The Philadelphia Phillies announced today that they have reached an agreement on a contract extension with Ryan Howard (their first baseman…not The Office character) worth $125 million over 5 years. This now makes him the 2nd highest paid player in the majors, which is funny because he’s not even a top 5 first baseman.
I would love to just write “HAHAHA” all over this post, but that wouldn’t be too informative. Instead I will proceed to trash Ryan Howard, vicariously trashing Ruben Amaro.
This is a decision they are going to regret, and here’s why:
Ryan Howard is 30 years old this year, and the contract will end when he’s 36 (it kicks in after his current deal is done). Not many players age gracefully into their mid 30’s. Some point to his durability, arguing that his healthy track record should alleviate concerns that he’ll break down when he’s 34, 35 or 36. I can’t help but wonder if this will eventually put too many miles on his odometer. Yes, he has never had a serious injury, but when you go on the 15-day DL for a calf strain, you’re also letting every other part of your body heal.
One of the greatest inventions time wasters ever is baseball-reference’s Similarity Scores list . It’s a 15 year old stat invented by Bill James (read about it here) that compares a certain players career to that of another players in order to find ‘similar careers’ . Do you know what players compare to Ryan Howard at the age of 29? Mo Vaughn, Cecil Fielder and Richie Sexson. Gross.
Ryan Howard is an average first baseman. His UZR over the passed 4 seasons has been downright pedestrian (-1.1, -1.5, 1.9, 2.1) If you don’t care to learn about UZR, know this: it’s rated on runs. So last year his defense saved 2.1 runs. Which is better than giving up runs, but not by much. This can only get worse, and there’s no way to hide his defense in the National League. There’s no DH here like there was for David Ortiz’s WHOLE career. But, his inability to DH won’t really matter much, because…
Even now, in his prime, I wonder how Ryan Howard possibly gets balls to hit. His contact rate (the ability to make contact with pitches) has been bad for 4 years (69%, 62%, 67%, 70%). Where does this rank with the rest of the first base elite? Albert Pujols’ contact percentage in 2009 was 89 percent! Mark Teixeira? 81 percent. Miguel Cabrera? 82 percent. Prince Fielder? 77 percent. Where does this go as his eyes get worse with age? What happens when his bat speed slows down? All downhill.
Everyone knows Ryan Howard strikes out way too much, this is not a secret. What’s is disconcerting is that he is now walking much less. His walk totals have been dropping consistently since 2006 (108, 107, 81, 75).
Another concern with Howard is that he can’t hit lefties at all. Not one bit. He hit a paltry .207 against left handed pitchers in 2009, with 6 HR’s and a .356 SLG %. That’s Adam Everett territory! This is essentially going to take an at-bat per game out of Ryan Howard’s hands. No manager will bring in a right handed pitcher to face him, and he’ll end up seeing a steady stream of left handed pitchers out of the bullpen.
This was a bad, bad deal.
A big thumbs up to the Philadelphia Phillies!