Ryan Howard Month

Ryan Howard was a sneaky good base stealer in 2009


Ryan Howard is a franchise icon. (Photo by Jeff Conner/Icon Sportswire)

Over Ryan Howard’s 13-year Major League career, “The Big Piece” stole 13 bases. Nine of those stolen bases — including one in the World Series — came in one season.

So how did Howard steal nine bases in 2009?

“Sometimes, people just have to recognize and understand that this sheer athleticism is right in front of them,” Howard joked in a recent MLB Network Radio interview with Kevin Frandsen and Chris Gimenez.

Of Howard’s nine stolen bases that year, four were double steals, one was a freebie thanks to the third baseman not covering the bag and four were arguably clean steals. In every other season from 2007 to 2011, Howard had only one stolen base. Howard had only one stolen base attempt from 2012 to 2016.

In his only stolen base in the postseason, Howard took off for second against CC Sabathia in the fourth inning of Game 4 of the 2009 World Series. Catcher Jorge Posada lost control while trying to make the transfer and Howard made it to second without a throw. Two batters later, Pedro Feliz singled to make it a 2-2 game. The Phillies eventually lost Game 4, but Howard’s decision to take second was pivotal in the moment.

You can thank the Phillies first baseman’s dedication to the art of baserunning along with Davey Lopes’ ability to empower Howard to run in the first place.

Lopes, who was a prolific base stealer in his playing days, was given full control of the Phillies running game by manager Charlie Manuel when he joined the staff prior to 2007. That decision paid off. In each of Lopes’ four seasons as Phillies first base coach, the team led the league in stolen base percentage.

“He would do his homework and on the basepaths, it allowed us to be a lot more aggressive,” Howard told Frandsen and Gimenez. “The guys that were the natural base stealers were allowed to go and be even more free. [Rollins, Victorino, Werth and Utley] were able to already pretty much have the green light, but were made to feel even more confident because Davey was able to pick something up on the pitcher that was going to help them have a better chance at being safe.”

Howard’s only caught stealing of the 2009 regular season came on a double steal gone wrong. After hitting two home runs against — of all people — Tim Hudson, Howard tried to steal third with Werth trailing behind him. Brian McCann threw Howard out and Werth tried to contain his laughter over at second base, according to Howard.

2009 marked the fourth straight year Howard hit at least 45 home runs in a season. In his prime, Howard was one of the most feared power hitters in the game. Opposing teams weren’t so fearful of Howard once he reached base, but maybe some pitchers should have exercised a bit more caution that year.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jeff Orbach

    January 10, 2022 at 8:34 am

    It brings back memories of The Bull, he’d steal every once in a while as well. There was an article back in the day,in SI I believe that Bull was one of the most feared runners when it came to breaking up double plays.

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