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Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Wow, scary post, but it's in the back of all of our minds

Can't argue with anyone for wondering this about Howard.

I personally am less worried, but yeah... its a legit fear.

He wasn't on two good legs from the ankle injury on. That's where the power went.

I'm always very much a homer when it comes to Ryan Howard. I think when he's on, he's the most exciting AB in the game. Though I concede it is painful to watch him whiff at junk ball lefties. It appeared he returned form his injury the same way Utley did where both were pretty much dead during the last bit of the season. They came alive a bit during the postseason but not enough. I think Howard can bounce back and put up a really solid season next year. I will say though, for his contract I wish it was more of a sure thing.

Well, I had blocked out the scary thoughts but you just ripped that scab open again.

Howards last 2 seasons both saw drops in numbers, but could this be because he was batting in front of Jayson Werth?

2009? A lot of us thought it was his best year ...

Great post about Howard. If you would have presented it as a poll question I would have voted "yes," I wonder and worry about Ryan Howard and whether or not we've already seen the best of him.

And a question about the previous post - did I miss the Phillies signing Wilson Valdez? If so, was it a minor or major league deal? If not, why are we expecting him to be with the team if not signed?

Ahh, everything will be great. He'll crush enough balls this year but he'll age. So will we. But he' s our guy, so we will forgive a little. Salaries will continue to climb. In a year or two there will be a number of sluggers making more than Howard. Life will go on. Beer will be drunk. Homers will be hit. Cole will make awful commercials. Such is baseball.

Here's an idea, I propose baseball teams keep all offseason moves a secret and then on the first day of spring training we all get the big reveal.

As long as Howard can remain productive throughout the contract (even if its as a 30-35 HR, 100-110 RBI, .850-.900 OPS guy), its not a huge albatross. Its if he goes all Albert Belle/Mo Vaughn on us that it kills us. Having him be overpaid but productive is annoying...having him be overpaid and non-existent is killer.

****And a question about the previous post - did I miss the Phillies signing Wilson Valdez? If so, was it a minor or major league deal? If not, why are we expecting him to be with the team if not signed?****

He's under team control due to his lack of MLB service time. All we have to do is automatically renew his contract at the MLB minimum. (like other minor leaguers/team control guys basically)

Howard has shown a willingness to work on weaknesses in his game: we've seen him come to camp slimmed down after his weight was an issue, seen him improve his defensive range and agility (though admittedly not his penchant for routine errors), and this season we saw him improve his terrible splits against lefties as well as his overall K rate.

While its far from a given that Howard will continue to improve and adjust to the way pitchers are approaching him, his track record on this stuff should give us a little more optimism than JW's post implies.

NEPP: What if we send him down to the minors? Do we have options on him once we offer him a contract under pre-arb team control?

No, he doesnt have any options remaining so he'd be exposed to waivers (like he was last year). But he's under 3 years of service time so we dont have to go to arbitration with him and we control his rights.

I agree the power numbers are alarming. Good post. However, whether Werth is batting behind him or not is not indicative of Howards at-bats. Each batter is attacked differently by the pitcher to expose flaws and weaknesses as well as what the current situation is with runners on base. What the guy is capable of in the on-deck circle doesn't influence that. Howard clearly struggled last year and still had an "okay" year, but the power is way down. Total bases is a raging clue of power indicators:

Ryan TB's by year (full seasons):

2006 - 383
2007 - 309
2008 - 331
2009 - 352
2010 - 278

2007 is low, but Ryan only had 28 more PA's that season compared to 2010 and still had way more power.

Re: Complaints about the Sackman chart posted at the end of the last thread by awh.

The value of the chart is that it provides a benchmark. Obviously the #4 starter for a contender is going to have better numbers than the league average and a cellar dweller's #4 is likely to be worse. The value is in seeing how you team's rotation stacks up individually against the average. Plus, it puts into perspective all the Beerleaguer whining about this or that starter.

Lineup protection is mostly a myth I dont think Werth's presence in the 5 spot means a damn thing for Howard.

joe perry you really shouldn't have done that.

Protip...when using HTML on MUST close the command in your post or we are screwed until the end of the page (100 posts).

This is italics

This is not.

See how easy that is?

Beerleaguer: A place where an .859 OPS is "pedestrian." attempt to close the bold command worked...maybe they finally fixed that stupid glitch.

I just won't bold anything next time... If I'm ever allowed a "next time."

***Beerleaguer: A place where an .859 OPS is "pedestrian."***

Well, its basically in the good to very good range for a 1B (as Howard was 9th in the Majors among qualifying 1B last year). If he were to revert back to the .900-.950 range, he'd likely be Top 5 in 2011.

Definitely not "pedestrian" though.

Howard's power was down a bit this year, but not all that much until the ankle injury. He was putting together a very solid top 5 MVP campaign until that happened. At his very worst he never lost power like he did after that. He'll be fine next year. His willingness to work on his game makes me feel even better about that.

why is everyone yelling?

NEPP: I believe that, in addition to passing through waivers, because he's a 6-year minor league veteran Valdez can declare himself a free agent if the team attempts to outright him to LV.

And he was 28th in the Majors for OPS (tied with Colby Rasmus actually) among qualifying players.

****I believe that, in addition to passing through waivers, because he's a 6-year minor league veteran Valdez can declare himself a free agent if the team attempts to outright him to LV.****

I believe you are correct.

I have been a consistent Howard critic, and in fact have advocated dealing him before his contract made that impossible. Of all the Phillies, Howard is the one most responsible for their highly inconsistent offense. In all his time in the majors, he has shown no ability to lay off the sucker pitch. Why any pitcher would throw a strike to him is a wonder. Certainly you can make a reasonable argument that he merely had an off year. Maybe, but I have serious doubts. His poor sense of the strike zone and his lack of impulse control are real liabilities. The league has learned to not throw fastballs over the plate to Ryan Howard. If there is any hope for him, he will have to learn to work the count in his favor, forcing opposing pitchers to throw strikes. At this point in his career, that doesn't seem likely.

JW, I think you missed some key point/stats regarding Howie's 2010 campaign.

Through the 2009 season, Howard averaged 1 HR every 14.1 PA, hitting 222 HR in 3145 PA.

From April 5th to Aug. 1st, Howard had 452 PA and hit 23 HR…….1 HR/19.65 PA – way below career avg.

From Aug. 21st (post DL) to Oct. 4th Howard had 168 PA and hit 8 HR…....1 HR/21 PA – waaay below career avg.

However, his power had seemingly returned during July 2010.

From April 5th to June 30th Howard had 330 PA and hit 15 HR…….1 HR/22 PA.

From July 1st to Aug. 1st he hit 8 HR in 122 PA, 1 HR every 15.25 PA – close to his career average. His new approach appeared to start producing dividends. Actually, he hit his first July HR on July 7th, after a 10 game HR drought. If you take the time period from July 7th to August 1st (injury day) he had 8 HR in 97 PA…….1 HR/12.13 PA.

The ankle injury really affected his power, which seemed to return the 2nd week in July.

when you look at howard's triple slash on the day he was injured vs. what he finished with, one can come to the conclusion that the injury did affect ryno in a not so insignificant manner.

Aug 1: 292/356/528
Oct 3: 276/353/505

if you are an optimist, you can surmise that the 42pt OPS drop in just 5 weeks worth of games can be largely attributed to howard not being 100% healthy after he came off the DL. glass-half-empty folks will say that ryno's on the decline

I'm hopeful that howard can give us a full year similar to or above the 8/1 triple slash

I posted this thought back in Late April/Early May last year about Howard, and I'm sticking to it:

Howard changed his approach last season to correct trending problems like poor contact and numbers vs LHP. He will suffer temporarily while adjusting, but ultimately will become a better hitter than he was when he was still leading the majors in almost all power categories.

I used the analogy of Tiger Woods, who despite a torrid pace in his mid 20s, recognized that he had holes in his swing that left uncorrected would have continued to hurt his performance. He underwent a swing change and saw his performance drop while adjusting to it - while still remaining highly competitive. Once he became adjusted to his improved swing, he was back to dominating the sport while continually getting better. (Obviously Tiger had unrelated golf issues that have halted his game).

In a nutshell, thats how I took Howard's approach from 2010. Adjusting to a better overall approach for the longrun that caused initial setbacks during transition - all while still remaining competitive.

Knew I'd regret changing "career-low" to "pedestrian" in the final edit.

Well, compared to his track record, it was pedestrian. So there's that.

clout, good post about the Sackman chart. that's why I continue to post it. I usually do it when a discussion of Phillies' starters comes up, so that all the whiners can see what actually poses for starting pitching in MLB.

Some of it just ain't that good.

BTW, I wonder what this site would be like had it been araound since...say 1998, and some of the whiners here had created archives about some of the pitchers that graced the Phillies rotation back then. People have forgotten that the Phillies were 14 games over .500 and leading the division in June 2001, and were only eliminated the last week of the season by the Braves. The big difference: pitching. It wasn't very good back then.

Golly, would Adam Eaton have been the ace of the 2001 staff? :)

I just can't bring myself to worry about Ryno. He's a pro in every sense of the word.

awh: that chart sucks

BTW, JW, you brough up an excellent point about the number of strikes thrown to Howard, and the number of balls swung at that were out of the zone.

In the end, Howard can only control the latter.

Maybe he need to take more walks and just get on base. That's got to help the team more than outs made on bad pitches to hit.

jason, is the chart inaccurate?

awh: well since you asked...

yeah probably, since you've posted the same chart since like 2008.

And how does Sack have the knowledge to label a starter as a 1-5? When Brett Myers started Opening Day in 2008, was he the Phillies #1 pitcher that year?

And even if the chart has notes that try to explain some of that criteria - its value is basically nothing so I don't even care.

My "guess" would be that they simply go by the Top 5 pitchers for each team...not the official #1-#5 rotation order. So, if Halladay had the 4th best ERA, he'd be the #4 in such a ranking despite his status as Team Ace.

I agree with Jason's comment regarding the transition time in Howard's approach at the plate.

I remember Howard going on a stretch where he hit a ton of singles in May/June and someone pointed out the absurdity of our cleanup hitter leading the team in base hits. but to Jason's point, I think this is all part of a larger processs of adjusting his swing.

I'm confident that this year will meet $25M expectations.

jason, before you speculate and spout off, read the study and the work at THT that's been done since then:

Then do a little homework yourself and compare Sacxkman's numbers to pitchers on different teams in MLB. That should give you some perspective.

Ryan Howerd is gonna hit 60 homers and 300 Ribs...I can't wait

For all of you UZR fans and detractors, in case you missed it, here's a THT article about the reliability of fielding metrics:

THT does a lot of good work.

they made a crappy stat/chart, it happens, no biggie. Just annoying that its posted on beerleaguer in response to various debates over starting pitchers - i.e. Blanton has a +6ERA vs the AL East in his career but he'll likely be OK pitching in that division becasue this chart says so.

awh: Excellent post on Howard's numbers in re: his ankle injury. Add in the fact that offense was down across the league (league total TBs down 3%) and you can make a solid case that the decline in Howard's TB rate was mostly injury related and partly related to the decline in offense in all of baseball.

The funny thing is that generally no one harped on Howard's defense last year which was generally lousy even before his ankle injury. By the time the playoffs rolled around, I cringed every time a ball was hit to 1st or he had to throw to his right.

Never going to be a good defensive player but he was downright brutal last year at times with way too many simple mental gaffes. Wouldn't mind that contract nearly as much if the Phils could DH him part of the time and move him to the DH probably for good in 2 years.

Saw this interesting read ...

Not sure when the MLB channel will show it again, but that 1960 Game 7 is well worth watching. It reminded me of how Roberto Clemente would swing at everything. People who think Howard can't lay off bad balls ought to check out Roberto.

That final strikeout seems to be Howard's Bill Buckner moment, one humiliating frame which obscures the most productive home run and RBI man in baseball over the past 4-5 years. I see him rebounding to have a fantastic season, but I could tell from the crowd noise walking out of CBP after that final game against SF that he will be the scapegoat for the 2010 playoffs, and that will only be erased by a ring in 2011 and a decent postseason by him individually.

First and last time "Howard" and "Clemente" are in the same sentence.

On Howard:

Howard and most of the Phils seemed to really struggle vs. changeups last year and the numbers on Pitch Value on Fan Graphs bear that out a bit. Yet Howard saw less changeups last year and the year before (13.8% in '08 vs. 10.7% in '10).

Instead the memo seems to be fairly simple for Howard. Less fastballs and more sliders.

What I would love to see though are 'heat zones' for Howard vs. various offspeed pitches the past few years and just what pitches he has hit HRs on during his career. He seems like sliders from lefties eat him up but that sliders that miss in on him from righties even a bit get pounded.

"First and last time "Howard" and "Clemente" are in the same sentence."

What if Howard wins the Roberto Clemente award??

A testament to his desire to swing at anything while still being one of the most dangerous hitters of his era:

Clemente walked a total of 621 in his 18 seasons (162game average of only 41) - but 26.8% of them were intentional.

That percentage of IBB/total BB is 7th highest in MLB history.

Good point, Joe. Or maybe Ryan will name his son "Clemente."

And Bill Buckner, at least, made an attempt.
But I hope you're right about 2011.

clout: The league-wide decline in offense is an effect, not a cause. It doesn't explain any individual player's declining numbers.

clout, the hitter who most reminds me of Clemente is Vlad Guererro. Big hacker also, but manages to maek enough contact to put himself in HOF conversation.

It fascinates me that Ryan is often mentioned as one of the great sluggers along the lines of Albert Pewholes, but I never get the same feeling when Ryan steps to the plate that I get with Albert and others like Aroid - really, did anybody expect anything other than that strikeout to end 2010? Add it to the mountain of strikeouts from the last two playoffs.

The real knock I have on Ryno is that contract and whether that $25 mil a year could have been better spent considering the core of the team is aging. Could they have gotten a very good first baseman and infielder for that price?

That Bleacher Report article is an interesting read, but I can't see RAJ pulling the trigger on a Soria-Dom Brown+ trade. Now, if it were to read "Hamels for Upton" we might have something...

Cowley: the problem with Howard, if we're to focus on problems with him, is that the strikeout to end the NLCS was no fluke Buckner moment. There are dozens of occasions every season where Howard comes up in a spot like that, and as soon as that first strike lights up, you know the strikeout is coming. Hitman made some great points about Howard being the fulcrum of the Phillies' inconsistent offense. As I have said in the past, Howard struggles more often than not with the mental side of the game. It isn't just his throws to second base which incurs a mental block. He seems to suffer from a palpable lack of confidence at the plate once a pitcher gets ahead of him - or if not this than *something* that apparently erodes his ability to focus and stay with a game plan - and that's why I believe he goes for those sucker pitches so much.

Howard has improved some aspects of his game, but the reason the Barry Bonds Sessions don't seem to have any lasting effect is because he has not been able to simply wait for his pitch, or else take his base. Say what you want about Bonds, but over the last several decades of the game's history, his ability to consistently focus, to never give in during his at-bats, is probably only rivaled by Ted Williams and maybe Pete Rose. We all look at Howard as a guy how could command the kind of respect Bonds got because his ability to drive the ball is unsurpassed in the sport - and it is disappointing to some extent that he hasn't become that kind of player, and that he almost certainly never will. Still, he is an unforgettable player just for those many moments during the course of a season when he will have the opportunity to unleash that monstrous ability and thrill us - moments which lend a certain anticipation for his every at-bat, for who knows when the next bolt will be sent careening off his bat. If that's the Ryan Howard we must 'live with', then let's just accept it, and appreciate all the things he *is*, which is substantial by any standard. It sure beats the crap out of the alternative: a half-season of Kip Wells; or, over the course of several seasons, any other first baseman in the game not named Albert.

Of course, that Bleacher Report article is from the same people that brought out their own Top-10 prospects list, in which Phillipe Aumont was ranked 2nd, Vance Worley 3rd, and Tyson Gillies 8th, without mentioning Cosart, Colvin, Biddle, or May at all. So there's that.

"50/140/.290/.350/.650/1.000" that's a $25M line. as ryno dangerously approaches the dime-a-dozen levels of laroche, pena, cust, et. al., the contract becomes an unbearable burden as soon as it kicks in. i hope he can sustain adam dunn-like numbers in order to mitigate the pain.

If I wasn't afraid of sharp objects, I would have stabbed myself in the eye after reading this thread.
The season can't start soon enough.

Im with you Old Phan. The electrifying Cliff Lee signing has ramped up my Phever even more than usual. My guess is this will be the longest winter ever.

"He seems to suffer from a palpable lack of confidence at the plate once a pitcher gets ahead of him"

RSB, you need to go look at league wide stats for hitters when they fall behind in the count, before you speculate or posit that Howard "suffers" from that exclusively.

in 2010, after going 0-1 in the count NL hitters did this

.226 .267 .345 with 12,852 K in 47,490 PA, 1 K/3.695 PA

Ryan Howard in 2010, after 0-1:

.267 .312 .508, with 95 K in 285 PA, 1 K/3 PA.

Sure he K's worse than league average, but so do almost all power hitters, so I would expect that.

Did you have a point in your post, or do the facts get in the way of your opinion?

To add to the discussion:

2010 NL average after 0-2 count:

.168 .196 .248 with 8,223 K in 18,724 PA

Ryan Howard 2010 with 0-2 count:

.150 .213 .240 with 60 K in 108 PA

Go look at 1-2, and 2-2 counts and compare, and you will see that only with an 0-2 count is Ryan Howard a worse-than-league-average hitter.

Overall, when behind in the count he is a better hitter than the NL average.

Compare Howard with great hitters like Pujols, Arod, Bonds and Williams and you will come away disappointed.

Compare Howard with sluggers like Dunn, Schmidt, McGwire, Killebrew and Kiner and you will feel much better.

That Bleacher Report Top 10 was so ridiculously bad it was scary. Aumont as #2?!? Worley as #3, Mathieson as #6, Drew freaking Carpenter?!?

Just pathetic.

awh: well, my point about Howard is largely one which can't be quantified, which of course doesn't fly around here. If I can ask you and everyone else to put your abacus away for a moment, let's posit the question: did you feel confident with Howard up with 2 on and 2 out in the 9th against a right-handed pitcher? I didn't, and that's the problem I have with him. Maybe you didn't feel that way. Maybe you didn't feel anything. But I don't think Howard has enough of a mentally strong edge to be that go-to guy on your team. That isn't to say he always has or always will fail in that situation. But he does not inspire confidence with the game on the line.

BeerLeaguer Obsessive Weirdo. Jason,you have described me(and many others)perfectly! When can we order our B.L.O.W. shirts?

****did you feel confident with Howard up with 2 on and 2 out in the 9th against a right-handed pitcher?****

I was pretty shocked that he didn't come through to be honest. I really thought he would smack a double. He's come through so many times over the last several years...especially against RHP.

I'm a big Ryan Howard fan. His work on his game and his abilities have never been in question. They guy is a pro.

The only question is and will continue to be whether he's worth all that money. If he hits 45 homers and knocks in a lot of runs (way more than 100-110) on the average, and continues to work on his fielding, then he will be worth the contract.

If he doesn't, then he will be a burden on the budget. That doesn't seem to be a problem now, but when the team is going to be paying Halladay 20 mil, and Lee 24+ mil, and Cole (who knows how much) in a couple of years, that 25 is going to meant likely more than 100 million dollars to 4 players. If inflation makes that meaningless, we'll have bigger problems than where the Phillies finish. But more than 100 million to four players will likely be historic even compared to the Yankees. And all four of those guys had better be producing at an amazing level if the team is not going to really suck.

I completely expect Howard to be back in 2010 as a 45 HR/130+ RBI guy. He had a rough injury filled happens.

RSB - Right-handed pitcher. Yes. Unless he has either a splitter which Howard always is a sucker to chase or he gets Howard to bit on high heat at 92+ MPH or better that is letter-high.

Against a lefty reliever? No. Especially one who has a good fastball/slider combo. It is Howard's kryptonite.

"But I don't think Howard has enough of a mentally strong edge to be that go-to guy on your team."

"Just get me to the plate, boys!"

Man, Howard is livin on the edge. His slugging percentage is going down like love on an elevator. But when he gets up to bat, I don't want to miss a thing.

Even with his injury plagued 2010, Howard has averaged 46 HRs/136 RBI a season over the last 5 seasons.

Think about that.

Howard vs. left-handed relievers (career)

208 ABs - .115 AVG with just 3 HRs & 21 RBIs with a staggering 118 Ks and just 15 BBs

Left-handed relievers eat Howard alive. Just a small example:

7-36 vs. Feliciano
4-19 vs. Ohman
3-14 vs. Wagner
2-12 vs. Affeldt
1-12 vs. Villone
1-12 vs. Schoeneweis
1-12 vs. M. McBride
0-10 vs. B. Bray
1-8 vs. R. Flores
1-8 vs. O'Flaherty
1-8 vs. Hendrickson
1-8 vs. J. Lopez
0-8 vs. Grabow
0-7 vs. Tankersley

There are only a handful of lefty relievers that Howard has had success with including:

6-14 vs. Biemel
5-13 vs. T. Miller
4-10 vs. R. Ring
4-8 vs. D. Reyes

JW is right that teams can neutralize Howard late in games as long as they have a left-handed reliever in their pen. Just need one silver bullet and the Braves have at least three.

I'd really love to see Howard start off hot in Apr/May and carry the club for a change. That'd be awesome. Maybe this will be his year to do it.

I'd also like to see Utley have another great year...his decline is far more concerning to me than Howard's injury year.

Chase Utley
2007: .976 OPS
2008: .915 OPS
2009: .905 OPS
2010: .832 OPS

That's a bad trend.

MG, out of curiosity, where'd you go to get that specific split (Howard vs. LHP relievers) Is that part of

Only on BL can a guy go from "Get me to the plate, boys" to mentally weak in the span of 365 days.

NEPP - You just subtract the career numbers vs. LHP from the career numbers vs. LH starters. It is amazingly how bad Howard is against left-handed relievers. Next to useless although last year Howard was 18-51 (.353) which is pretty amazing.

He finally had a little success vs. Feliciano (3-5 and his first hit against him since '07) and others left-handed relievers last year including Rhodes (2-3), Biemel (3-3), D. Reyes (2-4), and S. Burnett (2-4).

Braves have assembled a bullpen of 'Howard-neutralizers'

Venters (1-9 with 4 Ks)
O'Flaherty (1-8 with 2 BBs, 3 Ks)
Sherrill (0-1 with 2 BBs, 1 K)

The only thing I have hope is that Freddi manages to muck it up occasionally with one of his strategy masterpieces.

Ahh...I thought it broke it out separately somewhere. Still, pretty bad, isn't it?

Between that and Utley's suddenly massive dropoff vs. RHP (which is so odd) Both his average and wOBA have dropped 4 straight years vs RHP while he's improved against LHP. I wonder if he is changing his approach to hit Lefties better but its somehow exposing him against RHP or something.

NEPP - Amazingly bad especially before he actually hit LHP relievers a bit last year. It was essentially not much better than sending a pitcher up there. No cleanup hitter should be that easily neutralized.

Very curious to see if Howard is able to duplicate anything like his performance last vs. LHP relievers because he is sure to see a ton of this year again especially with no right-handed bat behind him. Really hope the Phils don't go with a 3-4-5 of 3 left-handed hitters but very possible they will at times this year.

I suspect they'll have Rollins hit behind him in the 5 hole...

Rollins is, for his career, better vs LHP fortunately. He hit LHP great last year (He was actually effective vs them with a .291 avg in 2010.

Rollins career splits

vs. LHP: .782 OPS
vs. RHP: .757 OPS

That would be what I would do if i was making up the lineup card.

NEPP: Regarding your Utley post, unless you want to be kicked out of Beerleaguer Elite, do not violate the Beerleaguer double standard again.

Utley's numbers are NEVER a problem. Whatever Howard does, it is flawed.

Don't forget that.

I'm thinking J-Roll is gonna have a huge year and end up hitting 5th. I think if Chase, Victorino and Rollins bounce back and Polly doesn't get hit by Hudson - Howard won't have lots of pressure and will be fine.

BAP: "The league-wide decline in offense is an effect, not a cause. It doesn't explain any individual player's declining numbers."

Yes and no. It provides context for the point of this discussion: Why did Howard's numbers decline?

If an individual decline occurs amid a league-wide decline, then there is some force beyond any one individual that is causing that decline. Maybe it's the ball, maybe it's the weather, maybe it's an influx of good pitchers. But that has to be considered a blame factor beyond his own unique failings. Unless you want to blame Howard for the rest of the league's decline as well. Which wouldn't surprise me.

"Utley's numbers are NEVER a problem. Whatever Howard does, it is flawed."

clout, you crack me up.

't is why I nicknamed him "St. Utley".

***NEPP: Regarding your Utley post, unless you want to be kicked out of Beerleaguer Elite, do not violate the Beerleaguer double standard again. ***

Yeah, whatever am I thinking. Utley is NOT the problem. He had another fantastic year in 2010 and showed no signs of a continued decline or a continuing decline versue RHP.

Nothing to worry about whatsoever.

I think Howard's "decline" was simply the injury and the overall offensive decline in the "Year of the Pitcher". Totally not worried about Ryno.

I've seen Utley getting a fair bit of criticism in BL and elsewhere over the course of the last year.

And I'll make a wager: Sign him for 20 mil per year for three years after his current contract runs out, and you'll see nothing but "@#$#$ Utley and the horse he rode in on" posts all over BL.

Check out Utley's massive nose-dive in ISO vs. RHP over the last 4 years (while he's seen his ISO improve vs. LHP (with an overall drop though due to seeing much much more RHP obviously).

Mind you, I'm the biggest Utley booster on the site (remember all the arguments clout and I have gotten into on him over the years?)

Its a serious concern and far more important to the Phillies success than Howard IMHO.

MLBTR posted the current status of every team's needs. The Phillies team need is "a taker for Joe Blaton"

How cool is it that our team need is to unload a solid mlb starting pitcher?

Well, I look at it this way:

The 2010 Phillies, despite all the injuries and time on the DL, especially to Blanton, Happ, Moyer - 3/5 of the rotation - still won the division and led MLB in wins.

Even if their are slight age related declines, I would be very surprised if they score less runs than in 2010.

Who replaced Utley at 2B? Castro/Valdez.
Rollins? Valdez.
Howard? Sweeney/Gload.
Chooch? Sardinha/Hoover.
Vic? Francisco/Brown.
Polly? Dobbs/Castro/Valdez.

No matter how you slice it, those are huge downgrades from AS level players.

The chink in Howard's armor is nothing new as it was clearly exposed in 2007 vs. the Rockies in the NLDS. It won't be easy, hitting Major League pitching never is, but I have confidence that he will make adjustments and continue to be effective and one of the best sluggers in the game for several seasons to come. His MVP season was amazing, however he has the odds against him in repeating that performance due to age and the fore-mentioned chink. Let's not dwell on Howard getting K'd by a very good closer having a career year.

Did JW post this to prove to himself that he has the power to get everyone worked up?

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