’s a bullpen that’s well below league average. Papelbon’s lost velocity and 80.6 save% which ranked him 29th out of 32 closers hardly makes him league average. So that’s 14 of 16 below league average relievers. You can win with league average players, but even if Ryan Howard could produce better than 2006, that still would not balance out the below “league average” players this team had in 2013.

        However, 2013 is in not fully representative of what will happen in 2014, and I am sincerely hopeful that Ryan Howard and a whole host of other players play well enough to allow the team to contend. I’m just not overly confident of that.

      • schmenkman

        February 17, 2014 at 10:37 pm

        Lefty, I don’t think we’re disagreeing, it’s why I said “at any point in time”.

        Regarding the bullpen, we know that as a unit they were among the worst in the league last year, but as for how many were below average, this is one way to approach it:

        We know that FIP for all relievers was 3.70

        Out of 19 Phillies relievers, 7 were above average (FIP below 3.70), including Papelbon. 12 of the 19 were below average.

        I know you were comparing Paps only to closers, and I don’t disagree, but he was better than average among all relievers.

  9. bacardipr

    February 17, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    No Rube is just simply putting every thing on Howards shoulder.

    • Double Trouble Del

      February 17, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      Is it wrong to expect Howard to actually perform on the field especially when RAJ is the man who handed out the big contract?

  10. Bob in Bucks

    February 17, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Howard is better than our other alternatives but he is no longer a difference maker. If we win it will be with pitching.

    • Chuck A.

      February 17, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      If he hits 40+ HR…which he thinks he can (and I wouldn’t put it past him) ….then he will be a difference maker.

    • wbramh

      February 17, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      I agree about Howard and I don’t think he would be a difference-maker even if he was back in 2006 form. Pitching is indeed critical as Ruben is quick to point out and this year’s staff doesn’t appear anywhere near ready to duplicate the numbers of the 2011 staff.

      But pitching, IMO, is no more than half the game and I’m of the opinion that no one aspect of the game can be easily ignored.

      The team scored 3.77 runs per game in 2013 (down from 4.4 in 2011 and 4.22 in 2012) to their opponent’s 4.62 RPG last year. That tied the Phillies with the lowly Astros for 26th in the league in run production. That’s an offensive drop tough for a 4-ace pitching staff to overcome and the Phillies will be fortunate if they have two healthy aces on the mound this year.

      The ’72 Orioles actually had a measurably lower staff ERA than the ’71 team with four 20-game winners. But their offense dropped from 4.5 runs per game in ’71down to just 3.2 RPG in ’72 and they finished 3rd that year in their division.

      Gimme just 2.5 stud pitchers, decent middle relief, an above average closer, three 100 RBI guys and marginally above average defense and I’ll show you a team with a good shot at a playoff berth and trip to the Series. The Phils are entering this season with two stud pitchers (we hope and pray), no sure-fire 100 RBI guys and (maybe) average fielding stats assuming Utley’s knees keep improving and Byrd’s rediscovered talents enter a second miracle year.

      I think it’s going to be a long summer; one for just sitting back and enjoying the *greatest sport on Earth.


      • Chuck A.

        February 17, 2014 at 5:53 pm

        wb – I agree that pitching wins games. Thank God RAJ addressed that by going out and signing A.J. BUT…. You can’t tell me that a 40 HR Ryan Howard wouldn’t make a difference. Not saying that they will make the postseason necessarily….but I think that kind of performance…along with other variables….helps the team improve from their 73 wins last season.

      • wbramh

        February 17, 2014 at 6:47 pm

        We’re in total agreement.

        By difference I meant a Howard resurgence of any magnitude would not guarantee the team a playoff spot. Howard would have to produce at about 12 WAR to begin to offset the drop off elsewhere on the club and even in that magnificent 2006 season with 58 HRs and 149 RBI, his WAR was 5.8.

        Used intelligently and sparingly, I think Ryan Howard can still be a very effective player on this team. I wouldn’t discount the possibility of a 40 HR/110 RBI season if he can see enough right-handed pitching – but he’ll need a lot of help before this team can turn it around, particularly from the right-handed bat hitting behind him.

        Send Brown and Asche to LA for Matt Kemp (with LA paying part of Kemp’s salary) and bring up Franco. Now we have a different team and one that would be much kinder to Ryan Howard.

      • Chuck A.

        February 17, 2014 at 9:23 pm

        I like that trade scenario….A LOT!!! You are correct that the big man doesn’t really have the proper protection behind him in the lineup. Matt Kemp would certainly help to solve that I would think.

      • wbramh

        February 17, 2014 at 10:45 pm

        Chuck: If all of us here could agree on my trade idea, perhaps the collective vibe will make it to Ruben’s office and he’ll get it done.

      • Chuck A.

        February 17, 2014 at 11:10 pm

        Power of the people. What a novel concept! I love it! Too bad it probably wouldn’t work in this case. Just a hunch on my part…

      • wbramh

        February 18, 2014 at 12:51 am

        But Chuck, maybe if we all close our eyes and each of us says, “I believe…”
        If it could work for Tink it can work for Kemp!

        Okay, maybe not.
        But it would be a damn good trade for both teams.

      • Lefty

        February 18, 2014 at 5:35 am

        Laughing out loud- How about we collectively tap our toes together and chant -There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home. 🙂

  11. Jaron B

    February 17, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    For Howard (Rube’s quote), I predict a bounce-back season given he’s in better shape. He really looks good (not “great” or “excellent” or “stellar” – just “good”). If Ryne can manage him (and the other over-30-YO hitters) better than the later version of Manuel and Howard can play effectively in 125-135 games (105-115 starts) w/o a long DL stint, sure… the Phillies can reverse (at least for one season) the down-trend in runs scored. And as for Montgomery’s quote, maybe the transition will be smooth enough to keep that trend going.

  12. PaMikeyDC

    February 17, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Paging DR. Schmenkman….

    • schmenkman

      February 17, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      Mikey, if you mean the record with and without Howard, I don’t think that’s a very useful stat in baseball. In fact, I would call it next to meaningless, because it’s so dependent on who else is in the lineup, what teams they’re facing, and so on.

      In any case, over the last two years:

      79-63 (.550) with Howard
      77-107 (.418) without him

  13. Manny

    February 18, 2014 at 6:20 am

    Further proof the guy is delusional.

    • Chuck A.

      February 18, 2014 at 7:39 am

      As if we really needed convincing…

  14. Abel Ruiz

    February 18, 2014 at 6:48 am

    The line up is better with him in it buts its even better when theres someone hitting behind the can protect him. If he can get that I think he will have a good year and also if he ajust at the plate better

  15. PaMikeyDC

    February 18, 2014 at 7:03 am

    Sorry @Schmenkman, I meant we needed your (always) good points on here.

    But my browser refreshed and saw that you had already posted. Disregard- Presidents Day bug I had yesterday here in Dc, :)-

  16. Bruce

    February 18, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    I will remain positive with the Phillies’ core players (Howard, Utley, Rollins, etc.) with the hope they can have a combined success as a team to make the playoffs THIS season. What a refreshing thought on my part (especially when I’m surrounded by pessimists.. smile). I know there are a ton of questions the team must answer (including pitching) when the season opens. You know the old line..”Hope springs eternal..” and as a Phillies fan, I will NOT be down on the team before the season even starts. Personally, it’s best to reserve judgment and allow the season unfolds as there are many changes beginning with manager, coaches and players. Hopefully, with a little luck, the right chemistry and other intangibles to go along with the good health of the core players will will provide inspiration for improvements ON the field.

    Since the topic is Howard, all I would want from him is to stay healthy for an entire season and fulfill the primary responsibilty of driving in runs as a number four hitter in the line-up. It’s the only stat that really matters to the team.. RBIs. Other stats, old school or advanced, are fine but you want the big guy to drive in runs and finish with 100 plus RBIs for the team to have any chance for success.

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