Injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley make the Phillies' chances of maintaining the NL East crown slimmer.
Have you already penciled the Phillies in atop your projected NL East standings? Well, you might want to find an eraser.
Ryan Howard is going to miss the first two months of the season while recovering from the Achilles injury he suffered last October, and it now appears that Chase Utleywill be joining him on the disabled list with recurring knee woes. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels should hold down their end of the fort, but questions about the Phillies’ offense are looming rather large as the season approaches.
A.J. Burnett finds out just what it means to be a pirate, a couple players go under the knife, and various other injuries around spring training.
A.J. Burnett, PIT (Eye)
Bunting practice is usually not dangerous; occasionally a batter might injure a finger but, only rarely does something more serious happen. On Wednesday, Burnett fell into this latter category. In the video of the incident in question, the ball deflects off of Burnett’s bat and strikes him at the corner of his eye and the eye socket. He is helped by assistant athletic trainer Ben Potenziano and walks off the field with a towel to his face. After flying back to Pittsburgh for more tests, Burnett was diagnosed with an orbital bone fracture and will undergo surgery on Friday. Bones heal at a fairly predictable pace; players usually return between four and eight weeks. Burnett will have to take it easy, but assuming there is no serious trauma to the eye itself, he should be able to start getting into baseball shape before that magic number is reached. Still, Burnett will almost certainly start the season on the disabled list.
Ryan Howard, PHI (Achilles surgery)
After Howard saw Dr. Myerson, additional information came to light. He had a small procedure to clean out stitch and surrounding tissue; the stitch was an internal one but the integrity of the Achilles repair is not compromised. This is the key: if the repair was significantly compromised, Howard may not have been able to make it back this year. Fortunately, this was not the case. During the procedure, Dr. Myerson consulted with infectious disease specialists, which revealed that Howard had an infection and the first baseman was placed on antibiotics. With news that the tendon is not compromised, the biggest issue is keeping the wound clean and not infected. Recovery from Achilles surgeries are so long and have so many ups and downs that there is no true timetable on Howard’s, but this could be seen as a relatively minor blip in the process.
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I spent a lot of time trying to come up with a rationale for the Phillies' decision to commit $125 million to Ryan Howard's ages 32 through 36 seasons 20 months before a decision point on doing so. The ones I see fall into two categories: soft factors, such as keeping a perceived key player happy, fending off two years of stories about Howard's impending free agency and showing the fan base that the team will keep its most popular players in Philadelphia; and poor player-evaluation skills: using runs batted in as a primary measure of player value, not taking into account the career path of players with Howard's skill set and badly misreading the replaceability of players like him.
No combination of these factors can justify the contract. Howard is a good, not great, player, a mix of obvious skills — his ability to hit for power and against right-handed pitching — and obvious flaws — a contact rate that limits his ability to reach base, middling defensive skills, terrible problems against left-handed pitching. The package makes him an asset as he moves through his prime, and he has been a key contributor to the Phillies' success since 2006. He has never been the best player on his team, and now, he is no better than the third-best Phillie, and could be rated lower depending on what kind of years Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth have. The Phillies have missed badly on Howard, committing maybe 20% of their payroll down the line to a player who will be contributing, at best, 70% of the time at the plate and not at all in the field.
Putting new valuation into action to evaluate the big bopper's big extension.
Just days after my two-partseries introduced the new MORP to evaluate baseball contracts, the Phillies provided me with an excellent opportunity to put it into action by signing Ryan Howard to a five-year contract extension yesterday.
The Rockies excuse themselves from the last LDS, while the Phillies reap the benefits of players used to best effect.
If you followed last night's in-game roundtable, you got the visceral reaction to Jim Tracy's decision to allow Huston Street to face Ryan Howard in the ninth inning with the tying runs on base and two outs. (You got something similar if you follow my Twitter account, @joe_sheehan.) In the interest of analysis, let's let the data do the talking this morning.
When I was seven years old, my dad called me into the living room to watch a Phillies' great in the twilight of his career-Mike Schmidt. He told me this was the best Phillie ever, and that I should watch him bat. He struck out. I turned to my dad with a look that must have asked, "Really?" My dad explained one of the first facts I ever learned about baseball-he said that guys who hit a lot of homeruns swing really hard, so they strike out a lot, too. That brings us to Ryan James Howard.
Long balls from slugger Ryan Howard and starting pitcher Joe Blanton bedevil the Rays.
PHILADELPHIA-Detailed performance analysis reveals that Ryan Howard is not quite the top-tier player that the home run and RBI columns on the stat sheet make him out to be. The Phillies first baseman's WARP3, an indicator of his overall value, was 5.4 in the regular season, barely half of the 10.6 that Phillies second baseman Chase Utley produced. Howard also hit just .224/.294/.451 in 265 plate appearances against left-handers, and he was brutal in the field with -14 FRAA. Yet he is generally considered inside the clubhouse as the Phillies' most valuable player, and if anyone outpolls Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols in this year's National League MVP voting, it will likely be Howard based on his major league-leading 48 home runs and 146 RBI.
The sandwich salesman sizzles down the stretch, but it has been a down year for the Phillies slugger. What's amiss?
Ryan Howard has had himself quite the September, helping to boost a season line that had been a lot lower than what we're used to seeing from the Philadelphia slugger. In spite of the recent hot streak, his age-28 season has been the least productive of his career thus far, which brings up the question: What happened to Howard in 2008, and what can we expect from him going forward?
As in the AL, the Central division is as tight as can be, while in the East two Mets are predicted to take home some hardware along with their division flag.
Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff predictions for the division standings and the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year) in the National League, along with the staff picks in some fun miscellaneous categories.
Each staff member's division standings predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results. In each table you'll find the average rank of each team in their division, plus the results of our pre-season MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting.
Dan examines where research on clutch hitting is now, and ranks the best in 2006.
Clutch hitting is one of those issues that just won't go away. Ever since Dick Cramer's famous study titled "Do Clutch Hitters Exist?" was published in the 1977 Baseball Research Journal there has been no end to the discussion of just what is and what isn't clutch hitting, and how it can or can't be measured.
Before all the IBA ballots are counted, staff picks give a hint as to what hands the awards may find themselves in.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Travis Hafner posted the highest OBP in the AL while nobody noticed, while Neifi Perez ended up getting playoff PT. The young guns had their day and then some. Jermaine Dye gave a lengthy spanking to his 90th percentile PECOTA projection (PECOTA's .288/.359/.516 versus an actual .315/.385/.622). The crop of AL rookies included a guy with a 0.92 ERA finishing third, and rooks like Jered Weaver (105:33 K:BB) and Francisco Liriano (144:32) threatening to be Johan Santana's biggest challengers in 2007. The National League featured tighter races, including a four-way brawl for the Pitcher of the Year and another impressive crop of newbies.
Eight staff members weighed in on the season that was, casting their ballots for the Internet Baseball Awards. We summarized their findings below, and then let them have their individual say.