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.
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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.
Derek follows the Phillies' pursuit of the wild card as they try to shoot down the Rocket.
Voters indicated that the Astros game was appealing as much for the visiting team as for the living legend on the mound. Coming in, the Phillies are alive in the wild-card race, tied with the Giants and trailing the Padres by 2 1/2 games. Since they traded Bobby Abreu to the Yankees, the Phillies have posted a 25-17 record, Ryan Howard has hit 21 homers--one every other game--and driven in 51 runs. Since the All-Star break, Howard leads all batters with a 1320 OPS, head and shoulders above the next man on that leaderboard--Atlanta's Adam LaRoche, with an OPS of 1174. The Phillies have the top offense in the league by runs scored (773), are second in OBP (.344), and third in SLG (.445). They have hit the third-most home runs in the league (195), largely on the strength of Ryan Howard's 56 homers. Abreu or no Abreu, they're an offensive juggernaut.
He may be a veritable man-beast, a titanic slugger just entering his prime in one of the toughest places to play in baseball--but he's no MVP.
The problem isn't just that Howard's season is not on par with Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Beltran. The problem is that Howard isn't the most valuable Phillies infielder on the right side of second base.
Each author's ballot may be found later in the article. Here, we neatly summarize the results. In each division standings table you'll find the average rank of the team, plus the standard deviation. The lower the standard deviation, the more in agreement the authors were about that team's place in the division standings. In our AL column, the Royals had a standard deviation of 0, meaning that all authors agreed they would finish last. And if it weren't for the rebellious, anti-establishment ways of one Keith Woolner, the Cardinals would notch a standard deviation of 0 on the other end of the standings.