You Are Here > Baseball-Reference.com > Blog >

SITE NEWS: We are moving all of our site and company news into a single blog for Sports-Reference.com. We'll tag all B-R content, so you can quickly and easily find the content you want.

Also, our existing B-R blog rss feed will be redirected to the new site's feed.

Baseball-Reference.com » Sports Reference

For more from Andy and the gang, check out their new site High Heat Stats.

What worries me about Ryan Howard

Posted by Andy on August 27, 2009

At the end of last season, I wrote a post worrying about Ryan Howard's declining offensive performance. When a guy is hitting over 40 HR and driving in more than 130 runs, it can be easy to miss the fact that his OPS drops more than 200 points over 2 seasons (from 2006 to 2008.)

Check out the worst OPS+ values for 45 HR seasons:

  Cnt Player            **OPS+** HR Year Age Tm  Lg  G   PA  AB  R   H  2B 3B RBI  BB IBB  SO HBP  SH  SF GDP  SB CS   BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  Positions
+----+-----------------+--------+--+----+---+---+--+---+---+---+---+---+--+--+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+--+-----+-----+-----+-----+---------+
    1 Jose Canseco         113   46 1998  33 TOR AL 151 658 583  98 138 26  0 107  65   5 159   6   0   4   7  29 17  .237  .318  .518  .836 *D79      
    2 Greg Vaughn          117   45 1999  33 CIN NL 153 643 550 104 135 20  2 118  85   3 137   3   0   5   9  15  2  .245  .347  .535  .882 *7/D      
    3 Ryan Howard          124   48 2008  28 PHI NL 162 700 610 105 153 26  4 146  81  17 199   3   0   6  11   1  1  .251  .339  .543  .882 *3/D      
    4 Richie Sexson        127   45 2001  26 MIL NL 158 667 598  94 162 24  3 125  60   5 178   6   0   3  20   2  4  .271  .342  .547  .889 *3        
    5 Vinny Castilla       127   46 1998  30 COL NL 162 697 645 108 206 28  4 144  40   7  89   6   0   6  24   5  9  .319  .362  .589  .951 *5/6   

His 2008 performance is among the worst of the 113 different 45+ HR seasons in history, at least when rated by OPS+.

Of the 9 guys with at least 30 HR so far this season, he's near the bottom of the pack:

  Cnt Player            **OPS+** HR Year Age Tm  Lg  G   PA  AB  R   H  2B 3B RBI  BB IBB  SO HBP  SH  SF GDP  SB CS   BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  Positions
+----+-----------------+--------+--+----+---+---+--+---+---+---+---+---+--+--+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+--+-----+-----+-----+-----+---------+
    1 Carlos Pena          125   35 2009  31 TBR AL 122 518 425  81  94 22  2  87  81  10 149   9   0   3   5   2  3  .221  .355  .529  .884 *3        
    2 Russell Branyan      127   30 2009  33 SEA AL 112 491 419  61 105 21  1  75  56   6 144   9   1   6   6   2  0  .251  .347  .520  .867 *3        
    3 Ryan Howard          131   34 2009  29 PHI NL 121 537 471  81 126 27  3 104  57   3 150   4   0   5   9   5  0  .268  .348  .554  .902 *3/D      
    4 Mark Reynolds        142   38 2009  25 ARI NL 121 518 452  81 127 25  1  84  61   3 170   4   0   1   7  21  7  .281  .371  .593  .964 *53       
    5 Mark Teixeira        143   31 2009  29 NYY AL 120 551 473  76 136 34  0  93  67   7  85   9   0   2  10   2  0  .288  .385  .556  .941 *3/D      
    6 Adam Dunn            160   33 2009  29 WSN NL 124 524 423  66 121 26  0  89  95  14 138   4   0   2   8   0  1  .286  .420  .582 1.002 *739/D    
    7 Adrian Gonzalez      162   33 2009  27 SDP NL 125 531 434  71 118 21  1  74  93  18  87   2   0   2  20   1  1  .272  .401  .553  .954 *3/D      
    8 Prince Fielder       163   33 2009  25 MIL NL 124 548 450  77 137 27  2 110  83  14 106   8   0   7  11   2  3  .304  .416  .593 1.009 *3        
    9 Albert Pujols        188   40 2009  29 STL NL 124 542 436  98 138 30  1 106  94  37  54   7   0   5  20  12  4  .317  .441  .665 1.106 *3/D      

Of course, he's way up there in RBI. The real issue is that he's not drawing walks, and a lot of that may be due to Jayson Werth usually hitting behind him. Also Raul Ibanez has had a terrible August and that doesn't help any.

Howard's walk totals have dwindled over the last 4 seasons, from 108 and 107 in 2006 and 2007, down to 81 in 2008 (in more games) and projecting to fewer than 80 this year. You can see this trend in his BB% right here. Of note is that his walk dropoff seems to be due mainly to fewer intentional walks, going 37, 35, 17, and just 3 this year.

Anyway, this is the second straight year that Howard will finish with monster HR and RBI numbers but an OPS+ under 140 (although he's historically had massive Septembers, especially last year with 11 HR and 32 RBI.)

Let's see if he has his huge September again and pushes those averages up. Otherwise, I fear that the gap between Howard and Albert Pujols is going to widen over the coming years.

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 27th, 2009 at 7:56 am and is filed under Season Finders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

8 Responses to “What worries me about Ryan Howard”

  1. I wrote this post 2 days ago...doesn't help that the guy hit a 3-run HR in the 10th inning last night...

  2. rpbrpb2002 Says:

    This oversimplifies, but Howard is this generation's Dave Kingman. Either a home run or a K. Kingman did strike out less often, and Howard is more productive, but I wouldn't want either one of them in my lineup.

  3. philsphannj Says:

    Howard has an OPS+ of 141, compared to Kingman's 115.

    Howard had an .881 OPS last year in his worst season so far. Kingman topped that figure just once in his 15 full seasons. (His career OPS is .780.)

    Howard is no Babe Ruth, but he is by no means this generation's Dave Kingman.

  4. Well, in last year's case, that did have a lot to do with him just being snake-bit and highly unlucky. But his high walk seasons were undoubtedly due to his IBB count, which was crazy high. And he's at his peak speed, which isn't worth a ton, but it should go without saying that being able turn a single into a double is a great skill.

    His obvious biggest problem is hitting against lefties, who eat him alive. He has gotten progressively worse against them every season, and is seeing more and more PAs against them. He desperately needs to figure them out.

  5. JohnnyTwisto Says:

    Yeah, Ebessan hit on it. His unintentional walk rate has only ranged from about 9 to 11%, and is about 10% this season, so he's not really walking any less (especially if you consider that when he drew a ton of IBB, many of his UIBB were likely semi-intentional). That's a flaw of OBP (and by extension OPS+), because those walks do not lead to as many runs as a "normal" walk but are counted the same.

    That said, it seems obvious that '06 was his career year. He's not really a .300 hitter; he strikes out far too much, and as a .260 hitter he is still productive but not quite Albert Pujols.

  6. I guess the Devil Rays were impressed with players on the over 45 home runs list. They signed three of the five players (Canceco, Castilla & Vaughn) a season or two after they posted their low OPS numbers. So much for the "Bay Bombers".

    Jack

  7. [...] And then just yesterday, he wrote this: [...]

  8. [...] Check ‘em out… [...]