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How Many Players Would Have 95 RBI in Ryan Howard’s Opportunities?

Posted by Neil Paine on August 16, 2011


Here's a fun exercise to follow up on Sean's NYT piece about Ryan Howard (and his radio interview today)...

It seems to me that the core question in the Howard debate is this: how many RBIs would other players have if they got to hit behind players who got on base as frequently as Howard's teammates do?

Well, a quick and dirty way to answer that is to look at how many RBIs a player has relative to the number of baserunners (BR) aboard when he's at the plate. Based on their 2011 rates of RBI per BR (and min. 350 PA), here are players who would also have 95 RBI if afforded Howard's 375 BR:

Nelson Cruz TEX 9 AL 101 420 386 26 77 0.267 0.321 0.534 0.855 123 260 111
Ryan Braun MIL 7 NL 110 461 409 23 78 0.328 0.397 0.579 0.976 163 271 108
Josh Hamilton TEX 7 AL 84 374 340 14 66 0.300 0.345 0.515 0.860 126 231 107
Curtis Granderson NYY 8 AL 117 519 440 33 94 0.273 0.366 0.580 0.946 149 331 106
Mark Teixeira NYY 3 AL 118 522 450 32 88 0.249 0.343 0.507 0.850 125 311 106
Lance Berkman STL 9 NL 106 429 355 28 76 0.293 0.406 0.583 0.989 175 269 106
Michael Morse WSN 3 NL 107 410 374 20 69 0.321 0.371 0.556 0.927 153 247 105
Matt Holliday STL 7 NL 94 396 335 18 63 0.313 0.417 0.561 0.978 173 228 104
Justin Upton ARI 9 NL 120 520 461 25 75 0.306 0.379 0.564 0.943 154 272 103
Chipper Jones ATL 5 NL 89 363 323 10 53 0.272 0.344 0.449 0.793 118 197 101
Jose Bautista TOR 9 AL 109 483 383 34 77 0.311 0.447 0.632 1.079 191 295 98
Adrian Beltre TEX 5 AL 100 421 388 20 76 0.276 0.318 0.505 0.823 115 292 98
Jacoby Ellsbury BOS 8 AL 118 539 488 20 74 0.314 0.369 0.508 0.878 136 286 97
Albert Pujols STL 3 NL 108 477 427 29 75 0.288 0.352 0.541 0.893 148 290 97
Carlos Gonzalez COL 7 NL 102 432 384 18 66 0.281 0.350 0.492 0.842 115 257 96
Prince Fielder MIL 3 NL 122 517 427 27 89 0.304 0.416 0.564 0.980 165 348 96
J.J. Hardy BAL 6 AL 89 387 356 23 58 0.267 0.311 0.514 0.825 124 227 96
Ryan Roberts ARI 5 NL 108 417 360 16 50 0.264 0.357 0.458 0.815 122 197 95
Ryan Howard PHI 3 NL 118 511 444 26 95 0.257 0.344 0.495 0.840 127 375 95
Ben Zobrist TBR 4 AL 116 507 437 15 68 0.277 0.368 0.492 0.860 145 269 95
Brian McCann ATL 2 NL 93 382 341 19 56 0.302 0.372 0.513 0.885 143 222 95

Somewhere in an alternate universe, Michael Morse is the Phillies' 1st baseman and is being trumpeted for MVP consideration because of his league-leading 105 RBI.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 16th, 2011 at 6:10 pm and is filed under Insane ideas, Sabermetrics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

112 Responses to “How Many Players Would Have 95 RBI in Ryan Howard’s Opportunities?”

  1. This understates the case, as many of these guys walk more than Howard. This gets "penalized" in RBI/BR.

  2. Sure, this is just to convey the general idea that you can plug in a lot of guys and get the same RBI production as Howard.

  3. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Now, adjust for each of the other players' games not actually played and you may have that one coherent point that Sean was trying to make.

  4. Neil - Are you considering all base runners as equal RBI opportunities here, regardless of what base they're o?. That would seem to be an important factor.

  5. Nope, I'm not accounting for the bases the runners were on - like I said, this is just quick-n-dirty, to show that there are other guys are cashing in on baserunners at equal or better rates. I'm not sure how accounting for the actual bases the players were on would change things, but something like RE24 does take into account the actual base-out situation (Howard is 11th in the NL in RE24).

    Also, like Kahuna said, the quick & dirty 375*(RBI/BR) approach undervalues Howard's durability, because getting those 375 opportunities is a combination of teammate quality and the ability to stay in the lineup for 500+ PA.

  6. sean forman Says:

    This might under sell itas Howard has more runners on third than average

  7. You appear to be overcounting RBIs due to HRs. Those RBI's won't go up with more baserunners.

    HR + 375*(RBI-HR)/BR

    Is that still quick enough? :-)

  8. If you are trying to make this "quick and dirty" why not just look at the % of base runners that score when these players are at bat? Or if you are trying to be fair take this calculation and take it back a few years and see how everyone stacks up.

  9. #7 - Yes, that still fits in within our busy modern lifestyles. :)

    Player Tm Pos Lg HR RBI BR w/ 375 BR
    Curtis Granderson NYY 8 AL 33 94 331 102
    Nelson Cruz TEX 9 AL 26 77 260 100
    Mark Teixeira NYY 3 AL 32 88 311 100
    Ryan Braun MIL 7 NL 23 78 271 99
    Josh Hamilton TEX 7 AL 14 66 231 98
    Lance Berkman STL 9 NL 28 76 269 95
    Ryan Howard PHI 3 NL 26 95 375 95

    Howard looks better here because so many of his RBI were himself, via HR.

  10. #8 - Here are the straight-up BRS% leaders:

    Player Tm Pos Lg BR BRS %
    Josh Hamilton TEX 7 AL 231 55 23.8%
    Chipper Jones ATL 5 NL 197 45 22.8%
    Michael Young TEX D AL 337 75 22.3%
    Ryan Braun MIL 7 NL 271 56 20.7%
    Matt Holliday STL 7 NL 228 47 20.6%
    Nelson Cruz TEX 9 AL 260 53 20.4%
    Michael Morse WSN 3 NL 247 50 20.2%
    Adrian Gonzalez BOS 3 AL 381 77 20.2%
    Adrian Beltre TEX 5 AL 292 58 19.9%
    Robinson Cano NYY 4 AL 328 65 19.8%
    Ben Zobrist TBR 4 AL 269 53 19.7%
    Andrew McCutchen PIT 8 NL 281 55 19.6%
    Hunter Pence TOT 9 NL 317 62 19.6%
    Neil Walker PIT 4 NL 312 61 19.6%
    Carlos Gonzalez COL 7 NL 257 50 19.5%
    Joey Votto CIN 3 NL 295 57 19.3%
    Jacoby Ellsbury BOS 8 AL 286 55 19.2%
    Jonathan Lucroy MIL 2 NL 215 41 19.1%
    Victor Martinez DET D AL 310 59 19.0%
    Prince Fielder MIL 3 NL 348 66 19.0%
    Lance Berkman STL 9 NL 269 51 19.0%
    Ryan Howard PHI 3 NL 375 70 18.7%
    Todd Helton COL 3 NL 268 50 18.7%
    Melky Cabrera KCR 8 AL 327 61 18.7%
  11. Of the players you listed only Braun is on a team that scores less than the Phillies do. And that is only by .03 runs/game. It seems like Howard's RBI's are more "valuable" than the players of the other teams listed.

  12. This may be out of line, and I'm sorry if it is, but I love that Jesus has taken some time to chime in the Ryan Howard debate....

  13. So we're saying that 17 guys are better than Howard in this situation. In other words, he would still be the best on half the teams in the league.

    Look, we get the idea: Ryan Howard isn't the player he was in 2006. The amount of research being done on this is getting to the point of ridiculous.

  14. Chris Fiorentino Says:

    Mr. Lucky...the poster child for sabremetric haters around the country. You guys keep on hatin' and Howard will keep on racking up the RBIs. And when they win another World Series you will have the whole offseason to name all the players that could be wearing the ring that Howard is wearing. Except he will be the one wearin it and we all will be on Broad Street celebrating with Ryan Howard and none of the other names on that list.

  15. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Neil's chart shows the top 21 BRS-rate players in the majors with 350+ plate appearances. The total number of players with 350+ PAs so far in 2011 is 173. Howard therefore is in the top 11% of "regular" BRS-rate players. He knocks in baserunners (even those other than himself) at far better than a league-average rate, and plays every day. No other regular Phillies player appears on the list of top player rates. There's no question Howard is the right man to occupy the #4 spot in the Phillies' batting order.

    It's not Ryan's best season, but it's still pretty good, even according to the historical standards by which he's implicitly being measured. 2011 has not been a strong offensive year for the Phillies. All this having been said, the Phils stand a decent chance of winning the World Series even if Ryan Howard has passed the crest of his very fine career.

  16. I wouldn't call myself a sabermetric hater, but I do think stats should only be part of the equation, not all of it. I don't think Howard's as good as his RBI's reflect, but I also don't think he's as bad as the calculation makes him look either. Consider this. If Curtis Granderson were on any other team but the Yankees, Sox or Rangers, would he have scored 100 runs by now? Highly unlikely. But is he also the Yankees MVP this season? Absolutely. And Ryan Howard is the Phillies' offensive MVP for sure. So being the offensive MVP of the best team in the NL? I think that works for the Phillies just fine.

  17. Just what would Victorino have to do to be the Phillies' "Offensive MVP"?

  18. I think most (not all) of you guys are Dch*** Bags but haven't invented a new stat to prove it ... yet.

  19. Luckily we're in this universe, where Ryan howard is the rbi leader and the Phils have the best record in baseball.

  20. Bus Stop Rat Bag Says:

    Grasping at straws!!! The Ryan Howard that continually leads the league in RBIs is over rated?? The Ryan Howard with almost 300 home runs in just over 5 seasons?? The one with an MVP on his mantle?? The same Ryan Howard that has a rookie of the year next to his MVP trophy?? The same Ryan Howard that won led his team to the world series, 2 pennants and 4 straight division titles in 5 seasons as the centerpiece of the best team in the National League??? You can mix numbers and stats and find rediculous stats about ANYONE EVEN TED WILLIAMS!!! EVEN BABE RUTH!!! You gotta be an idiot to call Ryan Howard over rated!! Is he a gold glover?? NO!! He is the run producing machine, that seems to come through for the team at a rediculous rate. Lets just say this article has any bearing on reality, lets say its truth, then what is he saying, Ryan Howard is a top 20 player, and a top 20 player in MLB is over rated??? Behind guys like Adrian Gonzalez Mark Texiera Josh Hamilton Ryan Braun, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, EVEN THOUGH IN REALITY HE IS AHEAD OF EVERY SINGLE PLAYER IN BASEBALL AGAIN, if he were behind a few of them elite players, that makes him over rated?? The fact is, since Ryan Howard stepped on the field, NOONE IN MLB has drove in as many rbis, nor hit as many home runs. In fact, NOONE IN MLB HISTORY has made it to 100, 200, and 250 home runs as fast as Ryan Howard did!! That includes Hank AAron, Pujols, Ruth, Williams, and anyone else ya wanna throw in. Go mix up some stats and numbers to throw a wrench in these facts!!

  21. Bus Stop Rat Bag Says:

    EDIT: And he did it cleanly, when he hit 58 home runs, Who hit 58 home runs without steroids?? Ruth Maris Howard and I think Foxx?? They were saying that Howard was gonna be the LEGIT season home run record holder in 2006, the one who beat Maris without any performance enhancing drug help!! 58 home runs, 149 Rbis .313 avg in his 1st season as the starter.

  22. It's amazing how much people fear what they don't completely understand.
    It's not that hard to interpret these stats, but oh no if they paint a player on the team you root for in a negative light, they must be garbage!! Try being objective people.....or don't waste your time on this site

  23. Hey Bus Stop...Howard hasn't been that player in about 3 years.....his hitting skills are declining evidenced by his poor OBP and SLG.....and he hasn't even started his extension yet.......It's a cause for some concern....I say this as a rabid Phils fan......He can surely bounce back, but it's been trending down for a few years now.

  24. We are headed for a HOF debate far worse than the Jim Rice one. Set your calendars folks. We have not yet begun to spill internet type.

  25. Somewhere in an alternate universe theres a guy that understands twisting statistics to manipulate your personal point of view is borderline bullsh*t

  26. Bus Stop Rat Bag Says:

    Hasnt been what guy?? He only hits 40 now instead of 50?

  27. Bus, if he's lucky, Ryan will hit 35 HR at season's end

  28. Super Star Says:

    Dont even feed into this, the only people that can possibly believe this, are people that want Howard on their team driving in hundreds of runs every year and leading THEIR team to pennants

  29. Hahaha, what's next.......racist comments?

  30. at #24, I don't think so, necessarily! Nobody's actually trying to argue that Howard's been bad, just that he might benefit in the public mind from having good numbers posted in imperfect stats.

    Even though I do think that people are prone to overstate the value of his RBI, and that he's overpaid relative to his actual value, I'd still say he's well on track to the Hall. People are fighting about how good he is, not IF he's good.

    All that being said though, if I were a Philly fan, his K numbers would make my head explode.

  31. Wow Bus Stop...

    You're serious when you say Howard was centerpiece. Huh. When did Chase Utley retire?

  32. these stats are so pointless. they operate in a vacuum. they're so flawed, even the blogger admits they are with his qualifier of it being a "dirty way", at which point I ask...what IS the point?

    show of hands to the readers who would be just as content with ryan roberts batting cleanup for their team as ryan howard if they were hypothetical phillies fans?

    I wish the writer, and forman, could answer one thing, I dont know mean this as a smartass but just honestly: in retrospect, if you could go back and manage the 2010 Phillies...would you have put Ruiz in the cleanup hole over Howard? by everyone's logic it appears you would since he had a higher BA which suggests he wouldve had more RBIs. The basis of everything that's being said oversimplifies the very complex nature of how a batter approaches their at bat in a given part of the order, against a given team, in a given moment, with a pitcher's specific approach to that blah blah blah i cant believe im wasting time on you SABR acolytes

  33. Way more heat than light in here. This is resembling a Phillies fan site

  34. @32
    You're overreading the argument. The argument is not whether Howard is a good cleanup hitter for the Phillies. Its whether he should be a leading MVP candidate because of his RBI total. Lots of NL players are having better offensive seasons.

    And making up strawmen doesn't help. "Everyone's logic" wouldn't put Ruiz at cleanup. It would probably have Ruiz batting second because of he OBP. Utley/Ruiz/Werth/Howard would be my "in hindsight" top of the Phillies order.

  35. I understand the point being made here, and find it valid. But I still think there's not enough attention being paid to his batting average and on base percentage when he has RBI opportunities. It's clear, based on the numbers, that he consistently performs better in those situations, and that has to count for something. He may be a .250 hitter, but he's not a .250 hitter with men on base, and he's not .250 hitter when has a chance to drive in runs in close games.

  36. All I can say is Howard makes 20-25 million a year and I make 45k. Either he's doing something right or I'm doing something wrong. I'm guessing both. But since I can't back that up with cold hard numbers I'm sure I'll catch h@#$.

  37. Most of what's revealed in debates this heated is about the debaters, not the topic. One thing I've learned is that Bus Stop, despite being a big Ryan Howard fan, doesn't know how many full seasons he's already played nor how many HRs Howard hit last year and this year.

    When you won't take the few seconds to acquire such basic and easily available information, it's a pretty good bet you're not really interested in fact-based argument.

  38. Chris Fiorentino Says:


    I agree and it is Phillies fans like him who give the rest of us a pretty bad name.

    Look, I know that Ryan Howard has fallen pretty far from his peak 2006-2009 years. But for people to just poo poo those years and say he was "very good" and not "elite" is just ludicrous. Again, in what sabremetric world is the following 4-year stat line not considered Elite?

    50/140/.280/.380/.590/.970 144 OPS+

    Unless you want to say that Albert Pujols is Elite and everybody else is just very good, then OK. But I challenge you to tell me a player other than Pujols who had as good a 4 year stretch at the plate from 2006 to 2009 than Ryan Howard.

  39. @38, Elite players in baseball have the highest OBP because that is the most valuable stat, and Howard's .380 looks pretty nice but it is heavily inflated by his monster 2006 .425 OBP. For 07-09 he had a .363 OBP, not elite at all. Because of this he only accumulated 16.0 WAR in his peak 06-09 years.

    I will accept your biased challenge which forces me to search for other players ONLY during Howard's best years, and I found 21 players with more WAR including

    Pujols 35.4 (2654 PA)
    Mauer 28.2 (2318 PA)
    Utley 26.6 (2746 PA)
    H Ramirez 25.6 (2751 PA)
    Beltran 24.5 (2318 PA)
    Howard 16.0 (2755 PA)

    Now if you let me search for say the best 4 consecutive years of any active player you will find Howard much lower on the list, and if you let me do it for any all-time player you will find 2 Howards alone ahead of Ryan (Frank 21.4 WAR, '67-70; Elston 21.1 WAR, '61-64) plus hundreds of other players ahead of him.

  40. @38
    If you're just looking at OPS+, then A-Rod (150) and Berkman (148) have him beat by a good margin. Allowing for some injury time (but still 2200 PA over the four seasons), Chipper (153) and Manny (152) have Howard beat handily. Cabrera just nudges him (145). Mauer (143), Teixeira (141), Ortiz (141), Holliday (141), Fielder (141) aren't far behind. And of course, there is still Pujols (178).

    Nobody is saying that Howard's great 2006 season (OPS+ = 167) wasn't MVP caliber offensively - though not better than Pujols and there's always the glove positions. But OPS+ = 144 over a four year period isn't that much of an outlier. There's usually a handful of guys who do that in any four year period. The outlier is the HR totals.

  41. Chris Fiorentino Says:


    Yeah, that's why WAR is a pretty useless stat to overrates baserunning and gives too much credit for playing a position instead of looking at the actual raw #'s.


    I'm not just looking at OPS+...I'm looking at the TOTALITY of his #'s...from HRs to RBIs to OPS to OPS+. And see above for why I don't consider WAR anything more than a way to devalue first basemen and overvalue the Center Fielders and Shortstops and other guys with speed.

    Thanks for the answers though, sabre guys. I'll stick with Ryan Howard over Michael Morse and Ryan Roberts. Good night.

  42. Don't just say you don't like the positional adjustments. Maybe they are wrong but they weren't picked out of the air. How much credit do YOU give a player for playing a tough position. How much credit do you give to Jimmy Rollins when comparing him to Adam Dunn?

  43. Johnny Twisto Says:

    WAR is a pretty useless stat to overrates baserunning and gives too much credit for playing a position instead of looking at the actual raw #'s.


    Darn those guys who have the nerve to play a position. If they'd just pump some iron and focus on hitting more, we'd be much better off.

  44. @41

    Are you really suggesting that a 1st baseman's numbers should be directly compared to a catcher's?

    You can have your declining power hitter and his terrible contract. Nobody envies that.

  45. So looking at post #7, if you account for all the times Howard knocks himself in via HR, he moves to seventh on your list, behind Granderson, Teix, Braun, Hamilton, Berkman and Nelson Cruz? Didn't you just prove that Howard WAS elite?

  46. @46, so he climbs to #7 in knocking in runs in list that doesn't account for the ratio of RISP that Howard has compared to other players.

    1) Being 7th best at something is not elite
    2) That is the only thing he does that is even top 10, every other aspect of his game is not anywhere close to elite status, especially his .344 OBP

  47. Thomas Court Says:

    Playing a position other than first base SHOULD be valued. It means that you are a more rounded as an overall player. A player who is a DH is penalized (justifiably so) because their glove is not good enough to get on the field. If your glove is BARELY good enough to get you on the field you should get penalized when compared to players in more challenging defensive positions.

  48. joekiddluischama Says:


    OPS+ may be unfairly diminishing in Ryan Howard's case. Since he plays his home games in a hitter's haven, OPS+ assumes that Howard receives a significant advantage that needs to be neutralized via this metric or filter. But while Howard's home stadium may provide a generic hitting advantage that applies to most of his teammates, it may not be especially relevant to him. For his major league career, Ryan Howard has actually tallied more home runs, doubles, and extra-base hits on the road than at home. Likewise, Cole Hamels' career home ERA (3.15) is a half-run better than his career road ERA (3.64) despite having always pitched his home games in that Philadelphia band-box. Therefore, ERA+ may provide him with an advantage that isn't necessarily warranted.

    Metrics such as ERA+ and OPS+ are useful in a broad sense, but since they rely on universal assumption, they may not always be telling in individual cases like Howard and Hamels that run against the grain of generic expectations.

  49. joekiddluischama Says:


    While the conclusion is doubtlessly correct, I might note that we don't know how leadoff hitters such as Jacoby Ellsbury and J.J. Hardy would fare regarding RBIs if placed in Howard's position. Perhaps they'd prove just as effective if not better, but there's also something to being able to handle a certain role and the expectations that come with it. Even if he benefits from an unusually high amount of RBI opportunities, Howard has proven over the course of his career that he can carry that burden (for a high-profile, high-expectation team, no less). Conversely, if we removed J.J. Hardy from hitting leadoff for a bottom-feeder in Baltimore and instead told him to hit cleanup for Philadelphia and lead the league in RBIs, his responsiveness to that challenge would surely be more questionable than Howard's. Indeed, the same would be true of a low-profile player such as Michael Morse.

    These comments don't negate your overall point about the circumstantial, team-oriented nature of RBIs, but I would keep in mind the idiosyncrasies of the human mind, pressure, and performance under large expectation. If one doesn't think that these factors enter the equation in many cases, just see the play of Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford this year.

  50. joekiddluischama Says:

    @ 5

    Driving in a runner from third base is much easier than driving in a runner from first. I'm not sure of Howard's circumstantial opportunities in these regards (accounting for the position of the runners, not to mention their speed), but one of his advantages is that with his home run and extra-base power, he is an enormous threat to drive-in runs even when runners aren't in scoring position or when there are no runners on base. The same couldn't be said of all good hitters, although most of the ones in your table would more or less make the cut.

  51. Dickie Dunn Says:

    Put Adrian Gonzalez in Philly's lineup with the OPS he has this year and he probably is pushing 105 RBI at this point for the Phils (didn't see him in the list but I think it would be a telling comparison to use other 1st basemen). To me, it isn't just power #'s that matter, it's hitting in general and Howard has slumped this year for the most part (his typical obsession with swinging at sliders for one, the lack of a 5 hitter until recently giving him more crap pitches to swing at as well).

    Howard is a very good power hitter but he's not an elite player at this point since he's been figured out as our generation's Pedro Cerrano. Howard's definitely overpaid as well but that's a function of past performance moreso than future potential...unfortunately we in Philly are stuck with a guy who probably will not be the 45 HR, .280ish hitter he was a couple of seasons back. That leads to the bigger question -- would you rather a .260ish power hitter that can belt 40 HR's or have a .330 hitter who belts 20-25 HR in the 4 spot? I'm not keen of low average/high power guys despite their obvious ability to deliver high RBI totals and big offensive statistics.

    Given 500 AB's, the .330 guy gets 35 more hits a year than a .260 hitter. Figuring you have similar runners on, the .330 guy probably can bring more more runners over the course of a season than a .260 guy can despite the .260 guy's potential to hit more HR's and potential to conceivably bring in more runs. Potential doesn't mean reality.

  52. LOL @ the sabre haters, you guys can have your $25mil/year man whose only strength is hitting once the shift has been removed because the hitters in front of him are better at getting on base

  53. @48

    You need to look up your assumption there. CBP has been pretty much neutral for years, not at all a 'hitters haven'.

  54. I'm a huge fan of advanced statistics but sometimes they are just over used. Last time I checked you win the game with runs, not how many times you get on base. If I have a guy who has a .400 OBP but usually gets a walk when there is a RISP that doesn't help me win the game. But if I get a guy who has a .350 OBP but drives in the RISP 2x as often as the .400 OBP guy, doesn't the .350 OBP guy add more to my team than the guy who gets on base "only" 14% more of the time? There really isn't that big of a difference between a .400 OBP. Since 06 runners that are on base while Howard is AB score 19% of the time. For those of you who are going to say well 06-07 must boost that, in those years 18% of the base runners scored. This year it's 19% again. No other 1st baseman matches that figure over that time frame. So if the way to win the game is scoring runs, and he is one of the best if not the best at it, why do people discount him?

  55. I suspect I'm going to regret this but here it goes. 1. The number of posters who feel the need to mention Howard's contract extension is interesting. The idea that the organization used the extension to correct some past wrongs and to signal to other MLB players that the Phillies were no longer the same penny pinching organization seems to be missed. 2. I wasn't aware that Ryan Howard had received so much unearned praise that a correction was necessary. Really, does the national baseball media put him on a pedestal? Do posters really begrudge him his Subway commercials? 3. This isn't how science or measurement works. Having an opinion and then cherry-picking data to support that opinion is closer to what traditional hack sportswriters do. The issue of an item's validity seems to be pushed to the background in these debates. Claiming that statistic X is a valid measure of trait Y doen't make it so. 4. I've always considered myself as someone who views baseball (and all sports) through a sabremetric lens ever since I bought my first Bill James book in 1983. But the approach to analysis displayed in these discussions of Ryan Howard doesn't seem very rigorous and seems unlikey to convert nonbelievers given its apparent intent not to shed light on broader issues but rather to trash a particular player.

  56. Ryan Howard is about as good as Mark Teixeira, but Howard gets a lot more grief about being "overrated." Teixeira plays in a much better hitters park, and has finished in the top 9 in his league in WAR as many times as Howard.

    I hate the term overrated. If you say "Ryan Howard is overrated," it doesn't mean anything, because it all depends on how he's rated in the first place, which nobody agrees on anyway. The point is that Ryan Howard is not the elite hitter that Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun and Adrian Gonzalez are. The only statistic that places him in their category is RBI, and one of Sean's points (I think) wasn't that RBI, on it's own, is bad. It's that it gets too much play when discussing MVP candidates, because it's only one statistic and it takes into account situation as much as individual performance.

    Also, the problem with Howard ISN'T that he doesn't drive in enough of the batters who are on base ahead of him (sorry for the multiple-negatives). I haven't seen a whole lot to convince me that other players would drive in significantly more. It's that he makes so many outs that the players behind him don't have chances to drive HIM in.

    Many of the stats we're using to say Howard isn't elite aren't new, fancy-nancy stats. OBP and SLG are well established. Not just in the statistical community, but in a big chunk of the mainstream. Their relative importance is debated. My take is that OBP is about three times as important as SLG, but feel free to convince me otherwise. Howard has only once been in the top ten in OBP. He's been in the top 10 in SLG four times, but neither were in the past two years. Here in 2011, he's 33rd in OBP and 18th in SLG. Combine that with his below average defense, and he simply is NOT an elite player. He drives in a lot of runs because the top of the Phillies order puts a lot of people on base, and because he's a very good hitter. Not an elite hitter, and not an MVP, but very good.

    On a slightly related note, I've always found it a tad ironic how much sportswriters pimp the importance of baserunning, defense, and "playing the game the right way" and then are so willing to vote for the RBI leader as MVP regardless of everything else. Buster Olney's rant on SNB a couple weeks ago about WAR sort of magnified that, since he's just about the most hypocritical offender, going on and on about how WAR is useless because it doesn't conform to HIS preconceived notions about how baseball works. I'm willing to believe that WAR is flawed. In fact, until it adds up perfectly to team wins over replacement, we know that it IS an ever-evolving statistic. The fact that WAR isn't flawless doesn't mean that RBI is better.

    Also, everything I've said in the previous four paragraphs should be echoed for Teixeira.

  57. GAH, I meant to say that Howard is as good of a HITTER as Mark Teixeira... Teixeira's defense, while overrated, makes him a better player than Howard.

  58. this thread needs more RE24. I posted in the other thread already so I won't copy/paste

  59. quick and dirty = not worth a damn.

  60. While Ryan may not have the consistency of Pujols, when he is hot there is almost no stopping him. He can truly carry a team, something that very few players can do. For example, take a look at the 2009 NLDS and NLCS and you'll see. He had several big hits (especially game 4 against Colorado) and had over a quarter of the Phils RBI for those two rounds (14 out of 54).

    I'm not saying Ryan should be considered to be in the same breath as Pujols or A-Gon, but the idea that he is not valuable and is average holds little water.

  61. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    our generation's Pedro Cerrano

    Beautifully said . . . and funny!

  62. He was also pretty bad against the Yankees in the 2009 World Series (25 PA, 3 extra base hits, 13 K's). So I suppose there's no stopping him, until someone does.

    The fact that he drove in lots of runs in the playoffs just reinforces that he's a good player in a great lineup. The Phillies did a good job getting runners on base. He gets a ton of credit for their success relative to, say, Chase Utley, a far superior player.

    Let me make this perfectly clear. Being worse than Chase Utley does not make Ryan Howard a bad player, or a mediocre one, or an average one. There's no shame in being worse than Chase Utley. Chase Utley is awesome, and almost everyone is worse than him. Including every position player on the Phillies.

  63. Things about Ryan howard that are true:

    -- He's a very good hitter who drives in a ton of runs
    -- He is a valuable member of the Phillies lineup
    -- He is should not be considered a candidate for NL MVP
    --The Phillies have the best record in baseball because they have the best pitching staff in baseball
    -- He will have no claim to the Hall of Fame when he retires unltess he can somehow repeat his 2006 season 4-5 more times before the end of his career

    These are all facts. I don't care if you only follow baseball through a spreadsheet, or you are a Phillies fan who can't see past RBI totals.

  64. @63

    I agree with all of your points except for the last. I'd say Howard has an excellent chance at 400 home runs, and a fair chance at 500. If he gets to 500 homers he'll end up getting serious consideration, particularly if the Phillies can pick up a couple more titles.

    Not saying that he'll deserve it (my guess is his objective qualifications will resemble those of Carlos Delgado, who won't make it), but he will likely get it.

  65. Seems like howard's biggest fault is that he's not albert pujols. he's the only guy anyone ever compare's howard to. It's unfair.

    And howard's decline in stats matches a similar decline through the rest of the league.

  66. @63, check the dictionary for what the word "facts" means.

  67. Sal Pal downright embarrassed himself. Makes you wonder if he's the football genius he's presumed to be.

    Does it bother anyone else that Ryno seems unwilling or unable to make teams pay for playing the shift on him? Is that one of the reasons why his numbers are better with RISP? It's not like he's even close to being a .400 OBP guy so there certainly seems to be vast room for improvement.

  68. I call nickname foul... Ryno is Ryne Sandberg. Ryan Howard is probably good enough to be given his own nickname.

    (Of course, it's possible Ryne Duren was "Ryno" first, so it's not like a huge horrible deal... but still, it's the principle of the thing.)

  69. The clubhouse calls howard "howie" or "big piece", which is an awesome nickname, and gived to him by Charlie Manuel.

  70. @67

    finally! the lack of being able to use the shift with runners on is the chief reason for howard's "clutchness" with RISP.

  71. @Fitz

    Howard is often compared to Pujols because some feel that he didn't deserve the MVP over Pujols the year he won it. They would suggest that RBI were the biggest factor.

    While I fall in the camp of thinking Pujols was deserving, I also think that is an incredibly high standard to hold Howard too acting as if he's worthless if he doesn't best Pujols.

    Clearly Howard is a very good 1B option.

    I agree with whoever said that this feel like a Jeter thing all over again. Calling someone overrated to the point of being now underrated

  72. Clutch: over his career howard has a higher batting average with runners on base than bases empty, and posts his highest OPS in extra innings. (1.068)

  73. @71, Come on, howard was the best baseball player in the league that year.

    Weird twist, howard won the MVP the year Pujols won the Series, and Pujols won the MVP the year howard won the Series. Baseball!

  74. Yes, and one last thing from me. Getting hits with men on base (or preventing them) is probably the most important part of baseball. Always was, always will be. Ryan howard does as good s anyone. I know the %s say that some other guy on a last place team who is having a career year (cough, Mike Morse) is better. But Ryan howard ACTUALLY DOES IT, not just in some hypothetical formula.

    he drives in the most guys, almost every year he plays, for his whole career. Now *that* is a fact.

  75. *Ryan howard does "this" as good "as" anyone.

  76. joekiddluischama Says:


    But how many .330 hitters are out there?

  77. If he gets hits with men on base as good as anyone, why isn't his batting average, on base percentage, or slugging percentage with men on base the best?

    He's the best at coming to the plate when runners happen to be in scoring position, and he's a very good hitter. I don't understand why people feel the need to make it any more or less than that?

    Also, most batters have higher numbers with men on base than with the bases empty, because good pitchers are more likely to keep the bases empty. That's been pretty consistent throughout history.

  78. joekiddluischama Says:


    Repeating Howard's 2006 season four or five more times would invite comparisons to Lou Gehrig. Indeed, such a feat would automatically punch his ticket to Hall of Fame induction and of course is completely unrealistic. Rather, if Howard could post at least a couple more 40 HR/120 RBI campaigns, he would start to create serious consideration for himself. However, the elite phase of his career seems to be finished, although a revival is always possible.

  79. please provide the same stat for 2006-2011 combined. your sample size is too small to be meaningful.

  80. @77, his RBI total is the highest. Fair enough?

    Also, howards rbis totals have remained high, despite the Phillies completely changing from the highest scoring team in the NL to the middle of the pack of the NL.

    Really, what are you guys talking about here? Ryan howard is one of the best players in baseball, he's a great guy. he strikes out a lot? sure. his throwing arm is dangerous? definitely. But he's one of the best hitter of the era. Is he Pujols? No fucking way. But he is a very very very good hitter. Will he hit .300 again, probably not. he'll hit .270 every year though (and we all should know the meaningless difference between those two numbers, one single every two weeks)

  81. @77, coming to bat with runners in scoring position, and DRIVING THEM IN.

  82. @80

    He doesn't drive in the highest percentage of runners in scoring position. He simply comes up with the runners in scoring position more often. So no, he isn't "the best" at it. There's really no other way around it. Your attempts to make his accomplishments more impressive than they are help to invite the backlash against him.

    I don't know why it's so bad to admit that he's a very good player who drives in the most runs because of increased opportunities. They don't give the batting title to the batter with the most hits, they give it to the one with the highest batting average. Having 35 extra chances to drive in runs and driving in 10 more does NOT make you a better "run producer" than the guy with fewer opportunities. Counting stats are close to meaningless if the situations aren't equalized.

  83. @Fitz

    I beg to differ that Howard was the best in the league that year. Did he have a place in the discussion? Definitely

    Pujols bested him in every rate stat while still putting up 49 HR 137 RBI, which admittedly fall a little short of Howard's 58 HR 149 RBI

    However if you take a look at their splits Howard hat 39 more AB with men on than Pujols did and knocked them at a slightly lower rate. So given the additional AB that gap in RBI becomes almost even.

    All of this stuff doesn't even include the defensive ability of the two, leading to the massive difference in WAR on the season.

    Pujols 8.3
    Howard 5.8

    Pujols should have won the MVP. This does NOT mean that Howard is somehow a terrible baseball player. He was one of the best hitters in the league that year.

  84. Dickie Dunn Says:

    @76 --

    using .320ish as a baseline (.320 is still damn good)

    Pujols (most years)
    Miguel Cabrera

    that's seven....and three of them can hit for comparable power to Howard (Miggy, Korenko and Pujols).

    Howard isn't elite because he doesn't possess average PLUS power. He has power.

    @74 -- if you give the average schmuck a 1-2-3 of Rollins, Victorino, and Utley they could likely drive in 100 runs over 162 games. Does hitting 130 RBI make you the "best" in the business at producing because you can drive in one additional run over 5 games than some random dude you drop in off the street?

    Howard is a one-dimensional power hitter who has issues hitting anything other than a fastball. And gets paid $25 mil a year to do it. Nice work if you can get it.

  85. from 2006-2011 a total of 67 players have at least 400 RBI. (Howard is 90 ahead of second place by the way.)

    in that span Howard's "Clutch", as defined by this website, is #3 of those 67 players. Clutch WPA being the difference between context dependent WPA and the context neutral WPA.

    what does this mean? I don't know. But if we want to isolate only 2011 and say he's not driving in runs at an amazing clip given his opportunities that doesn't invalidate his entire career. It's just a guess but I expect most of the players on the above list would fall behind Howard if you look at the entire period of 2006-2011.

    Howard's career slugging with men on base is .596

    Of all the players listed above I expect Howard is only behind Pujols. And comparing to Pujols isn't fair. Nobody says he's THAT good. But to try and find ways to deny he's been good at driving in runs in funny.

  86. Disclosure: I am a big Phils fan

    A couple years ago there was a stupid rumor that the Cardinals were going to trade Albert Pujols for Ryan Howard. In my discussion of this with about 90% of my Phils-fan friends, their reaction was "why would the Phillies do that?"

    Yes... why would the PHILLIES do that.

    I think that says it all about how blind most Phils fans are (and frankly, fans of most teams).

  87. People seem to give the credit for Howard's RBI's to the people getting on in front of him. He still has to drive the players in and he has done it at a more successful rate from 06-11. I don't understand why he doesn't get more credit for this. I have heard the argument that the reason his success rate is high is because he hits home runs in this situation...Really? Isn't that a good thing? Here are the success % of RBI's/Opp in descending order- Howard 26.9%, Pujols 26.6%, Cabrera 24.8%, Teixeira 24.3%, Gonzalez 24.2%, Fielder 23.5%. So when the opportunity presents itself Howard delivers well above the norm. Another thing I don't understand especially from people who I assume follow baseball pretty thoroughly is why doesn't Howard get credit for the protection he provides to the players batting ahead of him? If you know he can do damage with players on base, the pitcher is more likely to go after the hitters ahead of Howard in the lineup.

  88. joekiddluischama Says:


    While the argument for Pujols that year is strong, largely because of his defensive advantage, there's also something to be said for 58 home runs (nine more than Pujols) and the automatic runs that they foster. The home run by far constitutes the most consequential play in baseball, with virtually everything else in offense merely creating better chances (some of which will bear fruit and some of which won't). I'm still not sure that most advanced metrics fully account for the advantages that come from the "automatic, guaranteed" runs generated by home runs.

    And while WAR is great to look at and consider, it's not the definitive, end-all measure that some imagine. The truth is that an estimate masquerading as exactitude isn't actually exactitude and while WAR's results often make sense and provide a worthwhile framework, there is no way to precisely ascertain how many wins a single player meant to his club.

    By the way, Howard's 58 home runs in 2006 stand as the most since Roger Maris' 61 in 1961 by anyone not heavily tied to steroids. That historic performance certainly could be worthy of the MVP Award, although one could also debate whether Maris deserved the honor over teammate Mickey Mantle fifty years ago.

  89. joekiddluischama Says:

    The previous post should have read @83; that's what I get for not checking.

  90. Mike Forbes Says:

    I will take Ryan Howard over anyone. He peaked at the wrong time. Stat's don't show his clutch HR's, his Aug and Sep HR's. Lets talk about Cole Hamels run support. How many runs have the Phillies scored for him in 7 losses. Did you say 8? That's lame. 8 runs scored in 7 losses. I would have a dead arm.

  91. "Put Adrian Gonzalez in Philly's lineup with the OPS he has this year and he probably is pushing 105 RBI at this point for the Phils"

    i don't think so, adrian, plays in a more offense friendly ball park, has 2 .300+ hitters hitting in front of him, plays in the american league, has youk and ortiz hitting behind him and does have more base runners than howard has and still has less rbi's.

    at the end of the season, would you rather have a player that drove in the highest % of base runners or the player that drove in the most runs? I'd take the runs, that is what wins ball games.

  92. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I created an "RBI matrix" the other day, based on the average RBI attained since 2006 in each of the 24 possible base-out situations. In theory, this should tell us exactly which players are getting more RBIs than expected based on the opportunities they have had.

    This season, the average player facing the same base-out situations as Adrian Gonzalez would have 67 RBI, so Gonzalez is +25 (+.046 per PA).

    Based on Ryan Howard's situations, the average player would have 69 RBI, so he is +26 (+.050 per PA).

    (Since 2011 is lower scoring than 2006-2010, the numbers for the average player will come out a little higher than they should, but that will affect everyone the same.)

    (And, of course, this gives no credit to players who get walks or hits (or even productive outs) which do not result in RBI, but do help the team score later in the inning. This is strictly an accounting of RBI per opportunity.)

    I will look up a few more players if anyone is interested.

    Incidentally, apropos of some recent discussions about optimal lineups, I noticed Gonzalez (mostly batting 3rd) has had 102 PA with 2 outs and no one on base, while Howard (batting 4th) has had just 50. This is why The Book did *not* advocate batting your best hitter 3rd -- he has too many low-leverage PA.

  93. Johnny Twisto Says:

    My calculation also does not account for park.

  94. @91 exactly

  95. @86 I'm pretty sure most Phillies fans would take Pujols over howard, I remember that (amazing, and stupid) rumor and I remember people not wanting to break up the clubhouse coming off back to back world series. And that Pujols would be a free agent sooner and be more expensive or just walk. But no one would take howard over Pujols straight up.

    Obviously we love howard here, but the "most" part of your statement is way off.

  96. @83, "a place in the discussion" yeah that place is 5fucking8 home runs, 25 in august and september.

    And his OPS that september was 1.3somethng, on a team battling for the playoffs (finishing a game out of the wildcard)

    he was the best player in the league that year. yes. I'm sorry it wasn't Pujols for ONCE in his career.

  97. joekiddluischama Says:


    ... good points about Gonzalez, although Ellsbury and Pedroia hit so many home runs themselves that while their on-base percentages are very high, these players won't be on base for Gonzalez quite as frequently as their OBPs would suggest.

    Gonzalez is the better player at this juncture, but Howard obviously fills his role very effectively for Philadelphia.

  98. @96 Gonzalez has had more base runners than Howard has this year and Howard still has more RBI's.

  99. @97 Is that true? hahahahaha. I guess Gonzalez isn't worth howard money.

  100. @98, it is true but I wouldn't say that Howard is an all around better player than Gonzalez obviously. Just that Howard is extremely good at driving in runners when presented the opportunity.

  101. joekiddluischama Says:


    ... intriguing. This "matrix" doesn't account for the speed of the base runners, but otherwise, the concept certainly makes more sense than simply examining the quantity of base runners. Yes, Howard's status an elite RBI man largely stems from circumstance, but also from the home run and extra-base power that renders him a prime RBI threat even with no runners in scoring position or on base at all. And to account for this dynamic, the "quality" of the RBI situation, not just the quantity of base runners, needs to be recognized. As I've written before, driving-in a runner from third is much easier than driving-in a runner from first (especially with less than two outs) and the two situations should not be deemed equivalent.

    If you enjoy the chance, you should copyright and present your tables and formulas.

  102. joekiddluischama Says:


    ... there should be an "as" between "an" and "status" ... lazy proof-reading on my part.

  103. joekiddluischama Says:


    ... interesting percentages, but how did you derive them? I'm guessing that your formula is different from the one employed by Mr. Paine in his table.

  104. joekiddluischama Says:


    Okay, your rates seem to for the 2006-2011 span, not just this year. But they are useful in judging Howard's career value as an "RBI man." As I noted in response to another Howard column, he wasn't merely eking-out 100 RBI seasons from 2006-2009.

  105. @102 and 103 I apologize. The figures are from 08-11, I purposely left off 06 and 07 so not to "boost" his stats. If I added those two years into the figures then he is even higher and for that matter so is Pujols, although he would still be second to Howard.

    @102 Paine only used this year and I used 08-11 for my calculations. Every player had well over 1600 opportunities for RBI's and Howard came out on top of the players I listed.

  106. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Wow. Just ran Curtis Granderson through my RBI matrix. An average player in his opportunities would have driven in 62 runs this year. So he is +33, +.062 per PA.

    Too bad no one's reading this anymore to give him his rightful MVP!

  107. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Odd thing about Granderson. He hasn't had a single PA this season with 0 outs and runners on 2nd and 3rd or bases loaded, a couple pretty good RBI opportunities. David Ortiz and Jason Bay have both had 10 such PA, and it looks like at least 30 players have had at least 5.

  108. what exactly is this rbi matrix? I'm pretty in tune with most of the stats, but have no clue how to use this website for sorting and such.

  109. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Fitz, it's not on the site. See my post 92 and let me know if you have questions.

  110. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I should have run Nelson Cruz, since he's on top of Neil's chart in the intro. He is +30, and +.070 per PA, the latter of which is easily the highest of the 4 big RBI guys I've calculated.

  111. I am going to be so butthurt when Grandy finishes the year strong and still doesn't get MVP.

    Anyway, Howard is overrated by the casual fan because the casual fan lacks the willingness or patience to do more than superficial analysis. Now, don't get me wrong--no one is saying anyone has to be a saberhead. You just can't argue with one if you're dismissive of their points without an understanding of what the hell they're talking about.

    For the same reason if I merely listen to Fox News or CNN yak about some bill or something and you read article after article from a variety of sources, and I don't know half of what you're talking about, but I'm still dismissive... we're a lot little (very little sadly, but still, a little) less tolerant of that sort of thing. But baseball? "DON'T YOU TELL ME SOMETHING DIFFERENT FROM WHAT I ALREADY KNOW I CAN READ STATS YOU SABERDUMMY GEEZ GO BACK INTO YOUR SABER-LAB AND MAKE MORE LIES, HATER!"

    @86 Duffgita

    100% right. I've had the same conversation with my fellow Yankees fans about Mark Teixeira and they stick with Mark. "Mark's great!" "Mark already fits in!"

    Occasionally I show them just how ridiculously awesome Pujols stats are, show them his career, show them the .330 career average and the slugging and the homers and the good baserunning and very occasionally they say, "wow!"

    And then they say, "I like Teixeira."

    They just don't want to upset the apple cart.

  112. -lot. Didn't proofread well enough.