So when my infinitely more competent weekend predecessor, a card-carrying member of the "Numbers Are Awesome Club" like myself, goes out of his way to show the necessity of tempering one's zeal when it comes to over-emphasizing the numbers... it has my attention. The points Drew made about Phillies
sandwich-hawker slugger Ryan Howard are spot on and contain a wisdom that half the blogosphere should be lucky to demonstrate in their offerings on the interwebs. Yes, Ryan Howard is not good against left-handed pitching, but he does a lot of things exceptionally well that more than make up for this difference. Drew pointed out his impressive mashing of righties, and this led me to look at Howard's stats more closely myself to try to gain a better appreciation of the big fella's talent.
I was not disappointed, and what I found further solidifies the fact that "stats" and the "real world" aren't two realms constantly butting heads against each other. If anything, as one brilliant WoWie pointed out in my "work" from days of yore, stats are just a way to gain an appreciation of how truly great some of these players are. This is exactly what I found out in digging into Ryan Howard's numbers.
If you saw some of Howard's dingers from this past season, you know he can absolutely punish a fastball with impunity. This something we learn "from the eyes," by simply watching the game and being fans. But it turns out, the numbers say Howard is one of the most elite fastball hitters in the entire game. How good is he? Fifth overall in runs above average per 100 fastballs faced the last three years. His company? The likes of Pujols and A-Rod. More impressive? That over those same three years, Howard has been offered the lowest percentage of fastballs among all eligible hitters. That's some impressively efficient production, yes? The dude can hit the cheese. The eyes and the numbers say it. And just to put the icing on the cake, look at Howard's HR Tracker for 2009. That, my friends, is power, and power to all fields.
Your mind: sufficiently blown.
I'm speaking for myself here in chorus with Drew, but I would like to hear others' opinions on this reconciliation of the numbers and the "lived experience" of the game itself.