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Saturday, December 22, 2007


6 years/$96 Million get it done? If I'm Howard I take that in a heartbeat.

In principle I agree with you JMARR, but why should Howard expect less than Zito or even Zambrano---- some other guys who were OVERpaid.. At least, at this point in time, Ryan is worth more if only because his skill level has not abated. Is it because he doesn't pitch?

i meant to type : OR some other guys who were overpaid

Rob - These things are so tough to predict as the agents and Players Assoc. put so much pressure on the player. But if I'm Howard and I think, O.K. - I give up a couple of my FA years but make an additional $7 Million in 2008 ($16 Million above - $9 Million in arbitration), and then an additional 4-5 million next year under the same scenario ... isn't that $13/$14 million now, the same as going year to year through arbitration --- and then signing a $6 yr/$115M contract later?

I know it's not that easy, but with potential weight issues down the road, defensive "liabilities" right now ... I take the $96 Million over 6 and laugh all the way to the bank.

The Phils get some cost certainty going forward and can then figure out how to keep King Cole and do something about Burrell ...

I'd trade Howard after the 2008 season and get some much needed pitching when the guys in AA fail and the cupboard becomes bare. You don't win World Series' championships with sluggers who set major league strikeout records that command a huge chunk of payroll.

I would agree with you Walter, but Ryan would have to K at least 175 times for me to CONSIDER trading him.. Even if he puts up 40 HR, I'd still deal him cause he isn't disciplined enough to work on his game. The cupboard actually is promising going forward (Savery, Outman, Happ, Drabek)I'd trade him for whatever it is we need at the time.

Depending on what he brings back, its something to consider, but I'm not sure you can ever get equal value for Ryno.

Walter --- I think we'll know more about who Ryan is after this season. 2006 was really his first full season and he was dominant. He struck out 181 times, but was a complete force.

Last year the pitchers adjusted, he started the season a bit dinged up and struggled. He adjusted and after May 15 or so, really had a very strong hear in the power and RBI department ... BA obviously down.

Year 3 .... does he make the adjustments to what the pitchers were doing to him last year, stay on the ball and go back to driving the ball the other way? I think so.

At that rate, I would take 6 years of Ryan Howard at ages 28,29,30,31,32,33 .... I think that is a safe bet.

That is why I'd rather go 6 years now, than go 6 years to keep him after 2 more seasons and be paying for Ryan at ages 34 and 35.

Just my two cents.

Walter: "You don't win World Series' championships with sluggers who set major league strikeout records that command a huge chunk of payroll."

Ever hear of Reggie Jackson and the New York Yankees?

Alby - you beat me to it, I was going to add that you don't win World Series championships with Rico Brogna at 1B either.

On the last thread, we were debating the value of those 20 extra runs that we would save with better defense (I forget if it was at 3b or in LF). I said it amounted to 2 wins; I was using the rough SABR guide of 10 extra runs equaling 1 extra win. Yes, AWH, it's impossible to say how many games it would "really" come to, but keep in mind, about half the plays made by superior defense come in games that will be lost anyway; a certain percentage more will come in games that would have been won anyway. The 10 runs/1 win equation comes from pure statistical analysis.

Trade Howard for pitching might be the single worst argument I have heard here in a long time. Every team would attempt to underbid for him, especially with throwing in "toolsy" minor leaguers to "sweeten the deal". The only trade for pitching involving Ryan Howard ought to include both Jake Peavy and Brandon Webb. That's right - they are on two different teams. Get creative, I guess.

The Phillies are an offense-minded team in the most offense-oriented park in the majors. Unless the walls are going up to 27 feet, you better get multiple, legitimate aces if you're going to trade for offense.

I acknowledge the strikeouts he makes, and they do need to go down from last year. A better stat to watch is K% instead of just the amount of Ks he racks up. Last year, Howard struck out 37.5% of the time (second to Jack Cust of the A's.) Let me set a practical benchmark. Jim Thome, for his career, has struck out 29.9% of the time. If Howard produces the same power, RBI, and OPS numbers and keeps his K% rate below 30, he's going to need a bigger trophy mantle.

The "10 runs = 1 game" is a cornerstone of baseball statistical analysis. Highly correlates. Even with all the luck and variation possible, the equation works out quite well. Thanks, Alby.

Alby, mind you...I'm not disagreeing with you. I was responding to jobbers.

I believe there is value in stat analysis. We use it all the time in my profession. Sometimes I wish the Phillies would use it more.

I was merely pointing out the impossibility of knowing "for sure".

Now, do I believe defense matters?


Who do you think keeps keeps quoting this from Bill James' 1988 Abstact:

Primer #10

"A great deal of what is perceived as being pitching is in fact defense."

i knew someone would bring up trading howard for pitching. not only is it a silly idea because he is a special player and easily the greatest power hitter in phillies history, but trades don't work like that anymore. haven't you noticed that the days of alomar and carter for mcgriff and fernandez are long gone. the blockbuster trades these days are all onesided salary dumps or moves by noncontenders to get prospects for free agents to be. its a little discussed aspect of the new wealth disparity in the game. no one trades big league value for big league value anymore. trades are bording on predatory these days. so get that out of your head right now. the only time howard gets traded is before a contract year to a winner for a bunch of kids.

To weigh in on the Howard conract situation, if I'm Ryan Howard, I would take less than a 9 figure contract if it wer long-term.

If Jason is correct and he is slated to make $9MM in 2008, if he keep htting at least 45 HR with 135 RBI every year (on this team - not implausible; what other active player has done that?), he'd likely see raises in arbitration like this:

2008 9MM
2009 13MM
2010 15MM
2011 17MM - total for arb years 54 MM

the FA years
2012 $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ - I don't even want to speculate what the big market teams might be willing to pay the game's PREMIER slugger.

The only reason for him to take a discount in the arb portion of a long-term deal is because of injury risk.

It's going to be interesting.

Interesting that the Reds gave up on Hamilton. I wonder if they got much in return for him with those 2 pitchers from Texas. You've also got to wonder if that lefthanded power bat makes Blalock even more expendable at this point.

mr nutter, excellent post.

I had suggested earlier this year that the only trade that would,, for me, make sense for the Phillies (and be fairly equal value) is Howard to LA for Loney AND Billingsly, and a third prospect or pitcher.

The Phillies are crazy to trade him. IMO, in 2008 he will reach 50 HR 145+ RBI again. Right now, as a slugger, he's one of the top three draws in the game along with ARod and Pujols. He sells tickets.

And that's the risk for the Phillies. Suppose they can't reach a long-term deal and the next four years he does hit 50+ HR and 145+ RBI, stays healthy and loses weight?

They would never be able(or willing) to re-sign him at the money he would command, even at the age of 33.

They take a huge PR hit if he leaves, and if he signs with a top tier team they wouldn't even get a first round draft pick.

I would sign him to a six-year deal with some option years attached. that way I could keep him if he's still performing and putting fannies in the seats, or trade him if the option(s) are exercised and maybe get more back than just supplemental draft picks.

I believe I've already weighed in on this topic once or twice...

Howard would be wise to not sign any extension just yet, unless he thinks he can't do any better than what he did last year. But I wonder if the Phillies will even push too hard for one just yet, considering how skeptical they were than Aaron Rowand would hold up over five years; Rowand is what, two years older? Part of their reluctance to retain Rowand was also based on the idea, often mentioned by PG, that he'd had a 'career year', but it appeared they were willing to pay him the money he wanted for a shorter term contract; the larger issue was durability. I understand their worry with Rowand is that his body wasn't likely to withstand the all-out style he subjects it to, but the worry with Howard's body, for obvious reasons not related to all-out play, ought to be far greater.

Last year, Gillick extended Myers for three years and Utley for seven. He said no to Rowand at five. I don't think they offer Howard more than five years, now or at any time - unless he threatens to hit 74 homers next year. Does he still sign, in that case? It may come down to whether Howard's focusing more on contract length (i.e. 'why does Chase get seven years and I only get five') rather than dollars per year, and whether he'd rather frontload his earnings or hold out for the exact contract he wants in another three years - but I tend to doubt he will be open to any extension the conservative Phillies will offer. I don't imagine he'll project the kind of skepticism onto himself that the Phillies will project onto him.

nutter - Agreed. I always laugh when I see people suggest the Phils trade Howard for pitching. Just ridiculous.

Don't understand why there are posters on here who are "Howard Haters" who constantly harp on his strikeouts (overlooked that he walks a ton , is likely to hit for a decent average, and hits well with men on base), defensive limitations (completely overblown since 1B isn't that important of a defensive position and he is probably only slight worse than league average), and the dumbest concern about his "weight" issues (he came into last spring training a little overweight but I doubt it happens this year and it is not like he is Prince Fielder).

If you want the Phils to begin rebuilding, that is the only reason in the world you event think about trading Howard. Even then, you are gambling that one of the prospects might reach Howard offensive ability or become a legit ace.

MG - the concern with Howard's weight-related issues is far from 'dumb'. If you were paying attention, you might have noticed the problem he was having with his knees in the first half - not a good sign, and not easily seen as a coincidence for a player who's out of shape. It's well-documented that players of his body type do not tend to age very well, and Howard got a late start in his major league career as it was. People can talk about how wonderful his power is all day and night, but this is going to come back to his ability to sustain production, rather than estimates based on what he's already done.

RSB - I think you are completely wrong about the Phils' willingness to lock up Howard. If there has been one thing that the Phils have been willing to spend money on, it is locking up their key younger positional players long-term. They tried to do it with Rolen and have done it with Burrell, Abreu, Rollins, and Utley.

I am almost 100% sure they will attempt to do the same with Howard for two important besides his numbers. The first is that Giles/Monty recognize you have to some compelling reasons for fans to come to the stadium. Learned this lesson the hard way in the late 1990s. A winning team is the the first priority but even a team slightly over .500 won't necessarily draw large numbers of fans in Philly. Phils need All-Stars like Howard to market this team/sell tickets.

Hate to bring up race but it also don't hurt that Howard is a African-American athlete in a predominantly African-American city. JRol and Howard help the Phils market this team to the African-American community in Philly. It will make a huge difference in team attendance and TV ratings - No but I am willing to bet it does make enough of a difference that the Phils' marketing guys notice. This is totally anecdotal evidence from the games I have gone to, but I have seen more African-Americans at games the past few years than I remember during say the mid-to-late 1990s.

Everything put together, I do believe the Phils will make a legit long-term offer to Howard. The only real question is if they do it this year or next year.

I am willing to bet they may do it this offseason. It would go a long-way to explaining how the Phils will have Monty's "105 M payroll" nex year and it would take some egg of the Phils' faces for a underwhelming offseason so far.

Reggie Jackson whiffed 4.32 times per plate appearance in his career. Howard is at 3.47 per plate appearance.

If only Ryan Howard got the same love as Pedro Feliz on Beerleaguer. Sometimes I read these posts and just have to shake my head. The guy is the greatest slugger in Phillies history and a bunch of posters want to dump him. Incredible.

It's not that I'm a "Howard Hater," it's just that I see Howard whiffing all the time in the playoffs against top pitchers. That's all. He's mostly a mistake hitter and has taken the ball the opposite way much less this season. His hitting game actually regressed in 2007. He was chasing, and that's a bad sign. If anyone read the two pieces by Salisbury during this past season, he stated the Phils have Utley penned in as the future 1B and Cardenas as the 2B.

if big league pitchers make 50 mistakes and he hits 50 homers isn't that just as good as hitting 50 good pitches for bombs?

RSB - Where are you getting this evidence about Howard's body type? I have never once seen a single study from the saber metric guys that looks at the variations in production as related to variables such as weight, muscle mass, and age.

The evidence I have seen is the well-documented research about players' production declining with age. Even that has to be now weighed with a greater view of suspicion if athletes who have enjoyed great success in their late 30s/early 40s (e.g., Clemens, Bonds) were doing so because of performance-enhancing substances.

There is no real mathematical way to really control this besides making some pretty wild assumptions about the difference between actual and expected performance. Even then you can't be entirely certain about which MLB athletes used performance enhancing substances and when they did it.

Getting back to Howard, he got hurt in spring training last year when he sprained a knee liagment (a very common injury) and the Phils stupidly decided not to put him on the DL. This injury would have simply been treated with the proper rest. Howard tried to compensate for a bulky knee and would up straining his quad in the same leg.

Either the Phils' med and training staffs are completely incompetent (which I highly doubt) or the Phils pressed simply pressed Howard to play when he was hurt/didn't make him take the proper treatment regiment (which I think is the most more likely scenario).

MG - Howard is not the same type of player as Abreu, Rollins, Utley. He is a far greater risk than signing those players long-term. The last time the Phillies locked in a pure power hitter, it didn't work out the way they anticipated - and I believe that despite the Utley deal, the Phillies are generally more reluctant to issue long-term deals than they were in the past largely because of what happened with Burrell and the inflexibility his contract created (though obviously the no-trade clause was a big factor also).

In looking at Howard's long-term viability, I do not believe his race will be considered nearly as important as his physical condition. I am not dismissing your point about the Phils wanting good PR, knowing they can sell tickets and reach out to African-Americans with him. But even considering just how important all that stuff is to the front office, it still has to be considered secondary to investing significant amounts of money for performance on the field, and despite Howard's impressive numbers last year, he began to put some long-term questions in a lot of people's heads.

MG: The only correalation I've ever seen about body types and results is that as a slugger's head grows in size, his HR rate tends to go up. Although, I'm guessing there will be fewer examples of this odd phenomenon going forward.

RSB: Explain to me again why Burrell is overpaid?

Howard's mostly a mistake hitter? Richie Sexson's a mistake hitter. You don't put up Howard's numbers just hitting mistakes.

Clout - But Howard doesn't play great defense at 1B (arguably the least important defensive position on the field besides LF or C).

Walter - I agree that Howard did struggle at times by trying to pull balls but to call him a "mistake hitter" is utterly ridiculous. Just like it was ridiculous about Gillick's comment last year that Burrell only takes "40 good swings."

As for Howard striking out in all those playoff games? Funny but I remember the Phils only making the playoffs once in the past 15 years and playing a grand total of 3 games. Howard did struggle in those 3 games but so did just about every Phils' hitter including Utley who are horrendous in the series.

Did I use the term 'overpaid' in reference to Burrell, clout? No, I didn't think I did. My point was that his contract was, as one of those facts you so adore, seen as an enormous impediment to the Phillies' ability to maneuver their roster over the past couple of seasons, as evidenced by the fact that they did not want him and could find no one willing or able to make a deal for him. At THIS point - right at market value and right at the very end - there's no real problem with Burrell's contract. Not so sure if it looked quite that way in '03-'06.

Any thoughts on the odds of the phillies going into the season as presently composed? More specifically, what are the chances the phillies get a legit 3B and/or a legit starter?

RSB - Last point because I have to run and catch a flight but look at Howard's production the last two years. It is sick.

The real problem with Wade wasn't his long-term contracts. It was that he stupidly gave full no-trade clauses in them too. Wade looks like a genius now for locking up Rollins long-term at a bargain basement price and even the Burrell deal has turned out badly for the production he has given the Phils.

clout: LOL on the head size correlation.

MG: LOL. By the way, I would argue that C is one of the MOST important defensive positions. The least important positions are the 4 corners, which why you see managers stick their weakest fielders there (even though it apparently runs counter to Jack and kdon's notion of baseball).

Burrell would be playing in an O's uniform now if the full no-clause trade wasn't in his contract. The funny thing is I bet O's fans would prefer Burrell over the scrubs the O's have used at the DH position the last year and half.

The whole bit about 'Howard Haters' is absurd. I have absolutely no problem with Ryan Howard, and I certainly appreciate the enormous ability he brings to the table. His presence on the Philadelphia sports scene is a very positive and exciting thing. But that doesn't mean everyone has to gloss over the areas of concern which he presents in order to avoid being called a 'hater'. Howard *did* regress significantly as a hitter last season. He did raise concerns with his physical problems and poor conditioning. He did strike out 200 times. I'm not dead set on focusing squarely on these things - but let's not pretend they don't matter at all just because he still hit 47 homers.

By the way, anyone know why we weren't in the market for Luis Vizcaino?

lekh: Based on what I've read and what seems to be available, I would predict that their chances of getting a "legitimate" (i.e. better than Chad Durbin) SP are less than 30% and their chances of getting a thirdbaseman who would actually be an upgrade over Helms/Dobbs (and Feliz & Inge wouldn't be) at 0%. I do think there's a 70% chance they will add another major league relief pitcher.

Tray: Because Vizcaino made too much sense for this team?

MG: "Howard did struggle in those 3 games but so did just about every Phils' hitter including Utley who are horrendous in the series."

There are two players you will never, ever see criticized on here even if they do identical things to what Howard gets blasted routinely for: Utley & Victorino.

Yeah, he would make sense, and I don't understand the front office's resistance to signing any relief pitcher with any kind of track record. It doesn't seem like money's the problem, they paid Jenkins a lot just to be a platoon player.

clout: That's more or less what i'm expecting, i'd prefer the starter but the whole situation is just depressing.

The one player I'm just dying to see play next year is PtB. I think he's going to have such a monstrous season that we'll be in awe. Here's why:
1. His hard work has paid off, and he's a much smarter hitter than ever before. There aren't too many players out there who have altered their BB/K ratio so drastically.
2. He got married and stopped partying so much, and he realized that he hits a lot better without a hangover and bags under his eyes.
3. It's his walk year, and he knows his next contract could lift him to a new eschelon.
4. He probably got laser eye surgury.

But I'm afraid he's going to have to count on Carrasco or Outman (or both) stepping up midseason if his effort is not to go in vain.

Sifl - Great points.

Once again, 37.5% K rate is no way to go through a season. Other than that, he's a superstar and should get paid as such.

Agreed for the most part. I also thought that defense in catchers is slightly overrated. Catchers record a high number of put-outs but that is primary based upon Ks. The "ability to call" is mostly BS from the analysis on ERA with different catchers behind the plate.

The catcher's defense ability really make that much of a difference in two types of plays - throwing out runners on steals and blocking passed balls/wild pitches. Given that the SB is not used nearly as much as it was 25 years ago and that there is not that much of a variation between catchers' ability to throw out runners (with some unique historical anomalies like Bench or Pudge in their primes being exceptions), this might make a difference of a 10-15 outs a year and even that is an extremely high estimate. So basically a win maybe.

The other area is the number of passed balls/wild pitches in a year and once again there isn't a huge variation in these numbers from catcher to catcher. Plus, I am more willing to bet that the variation in these numbers is a more of a reflection between the teams with particularly wild pitchers (or the rare knuckleballers like Wakefield in Boston). More difficult to assume the impact of this play because it does not result in a direct out. Can't imagine those that it makes more than a difference though of 10 outs a year.

Blocking the plate is a technique issue and not really related to talent and I doubt there is enough variation in catcher's ability to field fall-ball pop-ups. There might be enough of a difference in catcher's ability to field bunts/sacs but I don't even know how you really begin to approach that difference in a valid quantitative method.

So basically lets assume a good defensive cathcer can record about 20-25 outs more than a poor defensive catcher a year. Important yeah but not at the expensive of putting an offensive stiff like Ausmus or Schneider behind the plate. Give me a catcher who mashes and plays crap D any day of the weak.

MG - so you think that a team with Piazza behind the plate is better off than a team with Varitek? To borrow from Clout - that is idiotic.

Howard is someone you look to move. I know I'll take a lot of heat for saying that, but his health/conditioning/defense will always be at issue. He will not have a long career. Get every arm you can for him, while he's pre-free agency.

You know the Phils signed Thome for 90 mill
for what 6 yrs knowing that he would hit homers and drive in runs but strikeout a lot.
We were all so happy that they signed him and now we have Howard who is probably better in doing the things Thome did and some of ya want to trade him?????

Piazza is regarded as one of, if not the, best hitting catcher in history. Its not really a question - Piazza would be much better for any team than Varitek.

It's pretty doubtful the Phillies would have touched Thome if not for what had happened with Rolen and the phenomenon of the new ballpark opening. He was also a significant risk to decline - over 30 and with back issues. I mean, they would have had an interest, sure - but, to go that far and give him six years - I doubt it. Then again, they also had issued a long-term contract in '02 to Lieberthal, who was a year removed from knee surgery, so it's possible that they just didn't even consider risk into any equation at that time, but just were determined to go boldly forward with their rotisserie 'nucleus'.

Dave X - Piazza was an abortion behind the plate.

But in his prime, Piazza was one of the best hitters in baseball... perhaps someone on here could do some research as to how valuable defense really is so we could stop going around in circles arguing over whether a Pedro Feliz would save us more runs with his glove than he'd cost us with his bat (as if Helms and Dobbs were so much better, but I digress).

I'm just comparing Thome to Howard and we were all happy to get Thome and now that we have Howard who is much better ballplayer and younger we want to trade him.

TRAY - agreed - but he should have been at 1B or DH in the AL not at Catcher.

I don't know. His career CS rate is .232, which is close to the break even point.

Dave - did you ever see him play? Statistics don't tell everything

dont sign this bum back

I saw him play against the Phillies. All I ever saw was someone who hit a ton of HRs and hurt us a lot with his bat a lot more than he helped us with his D...

By the way, if you don't remember, he was tried at 1B a few yrs back and was much, much worse there than behind the plate.

I do have some concerns about Howard and it's not because of his weight or his defense or even high strikeout total. It's because of his compete inability to hit left-handers. What this means is that, in tight games where Howard's abilities would most be needed, the opposing manager can just bring in a LOOGY & make him a non-factor.

Still and all, it's hard to find any good reason for not signing Howard to a long-term contract. But, to have another year like his 2006 season, he's going to have to improve his hitting against left-handers.

JMARR - I went to at least 5 Red Sox gemas from 1995 until I left Boston two years ago. So basically, I got to see a ton of Varitek both live and on TV. Vastly overrated as a defensive catcher.

His arm was overrated and he really isn't that great of a catcher blocking balls. That is why he didn't want to ever catch Wakefield. Varitek always great credit for his "great game-calling ability" and as I stated earlier I think that is largely BS. The quality of the pitchers and the throws they make are really the only thing that matters.

As for catchers, a reasonable Sox fan would admit that Posada has been more valuable than Varitek. Give up a little defense for a much bigger offensive upgrade.

JMARR - As for Piazza in his prime vs. Varitek, that is a no-brainer. Piazza was one of the great offensive catchers in the game while Varitek has generally been only slightly above average. If Varitek didn't play in Boston, he wouldn't get nearly the credit/attention he has gotten in his career.

I think that Piazza is certainly the better player in his prime than Varitek has ever been and agree with MG that if Varitek didn't play in Boston he wouldn't get nearly the attention. However, I think it's significant that a team like Boston who shells out money all over the place wouldn't consider to go after a big money offensive catcher.

Piazza is the better player, but in terms of putting together a roster, it may be more feasible to get a cheaper option even if it means less offense. If pitchers want certain catchers that are better at calling a game or they are better to work with, it makes sense to get a guy like that who can work with the entire staff.

This is a very small sample size and this guys offense wasn't nearly as good as Piazza, but Jake Peavy's only mini-slump this season came when the Padres got Barrett and started to use him. If you can get a guy that hits like Varitek, calls a good game and then spend the money you would pay for a premium offensive catcher elsewhere, I think that's where Varitek becomes more valuable than Piazza.

JMARR - If you use the stat over at BaseballReference on runs per game, Piazza has generated more than 2 runs per game than Varitek. That is a huge difference.

You mean to tell me that Varitek's defense that kind of run differential? - That is idiotic.

And sometimes, you sign Rod Barajas...

I did not mean to slam Varitek. He has been a good player during his career and he was a vital part of the Sox winning the their first World Series in '04. Still, age is starting to catch up with him the last two years and I would be surprised if the Sox resign after next year.

my source finished his week long stint posing as an HVAC repairman inside the phils offices at CPB. He tells me there are some talk about Lieber being offered a 1 yr incentive based contract. They are hoping that Eaton is healthy but previous rumors about Eaton's MRI might have some legs. Word is his shoulder & elbow have alot of issues. Getting a full season from him might be a stretch.

Just wanted to announce to all my beerleaguer fans that I have been offered an invite to training camp as a non-roster invitee. Hopefully, I can fill that last much coveted LOOGY roster spot!

Please wish me well

Been out Christmas shopping. I'm behind in my Beerleaguer reading. From the last thread, clout wrote: "the Phils have plenty of flexibility (a euphemism for crap) on their 40-man." I nominate it for BL quote of the year. If it can't win that award, maybe it'll win the BL best analogy award.

The argument to trade Howard holds no weight.

2005 133
'06 167
'07 144

The second player in baseball history to ever win ROY followed by the MVP. Fastest player to 100 homers. He was hurt in the beginning of the year and struggled. He had trouble hitting to the opposite field early last year. He couldn't recover his batting average, even with the way he was hitting late in the season. Plus his speed on the base paths is crucial, as shown by his 100% stolen base percentage last year.

I'm not arguing that Varitek is better than a HOF Catcher. What I'm saying is I'll take defense at that position over offense (assuming you get your thumper from another position). The best TEAMS I played on from Pony league through College had a strong defense up the middle (C/SS/2B/CF) - Piazza was a butcher behind the plate, according to most a poor game manager, and was a liability back there throwing out runners.

I'd rather have a Catcher that can call a game, block balls in the dirt, throw out a runner or stop a run game (which is why CS% is a poor indicator as a straight statistic of comparison).

If you want to compare HOF catchers ... I'll take Johnny Bench - you guys can keep Piazza.

News Flash:

CONYERS, Ga. — The South Coast League of Professional Baseball and the South Georgia Peanuts are pleased to announce that Peanuts catcher Josh Eachues has signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Eachues played college baseball at Coastal Carolina University before transferring to play his final season of college eligibility at USC Aiken. Josh was signed by the Aiken Foxhounds in July of 2007 and traded to the South Georgia Peanuts in August, where he played a part in the Peanuts' winning the Inaugural South Coast League Championship.

"We are always happy for our players to have the opportunity to sign with a Major League organization," said the SCL's CEO Jamie Toole. "From a baseball operations standpoint, we take pride in our ability to get players back to Major League organizations."

What no one is mentioning here is how Howard changes the composition of the game in innings he bats. Managers pitch him like they pitched Barry in his prime. Absolutely no one gets pitched around like Howard does. NO ONE. If virtually every other manager in the league is scared of him, why on earth would you trade a guy like that? LaRussa won't touch Howard with a 10' pole. Howard absolutely changes the game just by being on deck. You guys watched these games, right?!? Seriously, maybe you are just spoiled and forget the days of Rico Brogna and Tball Travis Lee.

The argument that the Phillies won't commit to a power hitter long term is obviously not correct, because they have done it twice, with Thome and Burrell.

He is only going to get better against lefties, and it is not humanly possible to strike out more than Howard did last year. This is especially true if he has a solid PtB or perhaps Jenkins batting behind him.

Plus, this is a brave new world where power hitters are going to be a rare commodity. Howard is naturally a big powerful guy and doesn't need steriods to succeed. We should enjoy having this guy around, and hopefully he doesn't hit too well so we can't resign him come payday. If I were the Phillies I'd lock him up now.

"Managers pitch him like they pitched Barry in his prime."

That just isn't accurate. Bonds knew the strike zone as well as it can be known. Howard doesn't - and can be pitched to. And everyone knows it. Did *you* watch the games, Matt? Outside of the September of '06, this is not a valid comparison.

People love to tout their eminent rationality on this site, but when it comes to power, there's apparently no such thing as overstatement. You win with pitching in baseball, not with DHs misplaced in the wrong league. Power is an important asset; Howard has a lot of it. But it is hardly *the* most important asset, and certainly not the most difficult to replace. If Howard has another year with a .260-.270 average, 200 ks, and 40-some homers, the hell yeah, I'd offer up the big guy for the best pitcher available.

MG - I don't want to harp on race, but just for note, Philadelphia demographics according to Wikipedia (fwiw):

45.0% White, 43.2% African American, 5.5% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 5.8% from other races, and 2.2% from two or more races.

I will agree with your anecdotal evidence though.

Pete La-Bunch-a-Trees sent outright to Lehigh Valley, off 40-man roster. Has the option of becoming a free agent. So there's one of em ...

You guys kill me with this Ryan Howard stuff.

Myth: Teams don't pitch around Ryan Howard

Fact: He's finished 2nd in the league in IBB's the last two seasons (some guy named Bonds was first). He also finished 4th in the league the last two seasons in walks (some guy named Bonds was first).

Myth: Howard can't hit left handers.

Fact: Although he is significantly better against righties, whom he will face most of the time, Howard still holds his own against lefties. His OPS+ last year against lefties was 131 (171 vs. righties). That included a home run every 15 ABs vs. lefties. For reference, Greg Dobbs can't hit lefties (38 OPS+ vs. lefties in 2007).

Teams do pitch around Howard at times, without question. The way they pitched around Bonds? Not even close. He's a significant presence in the lineup, but not *that* kind of presence. Again: let's not overstate things.

Teams do pitch around Howard at times, without question. The way they pitched around Bonds? Not even close. He's a significant presence in the lineup, but not *that* kind of presence. Again: let's not overstate things.

mg, If catcher is truly one of the least important defensive positions, why is there such a shortage of catchers who can hit ?

Bill James ranks it as the hardest to play (according to his "defensive spectrum")

mg, If catcher is truly one of the least important defensive positions, why is there such a shortage of catchers who can hit ?

Bill James ranks it as the hardest to play (according to his "defensive spectrum")

CJ: This is one time when good old fashioned old batting average is more meaningful than OPS. Howard's OPS against lefties is high because: (1) left-handers, like everyone else, pitch him carefully, resulting in a lot of walks; and (2) on the rare occasion that he hits the ball against lefties, it often goes over the fence, resulting in a high sluging pct. But, when he isn't walking or hitting homeruns against left-handers, he isn't doing much of anything. His batting average against lefties last year was an abysmal .225 and he struck out in more than 40% of his ABs. In his 3 seasons, 2006 was the only year in which he hit left-handers well.

I'm by no means a Howard basher. But this is a big hole in his game and one which can easily be exploited by opposing managers. He needs to improve in this area.

mg, If catcher is truly one of the least important defensive positions, why is there such a shortage of catchers who can hit ?

Bill James ranks it as the hardest to play (according to his "defensive spectrum")

mg, If catcher is truly one of the least important defensive positions, why is there such a shortage of catchers who can hit ?

Bill James ranks it as the hardest to play (according to his "defensive spectrum")

Sorry for quad post. Not sure how that happened.

And for that matter, it's funny that you should mention Greg Dobbs as someone who definitively can't hit lefties. That conclusion is based on a grand total of 28 ABs last year. I don't have his minor league splits handy but, as I recall, Dobbs always hit pretty well against lefties in the minors. As a major leaguer, the jury is still out on whether or not he can hit lefties. I'll grant you, however, that I'm not dying to find out. When left-handers pitch, Helms should be the starter unless Dobbs is in the midst of a hot streak.

BAP - Agree about Howard vs. lefties last year. A solid left-handed starter or a good LOOGY can neutralize him to some degree and he seems more prone to chasing pitches that break hard/out of the zone. Only time I remember seeing Howard have a terrible AB is against a tough LHP.

This just in on beerleaguer, Howard isn't quite as good as Barry Bonds. You know what, neither are 98% of the players in the Hall of Fame. What else is new?

C is a physically demanding position to play. Don't disagree with that. Just think that defense is overrated there. Too often a guy like Ausmus is behind there because of his supposed "ability to call" a game and his defense prowess. Never mind that fact that is has been nearly as useless as Nunez offensively in his career.

That is especially critical in the NL. The Mets are going to give up a bunch of innings next year is they put Schneider in the 8th hole and the pitcher hitting 9th. Any inning with X-Schneider-pitcher or Schneider-pitcher-x is basically an automatic scoreless inning. I feel pretty confident that even the Phils' crappy middle relief pitching can handle this challenge.

RSB, what the heck does "*that* kind of presence" mean? The second-most IBB in the league doesn't count? I really don't understand what you want out of Howard. A Phillie like him comes along maybe once in a generation, and by all accounts he's a great guy, too--and you want to trade him for a pitcher. Why don't we just enjoy him until we won't be able to afford him anymore?

I just was given two tickets to the Saints-Eagles game in the Superdome. I guess that shoots my day of Christmas shopping. Too bad for those I'll miss. My BL time will surely be curtailed.

sifl: yeah, it 'counts'. As I said, Howard does get pitched around his share. But Matt compared him directly to being the kind of presence in the lineup Barry Bonds was - and that's what I'm responding to. I'm not saying Howard has to be Bonds to make me happy. I'm simply correcting that comparison.

I don't want anything out of Howard, except possibly a little more plate discipline. I just don't believe he's going to be worth the money he'll be commanding. He has one skill on a baseball field - hitting homeruns. That, to me, is a glamorous but replaceable skill, or at the very least not nearly as demanding of the portion of the payroll which it will be swallowing up; if it weren't about economics, I'd be perfectly content to watch Howard play his whole career as a Phillie and shoot for Schmidt's team record.

Howard is what he is, and that's fine, but I think people make way too much of it. I don't believe raw power hitters, particularly those with no other skills, are nearly the premium commodity in baseball as others here do. The fact that Howard happens to be an 'elite' power hitter doesn't deter me from that opinion.

I have already stated that I have nothing against Howard personally, so the would-be counter-argument that he's a 'great guy' is just bogus. So was Rowand. So is Jamie Moyer. So what?

I have never heard so much bs from so called baseball genius's how in the hell and why would you trade the greatest power hitter in phils history i dont care if he k's a 1000 times he is not an ahole like most players in his first full year he was treated like bonds with the intentional walks have any of you seen any philly team trade one of there great players and get equal value ever name one i thought this was a great baseball site but it is as bad as the phils forum i am done

If you don't want to spend on pitching, then Rollins, Utley and Howard need to stay together. Pujols cash is fine by me. I don't care if he makes twice as much as Rollins.

As Jason noted, Howards power numbers are phenominal. I still think that a 6yr/90million contract is more than fair.
Howard's agent will point to his power number's compared to high paid players such as Soriano. But Howards defense/strikeouts/weakness vs LHP & weight must all be considered heavily. The bottom line is Chase Utley acepted a contract for 12 million. Does Ryan Howard & his agent believe he is worth 5-7 million more than Chase currently?. The national media & it's fans may think so, but I watched every game last year & if given a choice between the too, I would take Utley. I'm curious what is the Beerleaguer answer?
casual guess:65% Utley. Casual Philly fan-60% Howard.
I love Howard as a player but still have questions. I think the ideal situation for both parties is too wait & see how Howard responds this year. i'm hoping he takes his conditioning seriously.

kells: Just pay him 2 mill more than Burrell.

harflan:As Ed Wade is illustrating once again for the Astros-He is a terrible GM. Just because he crippled the Phillies once by gaving Burrell 14million/yr & both San Fran & the Cubs both gave 18million to Zito & Soriano 18 million doesn't mean Gillick has to make the same mistake. The phillies have arbitation leverage untill 2012.They can be patient. I realize he deserves to get paid-I just don't know the number yet.
Utley felt 12 million was fair. He may regret it considering the multiple clueless GM's who pay people like Pat Burell 14 million & Barry Zito 18 million.

First of all, Howard does more than hit home runs. He hits, and gets on base, in general. And he drives in a ton of runs. He's not the most versatile player, it's true, but, though this may come as a shock to some, not all baseball skills are created equal. Being able to hit for power or get on base at a high rate is inherently a lot more valuable than being able to steal a base, bunt, or hit for an empty .300 average, for reasons that I would hope are obvious. That said, of course it's possible to imagine a Howard trade that would make some sense; I suppose the team would get no worse, and might even get a little better, if you exchanged him for Santana. Given that we more or less play in the 2008 version of Coors Park, maybe the wisest approach to building a winner would be to invest heavily in starting pitching and cut costs on the offense, since you don't really need superstars to score a decent amount of runs in CBP. But since we already have a budding ace, I'm not sure why you'd want to invest umpteen million dollars a year in another, and that's all I could see trading Howard for, an ace like Santana (who, by the way, is surprisingly homer-prone). No, the only move that would actually make sense for this team is if you could somehow orchestrate a multi-team deal in which Howard would bring you an entire bullpen to replace the one we have. Of course, that's impossible.

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