The Phillies Nation Top 100: #27 Ryan Howard – Phillies Nation

The Phillies Nation Top 100: #27 Ryan Howard

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #27. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff. 

From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.

Please check back Monday morning for #26.

Photo by: Ian Riccaboni

#27– Ryan Howard

Years: 2004-active

.271/.361/.545, 311 HR, 12 SB in 5018 PA

Previous Rank: 25 (-2)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 29th among position players, 43rd among Phillies

Signature Season: Led the NL in HR, RBI, and Total Bases en route to winning 2006 NL MVP

NL Rookie of the Year (2005), NL MVP (2006), Six-Straight Top-10 NL MVP finishes (2006-2011)

The Big Piece was a fifth-round draft pick out of Missouri State in 2001 and quickly accelerated through the Phillies minor league ranks. Howard’s name would appear in trade rumors almost immediately after his 2002 campaign in Lakewood when Howard hit .280/.367/.460 with 19 HR. Howard would have an even better 2003 with Clearwater, hitting .304/.374/.514 with 23 HR, coinciding directly with the Phillies’ signing of Jim Thome, making Howard seemingly that much more expendable. Howard would get his first taste of the Major Leagues after he set the Phillies minor league home run record with 46 in 2004. Howard would hit two pinch-hit homers in his brief September stay and would pique Phillies’ fans interest.

Despite all of Howard’s rapid minor league success, Howard was blocked by Thome at first base and would start 2005 in Scranton-Wilkes Barre. But an injury to Thome would open the doors for Howard to have a shot at the starting first base gig. Howard would hit .288/.356/.567 with 22 HR en route to winning the 2005 National League Rookie of the Year. In 2006, Howard would take over the first base job when Thome was traded to the Chicago White Sox and deliver for the Phillies: Howard led the NL in homers, RBIs, and total bases. Howard won the MVP in large part due to his huge August and September, hitting .365/.513/.750 with 22 HR, nearly willing the Phillies into the playoffs.

Through the next five seasons, Howard was a threat for 30+ homers and would finish in the Top 10 in NL MVP voting. Howard would be a driving force in the Phillies’ postseason success, hitting .259/.357/.488 with 8 HR. Howard would have particular success in the 2008 World Series, hitting three homers, including one as the second half of back-to-back homers with Chase Utley in Game 4 off of Matt Garza. Howard had huge success in three NLCS appearances, hitting .316/.435/.561 in 69 NLCS PA. Howard would win the 2009 NLCS MVP.

Howard would suffer an unfortunate torn Achilles’ tendon to close out the 2011 NLDS. Howard’s 2012 and 2013 were riddled with injury and Howard saw only 71 and 80 games respectively in each season. Had Howard stayed healthy, he may be approaching 400 HRs. But instead, Howard sits at 311, good enough for second in Phillies history, fifth in RBIs, just 20 behind Chuck Klein, and third in SLG. Howard also holds the single-season record among Phillies in homers with 58. Howard’s game, predicated on power, walks, and strikeouts, has many holes. Having only played parts of ten seasons, Howard already ranks 80th in MLB history in strikeouts and with 100 in 2014, would jump firmly into the 50s. Howard has also cost the Phillies 110 runs according to FanGraphs on defense or the equivalent of about seven wins.

Howard, along with Roy Halladay, Von Hayes, and Cliff Lee, was one of the hardest players to place on the list. Some of Howard’s calling cards are homers (a result of his talent) and RBIs (a result of the hitters getting on base in front of him) – many want to give him credit for the RBIs but the RBIs were not necessarily a result of Howard’s success. We ultimately ranked Howard a bit higher than his FanGraphs’ rating because of the 2006 MVP, his postseason success and contributions, and quiet frankly, the fact that he is the greatest first baseman in Phillies’ history.



  1. Vinnie

    February 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    I guess he wil go up or down the list depending on how he does between now and the end of his career with the Phillies.

  2. Bart Shart

    February 7, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    I hope Howard can fulfill his contract with respectable years, perhaps each year averaging 27 homers,driving in 96 and hitting an average of .275.

  3. robbie ellis

    February 7, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    I know the list is not complete but does Cole Hamels make this list of the top 100??? If not, that is criminal. With the names already taken I can’t see him in the top 25. Wow.

    • schmenkman

      February 7, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      Hamels already has the 21st highest career WAR of anyone with the Phillies, and 8th most among all pitchers. So while the rankings don’t always align with WAR, given his role in the 2008 championship it’s conceivable he’ll be even higher than 21st.

      • Ian Riccaboni

        February 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm

        Without spoiling too much, the folks who asked about Hamels and Maddox probably won’t be disappointed.

      • Vinnie

        February 7, 2014 at 4:53 pm

        Hammels was 40th on the old list when he was a rookie. Except for 2009, he has been great. Which means that he should substantially move up the list.

  4. Laura Hoogerwerff

    February 7, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    I think Howard should be higher. The injuries they mentioned are in part to playing hurt with the achilles. He should be higher and I’m sure he will be at the end of his career.

  5. Brooks

    February 8, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    I agree. Howard was the primary reason the Phil’s were and will
    Be serious contenders. Howard should be at least
    In the top 5 anything else makes no sense.

    • schmenkman

      February 8, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Utley and Howard have been about equally good at the plate. Given everything that Utley does so much better, you can see why I wouldn’t agree.

      • Lefty

        February 8, 2014 at 4:32 pm

        I’d take Utley’s career over Howard’s any day of the week, IMO it’s not even close.

  6. Lefty

    February 8, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    This is just semantics I guess, but I could argue that Jim Thome was the best player “that ever manned first base” for the Phillies. He just didn’t spend enough of his career here.

    • schmenkman

      February 8, 2014 at 4:44 pm

      Technically then, Schmidt would be ahead of Thome.

      • Lefty

        February 9, 2014 at 11:14 am

        Ha! I have no reasonable argument to that. That would also make him the best Second Baseman and Shortstop to man those positions in a Phillies uniform.

      • schmenkman

        February 9, 2014 at 12:57 pm

        I was assuming you meant for a full season, but yeah, it’s a rabbit hole.

      • Lefty

        February 10, 2014 at 4:30 pm

        Schmenkman- If you get the chance, please pass along to John Stolnis that I enjoyed the very enlightening 2-part Scott Freedman post very much. Thanks.

      • schmenkman

        February 10, 2014 at 4:53 pm

        Thanks, Lefty — I’ll pass it along.

  7. photoFred

    February 9, 2014 at 10:59 am

    We are starting to get into the rare air. Have I missed Manny Trillo?

  8. Ken Bland

    February 9, 2014 at 3:53 pm


    Those are the 5 criteria said to be the components of this exercise. By the first 3, Ryan Howard anything less than 3,5,7 or 9 is ridiculous. No matter how many K’s he runs up, or to the degree any other weaknesses of his game bring him down. And if you include the 4th factor, traditional stats, he doesn’t suffer all that much on the whole.

    Every franchise should be so lucky as to have a guy with his overall resume as it’s 27th best player. If you took the top 3 franchises (achievement wise), Howard is more than likely in their top 27, let alone this organization, which, facts are facts has the won loss history to convictionally suggest it’s had a lot of lonely very good players.

    Let some other Phillie fool step up and say he anchored the offense for back to back World Series teams.


    Not too likely.

    • schmenkman

      February 9, 2014 at 5:10 pm

      I’m a huge fan of Howard, I defend him regularly, and I hope (and expect) that he’ll stay healthy and have a year similar to 2010-11.

      Nevertheless, his performance on the first and second criteria (impact to Phillies and individual achievement) have been exaggerated by the fourth (traditional stats), particularly his excellent RBI totals which were a result, to a large extent, of the team around him.

      • wbramh

        February 9, 2014 at 6:57 pm

        Like most devastating power hitters, Howard has always been fun to watch. Just the potential alone every time he came to bat was enough to justify buying a ticket. Not so much in recent memory but he has certainly has not had anything close to the lineup support he once had – particularly the lack of a solid right-handed bat behind him.

        But like most players his age and size (with a few notable exceptions) father time has likely caught up with Howard. If he is going to have even a remote chance of surviving a 162 game season and/or once again being some positive force on this team he should be platooned with Mayberry (or Franco) and never be forced to face another left-handed pitcher, again. In fact, that would be the sensible way to get the most out of Mayberry, too. Yeah, Ryan makes $25 mil a year so I understand the pressure to play him but matching him up against lefties only diminishes the return value while further jeopardizing his longevity.

        Had Howard been an even marginally better fielder and hit lefties with reasonable big league consistency I think he would have been a sure top 15 player on the all-time team.

  9. art k

    February 9, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    his WAR does not make him even the best Phils 1B, those would be Dolph Camilli & Fred Luderus then Howard. Thome would be 4th, but if Dick Allen were a 1B he’d be 1st. should be lower.

  10. Jay

    February 9, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    Platooning Howard as the large consensus on this site seemed to want was and is a pipe dream unfortunately

    • schmenkman

      February 9, 2014 at 9:52 pm

      They have already been gradually platooning him more and more since 2011, under the guise of “resting” him:

      in 2011: he sat 3% of the games vs. RHPs, and 15% vs. LHPs
      in 2012: he sat 2% of the games vs. RHPs, and 25% vs. LHPs
      in 2013: he sat 6% of the games vs. RHPs, and 45% vs. LHPs

      So he was platooned for almost half the games vs. lefties last year. Part of that may have been because he wasn’t fully healthy, so we’ll see what happens this year.

      The key though is pinch-hitting for him vs. lefty relievers, and again we’ll have to see if that ever happens.

      • Lefty

        February 10, 2014 at 5:28 am

        My feeling is that a lot of the platooning last year under Charlie had to do with injuries. But I’m hopeful Ryne Sandberg may be the guy that finally tells management – “I don’t care what you paid him, this is what I need to do to win games” – especially against the Loogys.

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