Analysis

Ryan Howard Is The Hottest Man In Philadelphia

A few weeks ago, we noted that Ryan Howard seemed to be heating up at the plate. He was seeing the ball well, getting lots of solid contact, and finally started to hit some home runs.

Since then, he’s hit .324/.370/.632, with five home runs–including one off a lefty yesterday–and 11 RBI. His 1.002 OPS is 7th in the NL among qualifiers over that time, and his .309 ISO (isolated power, or simply slugging percent minus average) is 5th. His hard hit % (46.8%) is third in the NL, and, if you want to really get advanced, both his wOBA (.429) and wRC (15) are good for seventh in the league as well.

Every single one of those numbers–OPS, ISO, hard hit %, wOBA, and wRC–leads the Phillies not only in May, but for the entire season as well. He also leads the team in home runs (9), and RBI (21).

He went from hitting .194/.247/.417 in April, to hitting .257/.307/.521 for the season, as of yesterday. That’s about a 24.5% increase across the board in three weeks. Prior to the season, ZiPS projected Howard to hit .234/.310/.415, with a total of 18 home runs on the season. He has half that, and it’s not even June yet. So far, he’s outperforming expectations. According to FanGraphs, he’s the most valuable hitter on the Phillies (excluding baserunning).

Trade value status: increased. He might even be on track to hit his way out of Philadelphia. 

He’s been good. Really good–just not Bryce Harper good. But there’s always a catch, right? He’s still striking out a ton–actually a bit more (27.5%) than he was in the first month of the season (25.6%). His line drives are slightly down as well. His BABIP is at .405 in the month of May, which is just a bit higher than his mark of .208 in April.

Putting those things together, it’s easy to say that no, he won’t be able to keep up this outstanding pace. He’ll likely come down to earth. ZiPS projects him to hit .238/.310/.436 the rest of the way, with 15 more home runs and 57 more RBI. He’s been hitting a home run every 16.78 plate appearances this year (once every 14.6 PA in May). ZiPS says that’ll come down to about once every 22.8. And stats aside, I simply can’t see this continuing for much longer, especially from a guy of his age and injury history. 

But he is the hottest player on the Phillies right now. That’s a fact. Who thought we’d be saying that, almost two months into the season?

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