When Ryan Howard ruptured his Achilles tendon on the final swing of the 2011 NLDS, a silence swept across Phillies nation like nothing heard since Joe Carter ripped a 2-2 Mitch Williams slider over the fence in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series.
Rumors swirled that Howard might never return and if he did, he never would be the player he once was.
When Howard returned to Philadelphia in early July of this past season, optimism began to pulse through the veins of Phillies fans. But through 71 games and 260 at-bats, Howard put together the worst campaign of his entire career, resulting in many fans believing that he shouldn't have returned at all.
Howard finished the season batting just .219 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI. He also struck out a disgraceful 99 times, or 38 percent of his at-bats.
For his career prior to 2012 season, Howard struck out 1207 times in 3794 at-bats, or 31.8 percent. So he increased his strikeout ratio by over six percent in 2012. That may not seem like a drastic increase, but over a 600 at-bat season, that's 36 more strikeouts.
One of the most fascinating statistics in Howard's 2012 season was his batting average when actually making contact, or what I call "Batting Average By Contact" (BABC). Howard's BABC in 2012 was .354. To find this number, I subtracted Howard's number of strikeouts from his total at-bats, then divided the number of hits by this result.
260 AB - 99 K's = 161 at-bats. Dividing Howard's number of hits, 57, by 161 comes to a .354 average.
Can Ryan Howard Return to MVP form in 2013?
When Ryan Howard actually made contact in 2012, he batted .354, as compared to his .219 line with his strikeouts included. A remarkable statistic, to say the least, and something positive Phillies fans can draw from an otherwise disappointing 2012 season for Howard.
So what does all this mean?
If Ryan Howard can make more consistent contact, his offensive numbers across the board can dramatically increase. Hits, RBI, home runs, extra-base hits, everything. Which would ultimately lead to more Phillies wins.
If new Phillies hitting coach Steve Henderson can decrease Ryan Howard's strikeout rate by, say, 25-30 percent over a full season, Howard's batting average would return to right around the .260-.270 range.
These statistics are far from an exact science, but from them we can see that when Ryan Howard does make contact, he has the potential to be one of the top hitters in baseball.
If Ryan Howard can decrease his number of strikeouts in 2013, he has the potential to return as one of the most dominant forces in all of baseball.