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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Forman: An R.B.I. Leader, but Not an Elite Hitter

If we combine hitting, defense and base running, WAR (wins above replacement) rated him as the seventh-best player on the Phillies this year. ...

Howard benefits significantly from the quality of the hitters ahead of him in the batting order. Chase Utley, Shane Victorino and, to a lesser extent, Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco all have strong on-base percentages. Through Wednesday, the Phillies’ 1-3 hitters reached base 547 times, the eighth most in the majors. But as a group, they ranked 17th in extra-base hits, so they get on base but leave more runners for Howard to drive in.

By comparison, the Boston Red Sox’ No. 1 through No. 3 hitters were first in reaching base, but are better at driving themselves in by ranking second in extra-base hits. Boston’s No. 3 hitter, Adrian Gonzalez, the American League R.B.I. leader for much of the season, is the only player to have more runners on base than Howard this season.

This is not just a recent phenomenon. Since 2006, Howard had 2,815 runners on base, well ahead of the runner-up, Mark Teixeira, with 2,689.

Howard is good at what he does. When a runner is on base, he can bring him home, but the problem with R.B.I. is that they give too much of the credit to the hitter and not enough to the player driven in.

bobm Posted: August 14, 2011 at 07:32 PM | 28 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: phillies, red sox

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Tripon Posted: August 14, 2011 at 09:50 PM (#3899882)
If this was a Murray Chase headline, it would be:

RBI LEADERS ARE STILL LEADERS, BASEBALL NERDS.
   2. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: August 14, 2011 at 09:59 PM (#3899888)
Obviously I agree with the main point, but these strike me as weird evaluative criteria.

the Phillies’ 1-3 hitters reached base 547 times, the eighth most in the majors. But as a group, they ranked 17th in extra-base hits, so they get on base but leave more runners for Howard to drive in.

By being somewhat below-average at hitting for extra bases ahead of Howard, they leave more ducks on the pond for him, but wouldn't that also mean they put themselves into scoring position less frequently? Obviously a semi-rigorous base-out study could answer this question but my gut says that those Boston XBH result more often in situations favorable to subsequent RBI opportunities.
   3. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 14, 2011 at 10:04 PM (#3899892)
If we combine hitting, defense and base running, WAR (wins above replacement) rated him as the seventh-best player on the Phillies this year

that's a bit disingenuous because 3 of those 7 are pitchers
   4. starving to death with a full STEAGLES Posted: August 14, 2011 at 10:16 PM (#3899900)
Howard is good at what he does. When a runner is on base, he can bring him home, but the problem with R.B.I. is that they give too much of the credit to the hitter and not enough to the player driven in.
that's part of it, but it's also worth pointing out that, for his career (i'm not privileged enough to be able to isolate the 2006-2011 numbers), howard has a triple slash line of .282/.412/.561. if we only look at runners on, that line jumps to .287/.396/.596.


getting to watch him everyday, the reason he performs better with runners on base is not that he's clutch. the reasons he performs better with runners on base is because in that sitaution, pitchers are much more likely to feed him pitches he can actually hit (i.e. fastballs), and because the overshift defense (which eats a ton of potential base hits) becomes harder to deploy when teams have to factor in the other baserunners.

also, it's not just that there are runners on base. it's important to also note that the runners on base (predominantly rollins, victorino, and utley) are extremely good at running the bases.


really, what this is, is that A) howard hits with more runners on base than anyone else, B) those runners are extremely efficient in running the bases, and C) when there are runners on base, howard becomes a much more effective hitter.
   5. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: August 14, 2011 at 10:23 PM (#3899909)
that's part of it, but it's also worth pointing out that, for his career (i'm not privileged enough to be able to isolate the 2006-2011 numbers), howard has a triple slash line of .282/.412/.561. if we only look at runners on, that line jumps to .287/.396/.596.

really, what this is, is that A) howard hits with more runners on base than anyone else, B) those runners are extremely efficient in running the bases, and C) when there are runners on base, howard becomes a much more effective hitter.


Is .287/.396/.596 really that much more better than .282/.412/.561? Or is there a typo in there?
   6. Sam M. Posted: August 14, 2011 at 10:31 PM (#3899917)
Is .287/.396/.596 really that much more better than .282/.412/.561?


It's more useful -- given the premise that we have runners on base already, upping the power is a more useful (and efficient) contribution to team run-scoring than holding on to the higher OBP.
   7. AROM Posted: August 14, 2011 at 10:33 PM (#3899919)
If Howard really had a .412 career OBP, stat guys would like him a lot more. He doesn't though, It's .369
   8. phatj Posted: August 14, 2011 at 10:39 PM (#3899923)
.282/.412/.561 is Howard's career line with RISP. Steagles did have the correct men on base line though: .287/.396/.596. His bases empty split is .266/.339/.530.

To answer one of the objections above, the fact that the 1-3 hitters are less likely than some other teams' to be in scoring position actually plays slightly into Howard's hands - he's a more effective hitter for RBIs when 1B is occupied. When 1B is empty he walks more but hits for less power.
   9. The Long Arm of Rudy Law Posted: August 14, 2011 at 10:41 PM (#3899924)
   10. starving to death with a full STEAGLES Posted: August 14, 2011 at 10:43 PM (#3899925)
Is .287/.396/.596 really that much more better than .282/.412/.561? Or is there a typo in there?
.282/.412/.561 is Howard's career line with RISP. Steagles did have the correct men on base line though: .287/.396/.596. His bases empty split is .266/.339/.530.
quick head. slow fingers.
   11. zachtoma Posted: August 14, 2011 at 11:20 PM (#3899945)
that's a bit disingenuous because 3 of those 7 are pitchers


That doesn't make the statement "he's the 7th best player on the Phillies" disingenuous.
   12. cardsfanboy Posted: August 14, 2011 at 11:33 PM (#3899952)
I'm curious where are all the articles talking about Howard as an elite hitter? Even the Phillie fans I talk to admit he's not on the same level as Pujols/Fielder/Votto/Teix/Agon/Cabrera.... He's also not a liability and something has to be said for a guy that the fans can feel comfortable with in the clutch. He does get more MVP votes than he probably deserves but that isn't always saying he's an elite.
   13. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 14, 2011 at 11:49 PM (#3899964)
In 463 PA, Boston's primary #4 hitter (Youkilis) has hit with 177 RISP.
In 532 PA, Gonzalez has hit with 194 RISP.
In 511 PA, Howard has hit with 193 RISP.

These numbers would seem to mean the writer can't support his hypothesis.
   14. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: August 15, 2011 at 01:23 AM (#3900006)
Do hitters who see a lot of over shift defense perform significantly better with runners on? It wouldn't surprise me if that were the case for all of 'em.
   15. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: August 15, 2011 at 01:31 AM (#3900009)
These numbers would seem to mean the writer can't support his hypothesis.

Which one? This one: Boston’s No. 3 hitter, Adrian Gonzalez, the American League R.B.I. leader for much of the season, is the only player to have more runners on base than Howard this season?
   16. Mayor Blomberg Posted: August 15, 2011 at 03:18 AM (#3900049)
that's a bit disingenuous because 3 of those 7 are pitchers



That doesn't make the statement "he's the 7th best player on the Phillies" disingenuous.


It's somewhere between disingenuous and beside the point. the article is about hitting; everything in the article before is about hitting. He introduces WAR as a measur that combines "hitting, defense and base running." Which one of those is pitching? that's disingenuous.

But what do base running or defense have to do with the question of how good a hitter he is? It's irrelevant, Mr. President.
   17. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 15, 2011 at 03:24 AM (#3900054)
I still love that the Times spells RBI "R.B.I." and calls people "Mr. Forman." Keeping holding onto the past Gray Lady!
   18. Walt Davis Posted: August 15, 2011 at 03:28 AM (#3900057)
I'm curious where are all the articles talking about Howard as an elite hitter?

Usually around MVP time. He has one already plus 3 other top 5 finishes and one other top 10 which was last year when he wasn't particularly good. Meanwhile he has only one top 10 WAR finish (7th in 2006) and even only one top 10 offensive WAR finish (4th in 2006).

Interestingly, because he does drive in runs, he doesn't get crap for regularly finishing 1st (once) or 2nd (3 times and again this year) in Ks.

wouldn't that also mean they put themselves into scoring position less frequently?

As somebody mentioned, "scoring position" is a moot point with Howard. He doesn't hit a lot of singles. This was one of Baylor's (and sometimes Dusty's) most infuriating habits -- first inning, leadoff hitter reaches, 2nd hitter bunts him over so he can be in scoring position for our big RBI guy Sosa -- who would proceed to strike out, double or homer, none of which required a man on 2nd.
   19. cardsfanboy Posted: August 15, 2011 at 03:41 AM (#3900060)
Usually around MVP time. He has one already plus 3 other top 5 finishes and one other top 10 which was last year when he wasn't particularly good. Meanwhile he has only one top 10 WAR finish (7th in 2006) and even only one top 10 offensive WAR finish (4th in 2006).

Interestingly, because he does drive in runs, he doesn't get crap for regularly finishing 1st (once) or 2nd (3 times and again this year) in Ks.


I agree he gets the votes, but I don't think the morons that vote for him actually are capable of articulating their arguments for him. I don't think I see much talking about Howard or how good he is, from the people voting for him. I'm probably just missing the articles but from memory I don't think I've seen many people argue for Howard, they just vote for him without stating why.
   20. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 15, 2011 at 03:51 AM (#3900063)
Even the Phillie fans I talk to admit he's not on the same level as Pujols/Fielder/Votto/Teix/Agon/Cabrera


I'd say they're underselling him here. He's not on Pujols level, or even Cabrera's, but he's pretty even with the rest of them (save Votto, who's probably not played quite long enough to be in that grouping). He's certainly not an inferior hitter to Teixeira, for example.
   21. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: August 15, 2011 at 04:09 AM (#3900069)
I have a crappy memory but when he got the extension with the Phils, there wasn't a huge outcry among the MSM about how much he was going to make. I remember Heyman, for instance, calling it a good contract. That contract is, of course, the kind that an elite player should get so I'm thinking a lot of writers think he's elite or was.
   22. DCW3 Posted: August 15, 2011 at 05:17 AM (#3900088)
I'd say they're underselling him here. He's not on Pujols level, or even Cabrera's, but he's pretty even with the rest of them (save Votto, who's probably not played quite long enough to be in that grouping). He's certainly not an inferior hitter to Teixeira, for example.

Teixeira's the outlier in that group (he's pretty even offensively to Howard, though his fielding makes him the superior player), but Howard's nowhere close to the other five--since the beginning of 2009, all five have at least 20 points of OPS+ on Howard.
   23. Walt Davis Posted: August 15, 2011 at 05:18 AM (#3900089)
they just vote for him without stating why.

They state why. He drives in tons of runs for a 1st place team -- i.e. he's clutch or knows how to win or ... it's perhaps the single best way to generate MVP votes.
   24. cardsfanboy Posted: August 15, 2011 at 07:19 AM (#3900103)
They state why. He drives in tons of runs for a 1st place team -- i.e. he's clutch or knows how to win or ... it's perhaps the single best way to generate MVP votes.


that is the thing, I don't remember seeing articles where people defended their MVP selections of Howard. I've seen tons of articles of people attacking the final vote tally, but those who have actually voted for Howard don't usually give more than a one sentence defense or argument.
   25. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: August 15, 2011 at 07:44 AM (#3900104)
Sabermetrics. Reminding you the guy that drives in 140 runs every year isn't that good since 1986.
   26. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: August 15, 2011 at 07:56 AM (#3900105)
That's a better tagline than "Sabermetrics. Reminding you that Derek Jeter is overrated since 1996"
   27. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 15, 2011 at 01:02 PM (#3900147)
These numbers would seem to mean the writer can't support his hypothesis.
Which one? This one: Boston’s No. 3 hitter, Adrian Gonzalez, the American League R.B.I. leader for much of the season, is the only player to have more runners on base than Howard this season?
No, this one:
But as a group, they ranked 17th in extra-base hits, so they get on base but leave more runners for Howard to drive in.
   28. Dave Spiwak Posted: August 15, 2011 at 06:20 PM (#3900405)
I still love that the Times spells RBI "R.B.I."


Makes me think they're talking about Riving Baseball in Inner Cities.

and calls people "Mr. Forman."


Their dogged adherence to the internal stylebook is especially absurd in cases like "Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi," since Burmese have no surnames.

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