Ryan Howard Accepts Your Fastball Offering With Glee, Peasant

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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.


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5 Comments

The anti-stat guys out there are the equivalent of creationists. They want to believe that Babe Ruth was born out of Abner Doubleday's rib, or something.

Now you can certainly enjoy baseball without being into advanced stats, just like you can love nature and animals without knowing a thing about evolution, and millions of people have and do. Everyone can agree that a Ryan Howard homerun sailing into the night or a lion taking down an antelope is an awe-inspiring sight.

But if you really want to understand how things work on a deeper and more fundamental level, you need to get more advanced.

If you just want to enjoy the game without worrying about VORP et al., that's fine, I'll enjoy it with you. Just don't get defensive and tell me my stats are bullshit because you choose not to engage them.

You mean Babe Ruth WASN'T born out of Abner Doubleday's rib?! Oh, there's another therapy bill on the horizon...

...or a great idea for a song...

BUT, can he hit a cheeseburger?

Babe Ruth was born out of the Amber Lamps.

This post feels very, very dirty to me. A Yankee fan, basking in the glory that is Ryan Howard? Could it be that the aforementioned fan is measuring up the 2011 class of free agent first basemen/designated hitters?

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