What Can Phillies Expect Out of Ryan Howard in 2016?


What will the Philadelphia Phillies‘ first-baseman do in 2016?

For all of the discussion about how his five-year/$125 million contract signed in 2010 was one of the worst contracts in the history of the sport — something that there isn’t much debate about — 2016 should be a celebration of all of the good that Ryan Howard has done in his time in Philadelphia.

Howard is comfortably second all-time in homeruns, third in RBI’s, fourth in extra-base hits, sixth in total bases and eighth in walks. On top of that, the Phillies’ organization has existed since 1883 and Howard may be the best first-baseman in the history of the team.

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2016 is the final guaranteed year of his deal, and being that he has a $10 million buyout for 2017 that the Phillies will exercise, his 12th season in Philadelphia will be his final.

Hopefully, as alluded to above, there’s some appreciation for him on his way out. Howard was a cornerstone piece for the greatest five year run in team history, and though he’s had his fair share of struggles in recent seasons, his legacy should be an extremely positive one.

There is, of course, still a season to be played.

Howard played in just shy of 130 games last season, and short of the Phillies making an unexpected free-agent signing, he figures to get a similar amount of starts there this year.

Darin Ruf has had ample time to supplant Howard, and has proven himself to be nothing more than a fringe major league player with no short or long-term stability with the team.

So barring injury, Howard figures to play between 125 and 140 games. He’s hit 23 homeruns in each of the past two seasons, a number that feels pretty empty considering both how low of an average he’s hit for and how low his on-base percentage has been.

Offensively, like the team saw in May, he still shows flashes of being the player that once hit 198 homeruns in a four season span. But he also had three months in 2015 where his average was below .200, which greatly negates hitting .280 and going on a power streak for one month.

In the field, Howard has obviously never been much to ride home about. He did make a conscious effort to improve his fielding in his early years in the league, something that instead just made him less of a liability in the field. Injuries have limited his range again, however, as he posted a -13.9 dWAR in 2015, which was actually an improvement over the -14.5 one he posted in 2014.

Overall, this is what Baseball Reference projects Howard to do in 2016.

Fangraphs’ Steamer Projection, which of course can’t be embedded in a convenient table, projects Howard to hit .228 with 20 homeruns and 63 RBI’s while posting a .291 on-base percentage in 118 games. 

I tend to think Howard will play closer to 130 games, largely because of the lack of another young option that could be here after Howard is gone. Both projections have him hitting 20 homeruns, which is right around the area I would have him at. It also seems that the Baseball Reference projection of 72 RBI’s is more in line with what Howard has done the last two seasons, when he’s averaged 86 RBI’s (77 in 2015).

dWAR stats courtesy of Fangraphs

Next: League GM Laughs at Idea of Trading For Jonathan Papelbon

Phillies/MLB Notes

  • This isn’t a report, but I just don’t get the sense that the Phillies plan on bringing Jeff Francoeur back. As Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported last week, the two sides have talked to each other about a return. It feels like bringing him back doesn’t have a ton of upside, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing considering he’s a good clubhouse guy, but I’m not sure it’s the direction Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail will go in.
  • I’m interested to see how many games the Phillies will be projected to win next season. Obviously, it seems like they will improve on their 63 win campaign from 2015, but could they come close to posting a winning record? Some have suggested that, but that would include a near 20 game improvement.
  • I’ve said this before, but I continue to hear people suggest how great of a value that signing Chris Davis would be and I just shake my head.
  • Mental health, especially among men, still isn’t taken seriously enough in this country. After reading this story about Aubrey Huff — yes, Aubrey Huff — attempting an MLB comeback after three years out of the league due to both injuries and depression problems, I am rooting for Huff.