Heartbreak City: The 25 Greatest Letdowns In Philadelphia Sports History

November 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia fans are many things to many people. Clearly, it takes one to know one.  To themselves, they are the most passionate and loyal fans in the world.  To outsiders, they are just despicable.  To the national media, they still threw snowballs at Santa Clause 40 years ago.  One thing though that all can agree on is their passion and love of their sports teams.

Athletes who played in this city immediately acknowledge the dual nature of the Philadelphia fan.  You know the old adage, that stereotype that we’re recognized by:  “When you’re winning, there’s no better place to play.  When you’re losing, they’re going to let you hear it.”  This much is very true, we obviously want and deserve a winner, but always admire and appreciate effort and hustle.  Take it from someone who knows this as well as anyone.

In Philadelphia, you will be remembered forever if you work your ass off and leave it all on the field.  Yet, if you don’t show the effort, they will turn on you in a flash.

Whether it’s the top star or the newest rookie, they’ve all felt the wrath.  The simultaneous “BOOOOO” that descends from the top seats and works its way down.  At some point or another, most Philadelphia athletes have deservedly heard this.  Sorry to say, for some, this is the last thing they hear during their time in Philadelphia.  That patented “BOOOO” has broken athletes in this city and will continue to do so.  We don’t mean it though, I promise.  

Throughout the history of sports in the City of Brotherly Love, fans have suffered through their share of heartbreaks.  In fact, to those who know, myself included, the number is far too many.  

Here are the 25 most demoralizing heartbreaks in Philadelphia sports history.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Deja Vu? Why Ben Francisco Is Poised to Become the Next Jayson Werth

November 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

Over the past couple of seasons, Jayson Werth has become immensely popular, both in the city of Philadelphia and around Major League Baseball, for his crazy hair and beard combo, power from the right side of the plate and his strong arm from right field, among other things, making him one of the prime free agent targets this offseason.

Rumors of seven-year contracts and the asking price of $100 million have forced people to forget that in the not so distant past, Werth was but a simple platoon player in the Phillies’ outfield, begging for a chance to become an everyday player.

Now that he is one and is likely to leave the Phillies via free agency, there has been much ado about his replacement in right field.

Despite general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. voicing the team’s need to find a right-handed platoon partner for up-and-coming right fielder Domonic Brown, there aren’t too many attractive options available through the free agent market. Even more so, the Phillies already have an in-house, right-handed hitting outfielder who bears a lot of similar traits to those of Werth.

With a lack of significant upgrades and his cost effectiveness in mind, is Ben Francisco poised for a breakout year in 2011?

Let’s set the stage a bit.

After a disappointing first round exit at the hands of the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 playoffs, the Phillies were facing a few contract options before the 2008 season began, the most notable of which was a bidding war over free agent outfielder Aaron Rowand.

While en route to becoming a National League powerhouse, the Phillies were still a moderately conservative team entering the offseason prior to 2008 and unwilling to commit five years to Rowand despite their interest in retaining the outfielder. It was reported that the Phillies offered Rowand a three-year deal, but he was not interested.

In the long run, the San Francisco Giants offered Rowand a five-year, $60 million contract, which he accepted.

Despite Rowand being a Type A free agent offered arbitration, the Giants’ first round pick in the upcoming First Year Player Draft was protected, and thus, they did not have to surrender the pick to the Phillies as compensation for signing Rowand.

The Phillies instead received a supplemental first round pick, slotted behind the first round. Giants fans should be grateful, as they would go ahead to pick catcher Buster Posey with the fifth overall pick, while the Phillies drafted a bust in the outfield in Zach Collier.

Without Rowand, the Phillies went a different route in shoring up their right field situation, ironically similar to what is happening with Jayson Werth in 2010. Werth was already under contract as a reclamation project in 2008, and the Phillies liked what he brought to the table from the right side of the plate.

In 2007, Werth had absolutely mashed left-handed pitching, hitting .375 with five home runs, all the while compiling an on-base percentage of .467 and slugging a cool .591. The Phillies saw Werth as the ideal player to platoon, as his numbers against right-handed pitching were significantly weaker.

The Phillies set their sights on a longtime Milwaukee Brewer who had been known for his success against right-handed pitching and turned a couple of heads by signing right fielder Geoff Jenkins, who they’d already designated as Werth’s platoon partner, to a two-year, $13 million contract, with an option for a third year that could push the total value of the deal to $20 million.

The Phillies were paying Jenkins to play like a full-time outfielder while reducing him to a platoon role.

Nonetheless, Jenkins played some uninspiring baseball for the Phillies in 2008. Signed to specifically contribute against right-handed pitching, Jenkins only managed to hit .256 with nine home runs for the Phillies from the left side of the plate.

It became quickly apparent that Jenkins’ numbers against-right handed pitching were not all that better than Werth’s, and by the All-Star break, Jenkins had been reduced to a bench player. The Phillies handed the job to their new, full-time right fielder, Jayson Werth, who, after helping the Phillies to a World Series title in 2008, went on to establish himself as one of the best right-handed hitting outfielders in baseball in 2009 and 2010.

All of that is ancient history now.

However, if history has taught us one thing, it’s that it often repeats itself. Just as they did entering the 2008 season, the Phillies have one half of a platoon seemingly committed to right field in 2011, that being lefty Domonic Brown. Heralded as one of the game’s top prospects in 2010, Brown is looking to finally break free from the shackles of “prospectdom” and into the spotlight as a starter in the major league.

This isn’t a simple transition, and thus, Ruben Amaro Jr. has stated the team’s interest in finding a right-handed hitter to platoon with Brown in right field. Instead of scouring a weak free agent market for a right-handed-hitting outfielder, the Phillies may be best suited in slotting one of their own into that position—that being Ben Francisco.

Francisco, 29, was acquired by the Phillies alongside Cliff Lee at the 2009 trade deadline, where he has since served as the team’s top right-handed pinch hitter.

Interestingly enough, Francisco is not unfamiliar with a starting role, as he started 98 games in the outfield in 2008 with the Cleveland Indians, proving that he can cut it as a major league outfielder by posting a slash line (average / on-base percentage / slugging percentage) of .266/.327/.441. Crowded outfields in Philadelphia may have reduced his role, but Francisco is poised for a breakout season, if given the chance.

Against left-handed pitching in 2010, Francisco had a respectable slash line of .284/.344/.557. That’s good enough for an OPS (On-base + Slugging Percentage) of .901 against left-handed pitching. Jayson Werth’s OPS against left-handed pitching? .881.

The Phillies have trusted Francisco in big roles before as well. For instance, he served as the designated hitter in New York against the Yankees in the 2009 World Series and spelled Raul Ibanez in left field during the 2010 National League Championship Series.

However, what may appeal most to the Phillies is the money they’d be saving by platooning Ben Francisco and Domonic Brown in right field.

Jayson Werth made about $10 million patrolling right field in Citizens Bank Park in 2010. The Phillies could save about $8.5 million by paying Domonic Brown, who will make the league minimum, and Ben Francisco, who could earn close to $1 million in 2011. That would allow the Phillies to spend money addressing other issues, most notably on the bullpen.

The Phillies may not be creating a super outfielder by platooning Francisco and Brown in 2011, but they are doing a couple of very important things.

Firstly, they are getting Brown used to playing daily at the major league level. They’ll also be giving Francisco a chance to prove himself as an everyday player in Philadelphia after paying his due diligence on the Phillies’ bench. If he proves to do anything similar to what Werth did in 2008, the Phillies will have found their starting left fielder for 2012, when Ibanez’s time will almost certainly have come to an end in Philadelphia.

Not many teams were willing to give Jayson Werth a real chance to be an everyday player, and look at him now. While the Phillies could spend on righties like Jeff Francoeur or Jermaine Dye, they may have a diamond waiting in the rough in Ben Francisco.

Read more Philadelphia Phillies news on BleacherReport.com

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

MLB Rumors: 5 Reasons Why We Were Wrong About Jayson Werth

November 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

Tired of hearing about Jayson Werth?  Well, I’m not tired of writing about him just yet!  In a stunning report out of Philadelphia’s 97.5 The Fanatic, Jayson Werth may be on his way back to Philadelphia for another run.  Multiple reports supported this notion, in fact.  

Not so fast yet my dear Philly phaithful.  This isn’t certain, but remains likely.  The Phillies “reportedly” offered Werth a three-year, $55 million deal.  This is a significant increase from their original offer and apparently works for Werth and super-agent Scott Boras, who may not have seen the right things thus far in free agency. 

Werth crawling back to the Phillies tells me quite a few things:

1.) Maybe he’s not as money-hungry as we thought (the guy will still be making about $18 million a year, give me a break.)  

2.) Ruben Amaro Jr. is one crafty bastard (I told you guys all along that RAJ is a genius).

Here are a few reasons why we were wrong about Jayson Werth and we’re…sorry.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

MLB Rumors Jayson Werth: Are Rumors Werth Listening To?

November 28, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

In the digital age, rumors fly much quicker than they used to.  It literally takes only seconds to post a rumor online and create a huge buzz over basically nothing. 

The same applies to Phillies free-agent right fielder Jayson Werth. Early this morning, a talk-show radio host mentioned that the Phillies had offered Werth a contract and that it was good enough for him to possibly sign. 

Should you give credence to this rumor? The simple answer is “No.”

Black Friday came and went and no “sale” on outfielders was ever advertised. Tomorrow is Cyber Monday. For those awaiting a holiday miracle and second-chance sale on Werth, put it out of your mind.  


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Derek Jeter, Buster Posey And The 2010 MLB Team-by-Team Hall Of Fame Tracker

November 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

Derek Jeter has been the subject of much debate in the off-season so far, ranging from his value as a fielder in the Gold Glove voting to his overall value as a player and icon to the New York Yankees.

Here’s a debate that won’t rage long with respect to Jeter: there can be no doubt that Derek Jeter is a no-brainer, first ballot Hall of Famer.

Now that the 2010 season, playoffs, post-season, and award season are all in the books, we have everything we need to take an extended team-by-team look at today’s players and their Hall of Fame potential.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: 10 Big Answers to 10 Big Questions for the 2011 Season

November 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

What’s that bad taste in my mouth?

No, it’s not left-over Thanksgiving turkey. It is the taste of left-over October Turkey, as in, the bad taste that has been left in my mouth since watching Ryan Howard end the Phillies season with his bat in his hand as he watched a full-count strike three go by him.

Isn’t it crazy how quickly we forget that the Phillies finished the 2010 regular season red-hot and with the best record in baseball?

Looking ahead to the 2011 Phillies season, the Phils have a lot of unanswered questions, the most important of which is: can we do it all again next season?

Let’s have a look.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies Bullpen Targets For 2011: Rebuilding the Bridge to Lidge

November 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

In a season plagued by underachievement, inconsistency, and injuries, one controllable aspect of the Philadelphia Phillies‘ 2010 is the bullpen.

From the dominant bullpen that lead the Phillies to a World Series title in 2008, earning the nickname the “Bridge to Lidge,” the Phillies’ relief corps of 2010 took a big step back, finishing 18th in ERA despite pitching the fewest innings in the National League—with only the Seattle Mariners logging more out west in the American League.

It was no surprise to hear that the bullpen was GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s top priority entering the off-season.

Even though he has already resigned Jose Contreras, the Phillies still have major question marks thus far. Along with left handed specialist JC Romero, Chad Durbin, middle inning work-horse, is a free agent.

The 2010 performances of rookies David Herndon and Antonio Bastardo surely didn’t leave opposing hitters shaking in their cleats. Many questions and few possible answers.

With these variables in mind, many Philadelphia fans are asking the question: “How can we turn this sorry excuse for ‘relief’ into the once feared ‘Bridge to Lidge?'”

Well, it starts with the man himself. The Phillies only have three certainties in 2011: Contreras, set-up man Ryan Madson, and closer Brad Lidge. They were the few bright spots of a weak 2010 campaign.

Contreras was a work-horse out of the Phillies ‘pen in 2010, logging innings and pitching to the tune of a 3.34 ERA. Most importantly, he was able to remain healthy for the entire season, earning himself a two year deal in free agency.

Despite missing time with a self inflicted broken toe, Madson continued his streak of dominance in the eighth inning. The only remnant of the 2008 “Bridge to Lidge,” Madson was stellar in 2010, throwing 53 innings of 2.55 ERA ball.

Of course, there is no bridge without a destination. Lidge finally returned to form in 2010, gathering 27 saves and compiling a 2.96 ERA. Lidge’s best work was done over the final months of the season. However, he threw 24.2 innings to a tune of an 0.76 ERA.

So assuming that these three guys can carry their success into 2011, how can the Phillies complement them this off-season?

The answer is through the free agent market. With Romero not expected to return, the Phillies’ first task in rebuilding the ‘pen will be to add a couple of left handed specialists. Left handers Hisanori Takahashi and Pedro Feliciano, both former Mets, seem to make the most sense.

Takahashi seems to be the best option for the Phillies. He was known best with the Mets for his flexibility in roles. He spent time in 2010 as a starting pitcher, a middle reliever, Francisco Rodriguez’s set-up man, and as the team’s closer, when “K-Rod” became ineligible for the last portion of the season.

The Phillies are expected to make Takahashi an offer, as the team could benefit from help in the areas of starting pitching depth and left handed relief. Takahashi was especially tough against left handed hitters in 2010, striking out more than ten left handed batters per nine innings and allowing only two earned runs from the left side of the plate—neither of which were via the homerun.

The Phillies may be able to lure him to Philadelphia by offering him the same type of deal the team offered to Chan Ho Park—an offer to compete for the fifth starter’s spot and a guaranteed spot in the bullpen. While he may be the most expensive option, he may also be the most important sign.

Feliciano has been a thorn in the side of left handed Phillies since 2003, his first full time gig with the Mets. Often called on to face tough outs like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, Feliciano had become a staple in late innings of Phillies and Mets games. Signing him for that reason may be a plus in and of itself.

He would more than likely be a major upgrade to the oft-injured, oft-inconsistent, JC Romero. Feliciano lead the league in appearances for a reliever last season, logging 62 IP.

While teams may try and drive his price down, by arguing that he has a lot of strain on his arm, his agent will surely try and drive his price up, by proving that he’s been the model of consistency.

Feliciano remained true to his bread and butter in 2010, as he was nearly untouchable from the left side of the plate. Left handed hitters hit only .218 against him, while he struck out over nine lefties per nine innings. His numbers against right handed hitters are awful, but any team with common sense will use him strategically in the latter innings against left handed hitters.

The Phillies have also expressed interest in bringing back Chad Durbin, though they may have been discouraged by rumors that he will seek a multi-year contract as a starting pitcher, despite not having done so since 2007. With that in mind, the Phillies may check in on other options. A couple names stand out to me: Matt Guerrier, Koji Uehara, Dan Wheeler, and Chan Ho Park.

A member of the Twins bullpen in 2010, Guerrier is an interesting case. Despite being a “type A” free agent, he wasn’t offered arbitration, and it won’t cost a draft pick to sign him. He posted an ERA of 3.17, but his FIP of 4.23 suggests that he was extremely lucky.

Any team that values saber-metrics realized this, and it’s most likely the reason he wasn’t offered arbitration by the Twins. He’s not as valuable as his basic numbers appear. If the Phillies can get him at a good price, he’d be a good sign to work in the middle innings, alongside right hander Jose Contreras. 

That puts Uehara in a similar ship.

The Japanese import (a lifetime starter in Japan) was stellar as the Orioles closer in 2010. He only picked up 13 saves for the O’s, but, had they been a winning team, that number would have probably been tripled. He showed impeccable control in 2010, striking out 11 hitters per nine, while only walking one per nine. His ERA of 2.86 was very, very good, and even then, his FIP suggests that he was unlucky, at 2.40.

If I had to have one right handed bullpen arm, this is the guy that I would want.

The Phillies may not be his top choice, mainly because they are already committed to Madson and Lidge at the back of the bullpen, but money talks. If the Phillies can lure him to the City of Brotherly Love, he’d provide much of the same things that Hisanori Takahashi would.

Wheeler and Park round out potential right handed bullpen arms for the Phillies.

Wheeler pitched for the Rays in 2010, and he can be compared to Guerrier. Despite having a good ERA of 3.35, his FIP of 4.11 suggests that he caught some breaks in 2010. His HR/9 is a cause for concern, especially with the way the ball jumps off the bats some nights at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. As long as he’s kept in the middle of the pen, he’d be a good addition.

The same could be said for Park, who would be an interesting minor league signing. The Phillies expressed interest in bringing the 17 year veteran back after the 2009 season, but he chose to sign with the World Series counterpart Yankees. He was designated for assignment after a disappointing start, and later claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates on waivers, where he was equally unimpressive. A chance to rebuild value in a place where he was comfortable might sound appealing to him.

Despite being called a weak free agent market, the market for relievers is surprisingly deep. However, some in house options may be as appealing because of the money they’d save turning to them. Minor leaguers Scott Mathieson and Justin De Fratus will get a lot of looks in spring training.

Mathieson, 27, is one of those “feel good” baseball stories. After two successful Tommy John surgeries, the right handed fireballer came out, well, throwing fire in 2010. In 64 innings with the Phillies Triple-A affiliate Iron Pigs, Mathieson pitched to an ERA of 2.94, earning his cup of coffee with the big league club as a September call up—all the while, averaging 95 MPH on his fastball.

De Fratus, 23, turned some heads in the Phillies organization after splitting time with A+ Clearwater and AA Reading. Throwing a combined 65 innings, De Fratus pitched to an ERA of 1.99, his success culminating with the Phillies—adding him to the 40-man roster to protect him in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. A surprise in 2010, De Fratus will get a lot of looks this spring, and may break camp with the major league Phillies.

Of course, a plethora of familiar names will get their looks as well.

In the second year of his deal, Danys Baez may be best described as addition by subtraction. He was largely disappointing in 2010, and hopefully, isn’t guaranteed a spot because of the money he is set to make.

On the other end of the spectrum, guys like Antonio Bastardo and David Herndon are making close to nothing. Bastardo has a ton of upside, and it’s clear the organization likes him. However, his change-up is underwhelming, and his fastball/slider combination lacks control.

The long reliever in 2010, Herndon remained on the Phillies roster only because they wanted to keep him in the organization. (They would have had to offer him back to the Angels if they wanted to send him to the minors, since he was a Rule 5 Draft pick.) With guys like Kyle Kendrick, Vance Worley, and Drew Carpenter expected to compete for the fifth starter’s spot in spring training, Herndon may be out of a job once one of those guys loses.

If this article proves anything, it’s that the Phillies have numerous options to replenish the bullpen. Be it adding talented specialists like Feliciano and Uehara, or removing contract albatrosses like Baez, the Phillies can obviously afford to rebuild the bullpen. How they do so may effect the outlook on October 2011. If teams like the ’08 Phillies and ’10 Giants showed us anything, it’s that a talented bullpen goes a long way in competing in October.

With a couple of smart moves by Ruben Amaro Jr. and Co., the Phillies can move from troubled waters, and the Bridge to Lidge can deliver the fans of the Philadelphia Phillies to the promised land once again.  

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

What Phillies Fans Can Be Thankful For

November 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

Welcome to my annual Thanksgiving list!  As you are spending time with family and filling your bellies, take a few moments to think about all we can be thankful for.  I am very thankful for:

– Family, friends, food and fun!

– I am not a Washington Nationals fan

– A Phillies team that is filled not only with quality players, but quality people as well

– Four straight years of October baseball

……READ THE REST AT: Phightin’ Phils Phorum

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Jayson Werth’s Free Agency: Is Hitting 5th for Philadelphia Phillies Difficult?

November 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

Jayson Werth’s free agency and impending contract is one of the hot topics in Philadelphia these days. Recently, Werth’s agent Scott Boras (maybe you’ve heard of him) was on talk radio and had the following to say about his client and his time in Philadelphia:

“I think, hitting in the fifth spot in Philadelphia is very difficult. To have the people behind you, certainly [Ryan] Howard and [Chase] Utley enjoyed having Jayson behind them. It’s hard to score a lot of runs. When you’re scoring 100 runs from the fifth spot, you’ve done something pretty unique.

“For a guy with great speed and stolen base efficiency—over the last five or six years, it’s one of the best in baseball—you’re talking about a situation for him where he’s performed very, very well offensively and frankly had very good production numbers even though he’s hitting in the fifth hole.”

So, granted, Boras is just trying to create value for his client. And yes, it’s clearly harder to score 100 runs from the five-hole than it is from the one-to-four holes, but in what universe is doing that in Philly harder than anywhere else in the National League?

Obviously, a lot of guys had off years, but isn’t “American League-like” an adjective often used to describe the Phillies lineup?

What other NL team has a Carlos Ruiz type in the eight-hole? Are we missing something?

At the end of the day, is this a truth about Philly? Or is this just Boras being Boras?

On the one hand, it would be easy to say his point is that although hitting in Philly’s fifth spot is better than most NL fifth spots, it is still not the third spot (where Boras thinks he would normally be hitting). So he’s arguing that because Utley and Howard were in front of him, he was really unable to truly showcase his three-hole talent (speed). Yet he still scored 100 runs, which is impressive.

Basically, he’s arguing that Utley and Howard have inflated runs numbers (particularly Utley) while Werth scores less runs than he should due to his slot in the order. So imagine what he’d score hitting third! He’s trying to counter the impression that Werth has inflated numbers due to the Phillies’ “AL lineup,” etc.

It does work a bit with the runs argument, but the alternate argument is that he should be knocking in 100 RBI in his sleep with those guys ahead of him.

But let’s go deeper.

In one sense, he actually does have a very good point (as much as I hate to admit that).

The natural trend in baseball is that hitters perform better with more men on base, and they perform better the further along the basepaths they are.

Thus, a hitter’s batting average should be higher with a man on first than with the bases empty, and higher still with a man on second, etc.

Now Philadelphia has two guys in Chase Utley and Ryan Howard who have a tendency to clear the bases.  Hitting fifth behind Ryan Howard—who regularly leads the league in RBI and hits tons of home runs, but also strikes out a ton—is going create a lot of bases-empty plate appearances. In the alternative, it will create a lot of two-out plate appearances for Jayson Werth.

Consider this: Jayson Werth batted in the first inning 67 times in 2010 (which strikes me as high for a five spot hitter), which in all likelihood were at-bats where there was at least one out and probably two outs.  Mix in the fact that there are likely men on base AND outs if the five spot hitter is batting in the first, and we all know how well Werth does in those situations.

In those 67 at-bats, Werth hit .094 with a .413 OPS and one home run with 10 RBI.

That’s just one example.

The irony, of course, is that this doesn’t necessarily hold up, because…anyone?

Given what we know about Jayson Werth’s hitting with runners in scoring position (appalling) compared to his hitting with the bases empty (wonderful), he goes against the trend in baseball, and really Werth wants to hit without guys getting on base ahead of him. He wants Utley and Howard to clear the bases. He wants Howard to strikeout or hit home runs.

So, really, when Scott Boras says that hitting fifth is difficult in Philadelphia, what he is really saying is “Jayson Werth has a hard time hitting in Philadelphia because the guys ahead of him get on base so damned much. If the hitters hitting ahead of him were less talented, and he had more bases empty plate appearances, his performance would go through the roof.”

Or something.

At the end of the day, Scott Boras is only interested in overstating Jayson Werth’s value to get some team to pay way too much money for him.

The fact that he makes a relevant point on the way to that is, suffice to say, a coincidence.

Asher B. Chancey lives in Philadelphia and is a co-founder of BaseballEvolution.com.

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Fantasy Baseball First-Round Pick Analysis: Ryan Howard

November 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

This is one of the oddest years for fantasy baseball owners, as after the first three picks the first round is extremely wide open.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to see someone selected fifth or sixth in one draft, only to be selected in the early-to-mid second round in the next.  Therefore we are going to analyze all of the potential first-round picks, looking at their pros and cons to determine if they should be selected in the first round or left for later rounds.

Up first, let’s look at Ryan Howard.

2010 Campaign: The Phillies lineup suffered from a lot of injuries, which certainly had an impact on Howard’s production.  Howard himself was not immune from the problem, playing in 143 games in 2010 after appearing in 322 out of 324 games in 2008 & 2009.

The impact was certainly seen in his numbers.  If you didn’t know any better, his line of .276 with 31 HR, 108 RBI and 87 R would look fine.  However, you have to realize that from 2006-2009 his low in home runs was 45, his low in RBI was 136 and his low in runs was 94.

What happened: The injury cost him the majority of August (40 AB), but what is really noticeable is that Howard just never had a “big” month.  He has always been a slower starter, hitting no more then five home runs in an April since 2006.  What he has always been able to do, however, is routinely put up double-digit home run months after that.  Just look at his number of 9+ HR months by year:

  • 2006 – 4 (including a 14 home run August)
  • 2007 – 3
  • 2008 – 3
  • 2009 – 2
  • 2010 – 0

His biggest month in 2010 came in July, when he hit eight home runs.  At 31-years-old, it’s hard to believe that he’s simply lost the power that he once displayed, but there certainly has been a downward trend of sorts.

Obviously, in that ballpark, you have to think that he’s going to continue to hit home runs, even though he has never been dependent on Citizen’s Bank Ballpark for his power stroke.  In 2010, he hit 16 HR at home and 15 HR on the road.  In 2009, he actually hit 27 of his 45 HR on the road.

It also should be noted that Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley also missing a significant period of time didn’t help matters.  Those are two of the biggest and best bats in the Phillies lineup and without them, everyone else’s numbers are going to struggle.

What to expect in 2011: Howard is going to hit for power, I don’t think anyone is going to question that.  The question is, can he return to 40+ HR power?  His HR/FB rate has declined the past three seasons:

  • 2008 – 31.8%
  • 2009 – 25.4%
  • 2010 – 21.1%

He hit 31 HR in limited AB and with a career low HR/FB, so there is plenty of reason to believe that, if healthy, he’s going to come extremely close to that mark.  With only two hitters reaching 40 HR in 2010, that instantly gives him credibility.

He’s also going to pick up RBI and R, especially if the rest of the lineup can stay healthy along with him.  It’s a power packed lineup that’s going to score runs, and Howard is right at the center of it.

The problem is that he strikes out a ton (32.0 percent for his career), which makes it nearly impossible for him to even come close to .300.  In fact, it’s probably more likely that he hits .250 despite all of the power.  At a position where you can find other options who will hit 30-35 HR and are almost guaranteed to hit .285+, that’s a huge negative.

The Verdict: Howard is among the premier power hitters in the game, but he plays one of the deepest positions and has the potential to struggle, potentially dramatically, in the average department.  That puts a huge question mark over his head, making him better suited to be an early-to-mid second round pick in my book.

I’d much rather take a player at a weaker position in the mid-to-late in the first round, like a Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki or Evan Longoria and hope that a Howard, Prince Fielder or Mark Teixeira are available when my second-round pick comes around.  That just puts you in a better scenario all around.

What about you?  Is Howard a player you would consider in the first round?  Why or why not?

Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections:


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