Monday, April 26, 2010

Stupid Phillies May Make Prince Unsignable

Ryan Howard is 30. He can’t hit lefties at all. He’s not an asset on defense. He has old player skills. And he just signed an extension that doesn’t even kick in for two years, and pays him obscene amounts of money.

This will not end well.

Fangraphs’ Matthew Carruth had this to say:

In other words, Howard will need six seasons that were better than his 2009 season, except over his 32-37 years. I’m not sure I would lay even money on him achieving even half of that. This contract is both incredibly risky and unnecessary since Howard was already signed through 2011. Say hello to baseball’s newest worst contract.

Keith Law:

"This is one of the worst extension of its kind -- it's an overpay in both years and dollars. Howard is one of the last guys in the middle of the lineup I'd give that kind of money, too. He's 30, has a bad body, is not a good defender, and has struggled to make contact to versus lefties -- he's gone backwards in that area over the past couple of years. If you were locking him up through age 31, it's not so bad. How happy are if you're Albert Pujols? If Howard is worth $25 million, Pujols is worth $50 million a year."

Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory runs Howard through ZiPS and comes to this conclusion:

This deal appears risky for the Phils. The home runs numbers look pretty good, as do the RBIs. But the latter is mostly a function of Howard's hitting in the middle of a great lineup. And those on-base percentage and slugging numbers begin declining steadily in 2013. Paying more than $20 million per season for a first baseman with a sub-.350 OBP just isn't good business. Large, hulking sluggers aren't known for aging particularly well, and Howard will be 32 before the new contract even goes into effect. And let's say Howard hadn't signed this deal and hit the market after the 2011 season. It's hard to imagine he would get a contract worth $125 million.

Rob Neyer:

Ryan Howard's new contract is a testament the enduring power of the Are-Bee-Eye. It's also a testament to old-school ignorance: ignorance of aging patterns, ignorance of position scarcity, ignorance of opportunity costs ... hey, take your pick. The Phillies have done a lot of things right over the last few years. But this is a big bowl of wrong.

Moreover, this may make Prince Fielder unsignable as it may set the baseline for hefty first baseman too high for a small market. What were the Phillies thinking?

Maybe he'll decline very fast and actually tank the market, but probably not.

The Philadelphia Enquirer's Rich Hoffman loves the contract:

What I see now is a guy who is physically in better shape than he was 3 years ago. That is about work ethic, and trying to get better.

What I see now is a guy who is three times the defensive player he was when he first arrived in the big leagues. That is about high-level instruction on the Phillies' part and it is about a willingness on Howard's part to identify a deficiency and deal with it professionally.

Howard has already made a ton a cash. His response to every bump in salary has been to work at his game even more.

Again, there are no guarantees. But in baseball's big casino, this one really does make sense.

Rich Hoffman, I would like to play poker with you sometime.


E.S.K. said...

On the plus side, Melvin now HAS to realize they have no chance of signing Prince so he should trade him as soon as possible to get max value.

Red Sox need a DH.

Jon said...

Yay, i get to be the contrarian again! Ok, i won't say that this was a good deal or that it makes sense from the Phillies standpoint. I'll just say that the "hate" Ryan Howard gets from the Neyer's and Fangraphs of the world is quite overboard. Here are some career #s. With bases empty, .268/.340/.539. With runners on base, .290/.404/.626. Over 1500 plate appearances in both groups. In low leverage situations .267/.365/.535. In high leverage situations .302/.404/.657. 700 plate appearances in high leverage. Now the key in evaluating him is whether you believe WAR in that those differences are totally the result of luck and we don't think he's likely to continue being better in those types of situations. Me, i find those differences over 1500 plate appearances to be pretty convincing (if i'm doing the stat-testing correctly, his OBP with runners on vs bases empty is significantly different with 99.9% confidence). I'm also pretty sure Fangraphs has him at an average fielding 1B, and while thats likely to decline some, 1B defense really doesn't matter that much. Bad contract - yes. Underrated player by saberists - yes.

PaulNoonan said...

I don't actually think that was very contrarian.

Jon said...

Also, Ryan Howard has essentially the same career OPS against lefty pitchers as Justin Morneau and Adrian Gonzalez, do we ever hear them referred to as glorified platoon players, as either Sheehan or Law refers to Howard? The criticisms of this guy are ridiculous - just b/c the general public overrates him by giving him MVP's over Pujols, the stats community has to go completely overboard in the opposite direction.

Jon said...

Well, contrarian regarding all the snarky hate towards Howard from your Law/Neyer/fangraphs posts (the fangraphs one calling it the worst contract in baseball had to be the most ridiculous one of all), and towards your statement about he cant hit lefties at all. And actually, as one guy on BP pointed out, the contract might even be pretty good if a few things break right (mainly salary inflation and Howard's health holding up). Bottom line - as a Met fan am i happy about this contract? Not really. I mean, it could easily be an albatross in 2015-2016 on the Phils. But it also helps ensure they're gonna be really good the next 3-4 years. Unless he completely falls off a cliff a la Mo Vaughn, which is i guess what we have to hope for.

PaulNoonan said...

"Also, Ryan Howard has essentially the same career OPS against lefty pitchers as Justin Morneau and Adrian Gonzalez, do we ever hear them referred to as glorified platoon players, as either Sheehan or Law refers to Howard?"

Yes, but he's been getting worse:

2007 v. lefties: .225/.333/.493
2008: .224/.294/.451
2009: .207/.298/.356

Morneau more recently has OPS's of .778 and .836 the last two years. Gonzalez you have more of a point on but even he improved against lefties from 08 to 09. Howard has been steadily declining in this area and last year against lefties he was basically Jason Kendall.

Jon said...

We'll see if that decline is a trend or just fluky b/c of 1 year smallish sample sizes. I think it would matter more if opposing managers were smarter, and never let him face a right-handed pitcher with runners on base in the later innings, but they aren't (i think even Girardi let him hit against righty non-Mariano relievers in the WS). I agree he will probably decline enough to make it a bad (possibly very bad) deal in a few years, mainly i think his performance the past few years has been underrated. But there's also something to be said for keeping their core in place the next 3-4 years and going for another 1-2 WS wins, thats what its all about. If they suck in 2015-2017 but they won another WS before then, you could argue it was worth it. A team with a high payroll and revenue stream, in the midst of contending for WS, can afford to overpay and perhaps should overpay in situations where a similar deal would be terrible for other teams.

PaulNoonan said...

I think that's true, but something else to consider:

1. The Yankees are set at 1st and may not be bidding at all in the great 1st base free agent class of 2011.

2. Howard is the oldest of that group.

3. The Phils, being relatively large market, could quite possibly have gotten 2 more good years out of Howard and then signed Prince or Pujols (or failing that, Gonzalez) and quite possibly for similar money.

But you're right. The Phils can weather a bad deal or two whereas if this were the Brewers, it might end up crippling them.

Jon said...

I'm happy to say that i think the Mets are set at 1B as well (fingers-crossed). I wonder, besides Boston, who the big bidders will be. Possibly Atlanta, but they don't seem to be big spenders anymore. Angels are set, i'm not sure who the Giants have at 1st but i can't understand why they don't shell out for hitters while they have Lincecum/Cain/Sanchez on the cheap.

PaulNoonan said...

Ditto. It just wouldn't take much for the Giants to become a huge threat.

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