I felt bad that the Phillies game got rained out, thus depriving you guys of obsessing over them in the ATH comments, so I’ll just throw this little link out there for you. It’s an article by Sean Forman — the boss of Baseball-Reference.com — from yesterday’s New York Times. In it he offers the totally sensible yet always-inflammatory argument that, hey, Ryan Howard isn’t anywhere near as good as you guys think he is:
Based on sabermetric stats, Howard does not appear to be the elite hitter that his R.B.I. totals imply … Among N.L. batters who have qualified for the batting title entering the weekend, Howard’s .831 O.P.S. was just 23rd in the league. Among N.L. first basemen, he ranked seventh, below average for the 12 qualifying players … If we combine hitting, defense and base running, WAR (wins above replacement) rated him as the seventh-best player on the Phillies this year.
Of course you can just take the “la la la I can’t hear you” approach and discount Forman’s arguments because they’re based in statistics as opposed to moxie or whatever you prefer. And I assume some of you will. You will defend Howard as an elite player because he’s your first baseman and he’s a very likable guy. And hey, it’s not his fault that his RBI totals, borne of way more opportunities than others due to his excellent teammates, give the illusion that he is a better hitter than he really is.
But it doesn’t change the fact that, year after year, Howard is probably one of the most if not the most overrated players in the game.