Saturday, September 27, 2008

Howard's Defense

Last night, Ryan Howard committed his 19th error of the season. It cost the Phillies two runs, and maybe another inning out of starter Joe Blanton.

In a conservative estimate, I'd guess that Howard has cost the Phillies somewhere around 30 runs this season defensively—both in his errors and in the plays not made.

Even so, his offensive numbers:

146 RBI
103 Runs
48 HR

and, for a stat I call total offensive contribution (TOC), which is RBI + Runs -HR:

205 TOC.

Those are phenomenal numbers.

Does he where on the starters and the bullpen? Yes.
Does he more than make up for it with his contributions at the plate? Yes.

I would love to see Howard dedicate some serious time this off-season to improving his defense. Just focus on the fundamentals (which is something I harp on) of fielding the ball cleanly, throwing the ball to second base to start a DP, get a force out, or complete a pick off.

A minor improvement in any of these areas would improve his already significant value immensely.

Comparing Howard to Albert Pujols (whom I the best player in today's game), the primary differentiator is their glove. Howard's a liability. Pujols's an asset.

Even so, substitute almost any other first baseman for Howard in September, and the Phillies are 5 games behind the Mets and out of Wild Card contention. So, I'm perfectly willing to live with Howard's deficiencies.

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