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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Analyzing Ryan Howard's Success and Decline

We all know that Howard's contract is obscene. He now is being paid a higher AAV than Fielder and Pujols (yes, I know their contracts will see more total dollars). This is absurd on soo many levels. The past two seasons, his WAR has been atrocious. This is due in part to his mediocre defense at the 1B position. It's also a result of his declining power numbers. WIP host Rob Charry has always been a huge advocate of Ryan Howard. He often overstates the extent to which Ryan Howard is "undervalued". The reason? Howard's RBI totals. Well, they've been down recently too.

Below are some charts that show the correlation between Howard's RBI/PA and his SLG, as well as his RBI/PA and the OBP of the 1-3 hitters in each season since 2006. Combined they do two things. The first shows that Howard's value to the Phillies should continue to decline as he comes into his extremely lucrative contract due to his aging and recent injuries. The second chart shows that his RBI totals are likely due less to his own abilities than to the strength of those getting on base in front of him, i.e. his numbers were so good in the past due to an absurdly high OBP by the 1-3 hitters in the early parts of his career.

This shouldn't be news to many of you. However, in the event that you find yourself needing to argue against "Howard being an elite MLB player", here is some visual evidence that hopefully will help you in your quest. My main gripe with Howard's contract isn't toward Howard's lacking as much as it is toward Amaro and the people around him thinking it was a good idea to jump at re-signing him.


hk said...

As I think you know, I have been a huge critic of the contract. However, I have recently become somewhat of a defender of Howard as I think some fans have gone overboard in the anti-Howard rhetoric. Part of my defense of Howard has been to point out that, while his offense has declined, so has offense around all of baseball (run scoring from 2008 to 2011 dropped by ~8%). As an example of this, we can point to the fact that Howard's OPS+ in his 48 HR 2008 season was lower than his OPS+ in each of the last two seasons. Admittedly, a big part of that was that his 2008 OBP was the lowest of his career. However, the average MLB SLP dropped from .416 to .399 since 2008. I guess this is all a long-winded way to say that, while Howard has declined from his peak years, I think the decline (as shown by the metrics in your piece and/or others) is accentuated when you only compare Howard to his past self and the significance of the decline is mitigated some when you factor in the drop in offense throughout MLB over the past few years.

Scott Graham said...

Of course citing that league-wide offense has dropped helps defend Howard as he could be considered just part of the trend. However, when the entirety of his value comes from the plate, and he's among the top 2(?) paid players in MLB in terms of AAV, you'd expect him to be contributing at close to that level. His average and obp has dropped, and his power will continue to drop. It's gross how much the phillies have paid him at this point in his career.

Scott Graham said...

Does anyone else miss Robby as much as I do?

hk said...

Is that a commentary on my commentary?

Scott Graham said...

no. I was just reading through some old comments, and his historical references are priceless. I also loved how angry he always was.

By the way, I could have done a better job of showing this in my graphs, but since I didn't I was to point out just how ridiculous some of the OBPs were for the 1-3 hitters in the '06-'07 seasons.

1st batter: .331 (~95% Rollins)
2nd batter: .396 (~45% Utley, ~37% Victorino, ~10% Dellucci, with a sprinkle of Rowand and others)
3rd batter: .395 (~55%/45% Abreu/Utley)

1st batter: .345 (Rollins)
2nd batter: .358 (~16% for each Utley and Iguchi and ~ 58% Victorino)
3rd batter: .384 (~48% Utley (.426!!), ~30% Burrell, and ~14% Rollins)

5th: .365
6th: .379
7th: .382
8th: .333
9th: .233