Ryan Howard: the Phillies’ seventh-best player

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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.

Ramón Laureano made an absolutely ridiculous play yesterday

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I talked about it in the recaps, but dear lord does Oakland A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano’s play in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays deserve it’s own post.

Jays first baseman Justin Smoak led off the second with a single Then Teoscar Hernández then came up and hit a long drive to center. In what, in and of itself, would’ve lead the highlight reels yesterday, Laureano ranged back to the wall and reached over to rob Hernández of a homer.

Laureano is known best for his arm, though, and that’s when he unleashed that hose, attempting to double off Smoak at first base all the way from the warning track. The throw was not on target — indeed, it sailed way past first base — but that was itself impressive as all get-out. As A’s pitcher Brett Anderson said after the game, he’s pretty sure the throw went farther than Hernández hit the ball in the first place. The arm strength on display there was simply phenomenal. But it was also lucky.

Lucky because the throw went so far into foul territory that it gave Smoak the courage to break for second base. Laureano was not the only one playing great defense on the play, though: A’s catcher Nick Hundley backed up the play, got Laureano’s errant throw and fired it down to second, nailing Smoak. And heck, Hundley’s throw was nothing to sneeze at either:

That did not go as an outfield assist for Lauerano, obviously, as his bad throw — which would’ve been an error had Smoak managed to advance, we must admit — broke that up. So, in the books it goes as an F7 and then a separate 2-4 putout. Still, it just shows Laueano’s incredible defensive abilities, both with the leather and with that cannon he has for an arm.

An arm that, this play not withstanding, gets him plenty of assists. Indeed, he has has five assists this season already and has 14 assists in just 70 games, which is a lot. To put it in perspective, it usually takes somewhere between 12-18 to lead the league in a full season with 20 being an outlier of sorts, only seen once every five years or so.

So, if you’re gonna hit it to center against the A’s, make sure you hit it all the way out. And if Laureano gets to it, for god’s sake, don’t run on him.