I got my popcorn ready. Geekfest 2011 starts now!
Bill Conlin fired the opening salvo in defense of Ryan Howard: [Philly.com]
Oh, but he's a butcher with the glove (all of four errors), clogs up the bases (as if Fielder is Michael Bourn) and is not providing close to acceptable return for the $125 million salary. (And since that contract just kicked in and he's on pace for 140 RBI, maybe you should wait a while on that.)
One guy even invoked the despicable, undecipherable WAR stat. That's a totally bogus acronym for "Wins Above Replacement." It presents a patently unsupported hypothesis that measures the "projected" performance of an "average" Triple A player called up to replace Major League regular.
I'm laughing too hard to continue. You saw what happened last season when Howard missed 19 games with an ankle sprain and was off-form the rest of the season, yet still managed 31 homers and 108 RBI.
Oh hurry up, honey. You're missing the best part!
I generally find Conlin abrasive and disconnected, if not hypocritical (he called for Howard to be benched in Game 6 of the NLCS). But he’s right on here.
Conlin starts off his column taking direct aim at the legions of fans who don’t appreciate The Big Piece. He cites the oft-heard refrains about Howard’s bloated contract, his propensity to strike out, and the liability he presents in the field. He then mentions one email response to a reader, who had senselessly bashed RyHow for being overpaid: “There's not one [fucking] player worth what he's being paid. That's why there should be a statue of Marvin Miller in front of the MLBPA headquarters,” said Conlin.
And so starts the argument, mostly with SABR nerds, or, advanced stat geeks, for you lay people. Their side goes something like this: Ryan Howard is fat and overpaid. He strikes out way too much, can’t field, and can’t run.
They usually cite his WAR (wins above replacement player), which currently stands a 1.2. Think about that for a moment. That stat says Ryan Howard (18 home runs and 72 RBI at the All-Star break) only helped the Phillies win one additional game over what a replacement level first baseman would have done- think someone with the skills of Ross Gload, maybe even worse.
I may be crazy, but if you take Ryan Howard out of the Phillies' lineup, they lose more than one additional game in the first half. Not only does he produce runs on his own, but his presence affects the way those around him are pitched to.
There’s a guy who – is probably rock hard with his pants around his knees at the mere mention of his existence in a relatively public forum – often Tweets me when I make fun of Jayson Werth’s $126 million performance. The guy’s typical response: Ryan Howard makes the same amount, so what’s your point?
My point, pants-less kid, other jackasses, is that Howard is significantly better than a guy like Werth, and more deserving of a ludicrous contract.
They champion Werth’s ability to hit doubles, get on base, run, and field. While there’s no argument from me that he is a well-rounded, borderline all-star talent, he’s certainly not at the level of Howard. These people will kill Howard, who has 72 RBI at the break (72!), but celebrate Werth when he finishes the season with 85 RBI, 900 doubles, and 3,000 men left on base.
Howard, for his part, leads the league in go-ahead RBI. But SABR nerds (and other haters) don’t look at impact stats like that. Time and place make no difference. To them, the game is a math equation played in a vacuum.
Stripping nerd-hate out of it, because I do believe that some advanced stats are useful (the ones that help explain the game, like BABIP and other fact-based, non-predictive metrics), the logic in defending Howard is really simple: He does his job.
You can pretty much pencil in (insert?) The Big Piece for 35 home runs and 130 RBI every year. That’s what cleanup hitters are supposed to do. Further, I’d argue that he is a plus fielder, who routinely digs balls out of the dirt, and has decent speed for his size. He’s not as slow as you think.
Does he frustrate? Absolutely. Does he strike out too much? Yes. Are there things he does, both on and off the field, that rightfully rub us the wrong way? You bet. But I’m not sure why there is this constant flogging of Piece. While he probably won’t be carrying his weight when his contract is up in 2016, he’s about as sure a bet as there is right now. Need a cleanup hitter to mash and heat up when the going gets tough? Pencil in Ryan Howard for 35 home runs and 130 RBI, usually more.
I would tell you to get off his dick, but the last time I said that about a player, Mike Richards, he was shot by Paul Holmgren in a crime of passion. No one wants that. So how about we just leave Ryan Howard alone?