Hold on to something solid, I'm going to blow your mind: Ryan Howard isn't good against left-handed pitching. His numbers are bad against the southpaws; it affects the way teams pitch the slugger and all Phillies around him. In our current Golden Age of life-enriching stats, this is a bad thing. The bounty of metrics can meter out exactly how much this lessens his value to the team, but what is lost in all this how great Ryan Howard still is.
This isn't unique to Howard. It seems to me the newfound appreciation of well-rounded players has an ugly side. Namely: players deficient in one particular area are overly denigrated and diminished by hypercritical fans.
Look, we all wish for a local nine staffed exclusively by five tool Chutelys and Beltrans, with Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria duking it out for ABs at the hot corner, but that simply isn't reality. There just aren't that many studs to go around. If anything, the tragic flaw of your garden-variety neighbourhood superstar makes for a more interesting experience. Take Howard, for instance. His line versus left-handed pitching is awful, as stated above. But consider two things:
- His violent treatment of right handed pitching.
- The overwhelming confidence associated with Ryan Howard facing right handed pitching.
A guy like Howard hits right handed pitching so hard and so well, when he steps in against a poor, unfortunate righty, Phillies fans can't help but assume something good will come of it. Bad at bats versus LOOGYs come and go, but The Fear lives forever. Just ask Jim Rice!
Don't think I've eschewed the statty way or was the recent victim of violent head trauma; evaluative stats are still key to my appreciation of the game, especially when taking a long look at a player's body of work come Hall of Fame time. Nor am I suggesting absolution for extremely limited players like Bengie Molina. I mere suggest (hope for) a separation of church and state. Evaluate players for their contributions without becoming dogmatic and unfeeling.
So let your Pandas swing freely and your Dunns take their ironclad gloves to the field. Jay Bruce forgot how to hit? You'll always have him unleashing frozen ropes from the right field corner. Concerned B.J. Upton fell asleep on second base? He's probably tracking fly balls that haven't yet been hit. The cold, deadness of winter may lend itself to analysis and big picture thinking, but the thoughts of slick double plays, opposite field home runs and headfirst slides into green-grassed outfields keep my heart warm as Spring Training approaches.