The Poor Man’s Analyst

The Ryan Howard Debate

with 2 comments

pmlb2-3750519dtHere is my MVP ballot:

1. Chase Utley

2. Ryan Howard

I’ll stop there, since that’s all you need to know. By the way, Albert Pujols 100% deserves the NL MVP award, there’s no one even close in my opinion. There is a large number of people that believe Ryan Howard was deserving of the NL MVP this year. Let’s just say I disagree. I don’t believe that Howard was even the Most Valuable Phillie (ha, see what I did there with the initials in MVP? See that?), as shown in my MVPhi ballot above. If Howard was not even the most valuable member of his own team in 2008, how could he possibly be the most valuable player in the entire league?

Chase Utley could make a strong case for being the most underrated player in all of major league baseball the past two seasons, but that’s not really the point. Some say Ryan Howard was only the 6th (sixth!) best hitter on the Phils, but that’s not the point either. The point here is to show that if the BBWAA were to vote Ryan Howard to first place in the NL MVP voting, they’d really have to give whatever spot comes before first to Chase Utley. Let’s get to it.


Utley:     .292/.380/.535 (AVG/OBP/SLG), 3.63 WPA/LI, in 707 PA

Howard: .251/.339/.543 (AVG/OBP/SLG), 2.93 WPA/LI, in 700 PA

(What is WPA/LI? Click the link, it’s a quick explanation)

So Utley beats Howard in batting average, on-base percentage (by 41 points in each), and loses by a small margin in slugging percentage. The WPA/LI figure just confirms that Utley was, on the whole, more productive than Howard at the plate. The argument that Howard’s huge second half shouldn’t hold much weight, seeing as how he almost single-handedly sank the team in April and May. If he didn’t suck so bad in the beginning, the Phillies would have been in great position in August and September instead of fighting for their lives. The award is meant to recognize the player most important to his team over the entire season, not just the second half, or the last month, or whatever. There are more precise measures available to determine exactly how much better Utley was in ’08 than Howard, but I’ll keep it simple here right now. Offensively, the edge goes to Utley.

Defense and Position

Again, exact measures aren’t really necessary, as I’m trying to keep this as straightforward as possible. But it is pretty much a known fact that second base is more difficult to play than first base. In addition to that, Utley rates as plus-47 plays better than the average second baseman, according to the fielding bible. Now that number is absolutely ridiculous–it’s extremely rare for a player to rate as even +30– and probably has a lot of sample error involved. Just know this: Utley is a damn good fielder. Ryan Howard’s defensive reviews range from below average to absolutely horrific, and he’s projected to be slightly below average going forward. That same site has Utley at +14, which is much more reasonable, and still one of the best in the league.


I think the average Phillie phan would be able to figure this out on his own, so I’ll leave the baserunning stats out of it, considering they’re kind of unreliable anyway.

*  *  *

There are other (less important) things one could add to this, but I don’t feel the need to add any more to the argument–Utley already beats out Howard in all the major criteria. I’m not saying that Mr. Utley was the most valuable player in the national league this past season (that honor deservedly goes to Albert Pujols), but he was definitely the most valuable Phillie.


Written by dcn29

December 2, 2008 at 5:52 AM

2 Responses

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  1. Dan, thank you for this. Would you like to be a charter member of the Chase Utley Recognition Society?

    Pizza Cutter

    December 6, 2008 at 11:53 PM

  2. Haha, I’m not even remotely a Chase Utley fan. My uncle and I were talking about Ryan Howard and the MVP, so I wrote this in an attempt to convince him that he wasn’t deserving.

    I’d be a member, but Eric would be a better president than I could ever be.


    December 7, 2008 at 1:57 AM

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