Thursday, June 15, 2006
But something bugs me about the Phillies these days. As I mentioned yesterday and a few days ago, the Phillies aren’t playing to their potential and I wonder why. Why do the D-backs have a better record with half the talent?
I was paging through my old 2005 Bill James Handbook and I was re-reading James' notes on how the Runs Created formula had to be re-done to reflect changes in the game. James noted that the ’03 Red Sox weren’t as successful as they should have been, given how well they hit. James tagged the problem as being that the Red Sox weren’t advancing base-runners, and thus the actual team runs lagged behind their Runs Created. In fact, James generally found that to be the problem associated with the Runs Created formula.
Well, I was thinking about why the D-backs were winning and scoring more runs and the Phillies weren’t, despite the fact that the Phillies should be much more potent at the plate than the D-backs. I came up, in my post, with a solution to the problem: the D-backs were hitting very well with runners in scoring position. They were advancing runners in scoring position. The Phillies were / have not. Look at this:
BA / RISP:
Chase Utley: .375
Bobby Abreu: .333
David Bell: .277
Aaron Rowand: .275
Ryan Howard: .226
Pat Burrell: .211
Jimmy Rollins: .209
Ryan Howard doesn’t advance runners the way he ought to. He may hit towering home runs, but his contribution to the Phillies offense is far less important than Bobby Abreu and Chase Utley’s. When runners are in scoring position, Ryan Howard is more likely than anyone (except Pat Burrell and J.Roll) to come up empty
Now I think most people will hasten to note that Pat Burrell is sucking things up right now. Fair enough. He is. But Burrell has performed well at this in the past:
BA / RISP:
In both situations Burrell’s batting average rose when runners were in scoring position: +.032 in 2005, +.006 in 2004 … Not so with Ryan Howard. His .226 BA / RISP is not much better than his 2005: .241. This year and last, Howard has seen his BA fall with runners in scoring position: -.067 in 2006 and -.048 in 2005 when he won the NL Rookie of the Year award. So it doesn’t seem likely that Ryan Howard is just unlucky. He seems like he can’t drive runners home with any consistency aside from blasting a mega-home run.
Sure Ryan Howard is clubbing the heck out of the ball. But what is he doing when he doesn’t hit home runs? Not much. Of Ryan Howard’s 141 total bases, 88 – roughly 63% – are the product of his 22 home runs. Ryan Howard is feast or famine. And herein lays the problem: I think that power-hitting works better than “small-ball”. But the ability to advance runners from first to third and from third to home, is the sine qua non of modern baseball. Chase Utley, for example, gets just 36% of his total bases off home runs. He has more doubles than homers. And he’s hitting .375 with runners on second and/or third.
So I think that Ryan Howard is a little over-rated. I know I’ll get a lot of outraged mail, but I think that it is worth discussing. Thoughts?
I thought it might be because howard is trying for the long ball too much, but if anything it looks like he's not - his G/F ratio is 1.47 (compare that to pujol's 0.94, and his RISP Avg of .500+!).
The numbers suggest (perversely) that he's NOT always looking for the long ball with RISP - he's trying for any hit. Howard's relatively high avg, and avoidance of double plays says to me that he'll try anything which gets people a bit closer to home. With no firm scientific basis, I'd suggest this improves as the season goes on. It occurred to me recently that Howard's sophomore slump is in less obvious areas - fielding (which he was quite good at) and maybe also moving runners over. Maybe these are the areas in which he's pressing too hard, and that's why he's coming up short.
Perhaps it just a matter of being more selective.
I would love to see how he would produce if he were higher in the order but don't see it happening this season.
He's only hit 3 of his 22 HR with RISP. He's hit 13 with the bases empty.
Although he's cut down on strikeouts, he still fails to put the ball in play one-third of the time when runners are in scoring position (actually 35%). He only strikes out 23% with the bases empty. So it it's either the pitches he's seeing, or his pitch selection -- or, most likely, both.
I would guess he's pressing in those situations. His batting average was .143 last year with RISP and 2 outs. This season it's .216 -- so it appears he gets worse as the stakes get higher.
Maybe he is over-rated? Hopefully, he's just young and overanxious.