Monday, May 3, 2010

The Phillies Will Pay Ryan Howard $25 MM Per Year During His Age 34, 35, and 36 Seasons

(Apologies to the three of you who read this shitty blog via RSS feed. This is a repost, because some of the HTML in the old version of the post got messed up when I tried to edit something. Since I know nothing about HTML, I figured the best solution was to burn the whole thing to the ground and start over. ANYWAYS- the Phillies will Howard an awful lot of money when he's 34, 35, and 36, and....)

That's kind of dumb. It's roughly what A-Rod (by which I mean PAY-Rod, GAY-Rod, A-ROID, and FISH FILLET-Rod) is making at that age, but 1) A-Rod is the better player 2) A-Rod plays a more valuable position 3) A-Rod keeps himself in peak physical condition and 4) the Phillies aren't the Yankees. With slight modifications, similar arguments apply to the massive contracts currently held by Mark Teixeira (also a 1B, obviously) and Matt Holliday (not a Yankee, obviously). Except for Alfonso Soriano, who holds the worst contract in baseball right now- yes that's right I went out on a limb and said it- no other hitter in the game holds a contract that will pay them that kind of money at that age (Miguel Cabrera and Joe Mauer will be younger during the tail end of the deals they recently signed). It's simply way too much to invest in an aging 1st baseman. Jon Heyman- your poorly formulated thoughts?

Howard's contributions can be overlooked at times because of the overwhelming presence of Pujols, who's clearly the best player in the National League,

Look, I'm pretty sure Ryan Howard is neither overrated nor underrated but properly rated. If anyone's overlooking his contributions, which I don't think anyone in the national media is, it's not because of Pujols. It's because Howard isn't even the most valuable hitter on his own team.

and also because Howard is only part of a fabulous nucleus in Philly that includes Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Jayson Werth.

Unlike Howard, Jimmy Rollins might be the most overrated player in all of baseball right now. If I hear one more announcer or talking head start blabbing about what a SPARKPLUG Rollins is, or how he's Philly's EMOTIONAL LEADER, I'm going to be sick. He's a leadoff hitter with a career .330 OBP. His power is overrated (career best HR totals: 30, 25, 21, 14, 14, 12), his defense is overrated, everything about him is overrated. Wait- what were we talking about again? Oh yeah. So throw Rollins out of that group. But Utley is by far more valuable than Howard, and if Werth backs up his strong 2009 with a strong 2010, you could make an argument that he's more valuable too. So that's just one reason you might not want to pay Ryan Howard $25 MM during his age 36 season; even now, he's not the most valuable hitter on your team.

Howard does have a few negatives, such as his high strikeout totals (an average of 189 the past four seasons),

Kind of a big deal, especially when you're hitting cleanup.

his weakness against left-handed pitchers (last year his OPS was 1.088 vs. right-handers vs .653 vs. lefties),

Definitely a big deal.

his age (30) and the possibility he'll decline during the contract as he gets older.

Oh, the "possibility?" You think he might not hit as well at age 36 as he did at ages 25, 30, or even 32? A bold prediction, Jon. You truly have the wisdom of King Solomon.

But the belief among skeptics of the deal that this was an obvious overpay isn't reflected one bit among baseball people.

Isn't reflected among stupid baseball people.

In fact, a few inside the game remarked that the package was strong though not unreasonably so and one actually opined that it was light.

That guy probably works for another NL East team, and was being sarcastic.

I agree with the prominent competing agent who said, "The $25 million AAV (average annual value) reflects fair market value.''

Oh wow, can you believe it? An agent (who probably represents Adrian Gonzalez, or Pujols, or Prince Fielder) thinks this was a fair deal! COLOR ME SHOCKED. I can't believe it. If you want to evaluate the reasonableness of a contract that will pay a fat first baseman $25 MM when he's 36, that's who you should go to for objectivity- an agent. Well done, Jon. And look, it really doesn't reflect market value. Take Yankees out of the picture, and the contract is one of a kind. Cabrera isn't locked up at that age via his deal. Mauer is, but he's a catcher for the time being. Todd Helton is just now finishing up a contract that certainly paid him too much at those ages, but that was signed in 2001 when money was a little looser. The Rockies (and any team not called the Yankees) won't soon be offering that kind of deal again. The best bet for a current comp to Howard's deal is Holliday's, but it's for less money and at least he plays in the OF (and plays it pretty well). There really isn't a market for fat non-Yankee 34, 35 and 36 year old first basemen. This deal just set it.

As boring as it sounds, it was a good deal for both sides.

Well, it's definitely a good deal for Howard.

There are those suggesting Howard won't be the player at the end of the deal, when he'll be 36, that he is now, and that isn't an unreasonable prediction.

Actually, those people are exactly right unless Howard takes steroids and turns into Barry Bonds. Also- nice sentence, asshole.

But A-Rod, for example, will be 42 when his contract will be up,

I already addressed this. Better player. Different position. More likely to age well. Most importantly, money coming from Yankee coffers.

and besides, that guess can be made about many long-term deals. One GM said five years isn't outrageous at all and actually praised Howard for not being greedy and insisting on seven or eight.

Look, Howard could have done that. And the smart thing for the Phillies to do (and what they should have done here) would be to tell Howard to pound sand. Some other idiot team can overpay him when he hits the FA market after next season. That's the dumbest part about this whole thing, really- the Phillies overpaid Howard a full 18 months before he would have hit free agency. Do they understand what leverage is? You overpay someone when you absolutely need them signed right then. You do not overpay someone when you're already in control of their services for their next 1200 at bats.

That Howard received $2 million more than Teixeira also seems about right under the circumstances.

It doesn't.

Teixeira has a more diverse set of skills,

He's a switch hitter. He hits for both average and power. He plays great defense. All reasons he's more valuable.

is slightly younger and signed in New York as a free agent, but he couldn't make a case that he has the same offensive impact as Howard, a classic slugger.

Yes, Howard piles up the HRs and RBIs better than Teixeira does. That certainly makes him a better fantasy player, but I don't think it speaks to his actual value very well considering his home park. Yankee Stadium may have a short RF porch, but Citizens Bank Park is a fucking joke from foul pole to foul pole. I hope that place burns to the ground tonight. Omar Vizquel could hit 15 HRs this season if he were to start for the Phillies. But there's no way that could happen, because the Phillies already have the best SPARKPLUG OF AN EMOTIONAL LEADER in the game at shortstop.

But here are a few more reasons Howard is worth this investment:

1) He's showed his value by finishing first, fifth, second and third in MVP voting the last four years.

Haha, this is great. Let's see- dipshit MVP voters like Jon Heyman have given Howard a lot of MVP votes. Therefore, dipshit writers like Jon Heyman can cite those votes as a reason to pay Howard $25 MM a season when he's 34, 35, and 36. What a nifty, convenient system.

There is a group of numbers people who think these finishes don't count, but there is no reason to think Howard was vastly overvalued in the voting.

No one thinks Howard is a bad player. No one thinks he isn't one of the best power hitters in MLB. And pretty much no one except Cardinals fans wouldn't want to have Howard on their team. But not at that price, at that age.

2) He also has averaged 49.5 home runs and 143 RBIs over the past four years, far more than anyone else.

OK, again, time for some perspective. He's a great hitter and produces a lot of runs. He's just not worth that amount of money at that age. Also- Phillies lineup + Citizens Bank Park + batting behind Utley = tons of RBIs. But I'm not significantly more impressed with his 143 average than with, say, Lance Berkman's average of 106 over the same span.

Everyone agrees that home runs are an important stat, but to those who believe RBIs are only a reflection of one's teammates, and thus pure luck, here are the top five RBI leaders since 1900: Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. Five very lucky fellows.

Whoa! Watch out for that straw man! Better tear it down and burn it- make sure it can't hurt anyone. Give me a fucking break. No one with a brain says RBIs are "pure luck." We don't need to get into this. It's like when Joe Morgan waxes poetic about how no one respects stolen bases anymore. Plenty of people respect them- they're just not foolishly overvalued like they used to be.

3) It isn't unreasonable to suggest Howard might decline during his extension.

This is a separate thought, and doesn't belong on a list of reasons Howard is worth what the Phillies will end up paying him.

As a matter of logic, he probably will.

As long as he's not Barry Bonds, he definitely will.

But the evidence isn't strong that he's declining yet, (his 2009 slugging percentage of .571 wasn't significantly different from his .582 career mark), and even if he does suffer a slight drop off, it's from a tremendous height (his 198 home runs over the past four years are 29 more than everyone else).

Right. He's not declining yet. Because he's only 30. This contract doesn't even start until 2012. And it will comically overpay him in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Odds that he's still slugging anything in the neighborhood of .580 then: poor. You know, everyone is saying that the world is going to run out of crude oil at some point, but I went to the gas station yesterday and filled up my car. Therefore: we probably will never run out of crude oil.

Plus, he's shown he's serious about his game and his body. He has lost an estimated 30 pounds and remarkably turned himself into at least an average defensive first baseman from something a lot less than that. So in that way, he's actually on the rise.

On the rise and about to crash into his very low (for a pro athlete) athleticism ceiling.

4) He's a winner and a major part of one of the strongest lineups in baseball. Why mess with a good thing?

Awesome point. You're a fucking idiot.

5) The market could explode.

It won't. If Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder hit the FA market after 2011 and sign contracts that pay them this kind of money when they're 34, 35, and 36, I'll eat my oversized foam cowboy hat.

The economy is improving, baseball is doing great and the appetite for superstars on the free-agent market is always strong, even in down times like the past couple years. "You can't really pinpoint what these guys could be getting on the open market,'' Boggs said, honestly.

Boggs is John Boggs, Gonzalez's agent. HMMMMMM. You think he likes the deal Howard got? In conclusion, don't ever let Jon Heyman run your baseball team.

19 comments:

Dylan Murphy said...

I like that he "remarkably turned himself into at least an average defensive first baseman" is considered a compliment.

John Foley said...

I do think this will probably turn into an albatross for Philly by deal's end, but Howard has at least shown signs of trying to keep himself in shape. This isn't Cecil Fielder. Howard has slimmed down and worked on being more flexible, and while he's not going to make you think of Keith Hernandez at first (or even Derek Lee), at least he's no longer a guy whose best position is DH.
Unfortunately his Ks and troubles with lefthanded pitching are unlikely to improve. And he is a huge dude; guys his size fall off the map in the blink of an eye. David Ortiz is proving this right now.

John Foley said...

Also, WOW 5 of the greatest hitters in baseball history also had a lot of RBI's! 5 guys who did everything right on the baseball diamond also drove in runs? Way to not make any point whatsoever.

Larry B said...

In regards to the earlier comment (from... CS maybe? I forgot who) about strikeouts not being a big deal because "they're just like any other out," I think that position is vastly overstated by some Sabermetric types. Yes, I understand that a strikeout is just like any other out in that it costs your team one of the 27 outs you get during the course of the game. And I'll even concede the point that in a sense striking out is good because it prevents you from hitting into a double play. I'm not saying guys like Mark Reynolds and Adam Dunn and Howard suck because they K a lot. But I don't want to downplay the value of putting the ball into play. Do so in many circumstances and you can create value even if you make an out- you can drive in runners with sac flies and groundouts (especially as a pull hitting lefty). You can "move runners," which is practically a vulgar term among Saberheads but does indeed create value for the team. And you can benefit from errors. Especially when you're the cleanup hitter for one of the best offenses in the game, I think you shouldn't strike out too much. By doing so you're missing out on a chance to help your team by putting the ball in play.

Tonus said...

I didn't say that they were just like any out, but the consensus amongst the sabermetric crowd is that by and large, they're not much worse. I think strikeouts are bad when they're paired with a low OBP, because a patient hitter (like Dunn) will strike out a lot since he is going to see a lot of pitches, but also takes a lot of walks.

I think that the "benefit" of avoiding a DP is balanced out by the benefit of putting a ball in play (runners can score on ground outs or fly outs, fielders can make errors, etc). I'm still impressed by a guy who can avoid strikeouts, especially a Pujols, who does that while still maintaining a good walk rate and power.

Elliot said...

I agree with you, Larry, though I had to think about it for a few minutes. My main reasoning is OPS.

Home run hitters strike out a lot. That's just a fact of life. So, when you look at OPS, it can tell you whether or not they're making up for the strikeouts with walks or other ways of getting on base (naturally OPS doesn't tell you about the productive outs that Larry was talking about, but I think walks are better to compare with strikeouts than sac flies or RBI ground-outs.)

So far this season, Paul Konerko is the OPS leader (partly due to his lead on HRs too) with a beastly 1.206 mark. So far, Konerko has struck out a total of 9 times and walked 17 times. Look through the stats and you can see that the OPS leaders strike out less and walk more. Conversely, only two people in the top 50 strikeout leaders have an OPS over 1.0.

I know that April and a few days of May are a pretty small sample size, so I went back to the 2009 season as well. The BB:K ratio wasn't as drastic in the entire season, but for those who led the league in OPS, the average was roughly 7 walks per 10 strikeouts. On the other hand, only one player who had more than 100 strikeouts on the "leader" board had more than 100 walks, and that was Prince Fielder.

If you look at the numbers, it's easy to see that it's OK if you strike out 25% of the time, as long as you're drawing enough walks.

You can't score if you can't get on base, and no single out is less productive than a strikeout.

Also, this blog is more mediocre than shitty. (I kid!)

pnoles said...

I'm very glad to see that this got up here, Larry, good show.

One point of debate: Ryan Howard is not properly rated. He's absolutely overrated (I'd argue most overrated player in baseball if the aforementioned Rollins didn't exist). He's not overrated by you or me, or anyone else who understands things, but when you finish "first, fifth, second and third in MVP voting the last four years.", and you're probably like the 30th (or lower) most valuable player in baseball, you are absolutely an overrated baseball player. Heyman might be the only writer I've seen to praise this deal, but he's certainly not the only one who got Howard the hardware (or close to it) these past few years. Check out the VORP difference between Pujols and Howard when Howard finished second. Hilarious.

Larry B said...

We're kind of on the same page... but I'm sure Howard is a top 20 player, maybe even a top 15.

John Foley said...

I wonder if Heyman gave Bartolo Colon a Cy Young vote in '05. That's got to be the worst major baseball award since Pudge Rodriguez' MVP in '99.

Chris W said...

Jimmy Rollins 2007 MVP is the worst of the decade, John. Any time you give the MVP to a leadoff hitter with a .344 OBP you're a fucking drooler.

Chris W said...

Also: from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/sports/baseball/02score.html

According to FanGraphs.com, the Phillies have won 19.2 more games with Howard since 2006 than they would have with a minimum-salary journeyman at his position. That makes him the 17th-most-valuable nonpitcher during that stretch, just below his positional peers Miguel Cabrera, Lance Berkman and Teixeira, and just above his teammate Jimmy Rollins.

So, basically, to say: "[Ryan Howard is] probably like the 30th (or lower) most valuable player in baseball" seems to me to exemplify precisely why (in my mind) Ryan Howard is properly rated. Yes, he's overrated largely by writers and people who think RBI is the bottom line of production. But much like Jeter, reactionary guys who are annoyed by bad sportswriters tend to use excessively hyperbolic statements based on whatever numbers they cherry pick to support their predetermined conclusion.

Howard is probably a top 20 player. Maybe he's only top 25. But to say he's "probably 30 or lower" is just a little bit silly considering the guy's put up a 144 OPS+ the last four years with more or less adequate baserunning and defense

pnoles said...

Very convenient, including 2006, which he hasn't come all that close to matching in any other year of his career. Let's live in the present a little bit, shall we?

2006: 7.1 WARP
2007: 5.1 WARP
2008: 3.7 WARP
2009: 4.8 WARP

The last 3 (more relevant) totals are good, not great. 2006-guy is gone, and he's not coming back....especially not on this side of 30. If you think he's going to hit .313 again, by all means, use it.

And there are a lot of very valuable pitchers (more than you understand if you think that there's only 3-8 more pitchers more valuable than Ryan Howard).

If you're conceding he might be 25th or so, and I'm saying he's 30th or so, why are you even bickering? Is that this massive a difference? Am I really that "silly" to suggest that he's only the 30th best player?

Let's continue. Rankings by WARP3 the last 4 seasons (I'll give you 2006, since you seem to care about it so much)

2006: 10th
2007: 55th
2008: 116th
2009: 69th

Top. 25. My. Ass.

Chris W said...

Ugh. This is why I was loath to even post that. Because Pnoles made his decision what kind of player Howard is and therefore only stats that support that conclusion are relevant.

For the record I hate Howard. Think the way he plays is completely unenjoyable and that he's totally overrated by writers which is obnoxious.

But that doesn't mean only the stats I want to use are relevant. Let's try to live in the middleground not in the "Howard is at BEST a top 30 player" ground

pnoles said...

"Ugh. This is why I was loath to even post that. Because Pnoles made his decision what kind of player Howard is and therefore only stats that support that conclusion are relevant."

Yep. You did something totally different, by the way. Good job.

I must have missed all that statistical evidence you so nobly provided against your own position. You cherry-picked stats (specifically, years, by including 2006, which is the only one that remotely supports your point) for the sake of disagreeing with me, and glossed over the fact that there are definitely a lot of pitchers that reduce his ranking among players overall.

Chris W said...

Yeah, but you're the one telling Larry he's wrong. I'm not saying you're wrong, just that in trying to be argumentative about Howard, you're making statements that shift the goalposts around so they fit whatever you do.

The point is that you are part of an increasingly obnoxious segment of statheads who use stats not to better inform the unanswerable questions of baseball but rather to use as artillery in trying to make other people stupid.

You jumped in to try to make a smarmy point about Howard, one largely unsubstantiated by evidence complete with a hyperbolic "He's top 30 AT BEST" statement. Then when evidence suggesting that might be a bit much comes in (i.e. mine) you move the goalposts and explain why 2006 didn't count.

Just fucking typical, dude.

Larry B said...

CRIPPLE FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT

Adam said...

Are you guys married?

Those guys Heyman mentioned also racked up a rediculous number of plate appearances.

Hank Aaron 13,940 (3rd) 23 seasons
Babe Ruth 10,617 (42nd) 22 seasons
Lou Gehrig 9,660 (97th) 17 seasons
Stan Musial 12,712 (8th) 22 seasons

Chances that Ryan Howard even makes it to 8,000 PA: very slim.

pnoles said...

"The point is that you are part of an increasingly obnoxious segment of statheads who use stats not to better inform the unanswerable questions of baseball but rather to use as artillery in trying to make other people stupid."

"But to say he's "probably 30 or lower" is just a little bit silly considering the guy's put up a 144 OPS+ the last four years with more or less adequate baserunning and defense"

Sorry to interrupt you there while you're using those stats to "better inform the unanswerable questions of baseball" (and boy, do those questions need informing!). I was under the false ::cough:: impression that you were only using those stats to "make me stupid". It's a good thing you took the high road, and weren't doing the exact same thing that I was.

Pete said...

In re: Citizens Bank Park

CBP is not a "joke from foul pole to foul pole." Its park factor for runs last year was .999 (almost exactly neutral), placing it 13th out of 30 teams. Its park factor for HRs was 1.167, good for 11th out of 30.

The "CBP is a bandbox" meme is one that needs to die. The Phillies' lineup is built to hit a lot of HRs wherever the team plays - and most players on the team show pretty even home/road HR splits by the end of the year. Ryan Howard would hit 40+ homers in all but the most extreme pitchers' parks, and even there he'd be well over 30.