They Boo him in May. Rip his defense, his leadership, his paycheck, and his all around ability to play baseball. But those critics do a funny thing in September. Those boo's get turned to chants of MVP as the biggest critic becomes the biggest fan. Now the critic has, in my opinion, a weak case; "he strikes out too much" and usually that’s all you hear in May and June. They also drove the "he’s a butcher in the field" argument into the ground in those early months as well. But that gets thrown out the window when Howard decides to start Power Hour in September and August and I’m here to tell the critics to shut up but this time for the entire season.
As I type this Ryan Howard is currently 2-2 with 2 HR's and all 3 RBI's for the Phillies. On the season he is hitting .270 with 37 HR's and 111 RBI's. I guess that’s what you would expect from your power hitter. But Ryan Howard, with his late season surges, continually puts himself in the apex of the league every season. While those numbers may be average, or even expected for a power hitter of his type I’m here to make the real argument.
Ryan Howard in the month of August and September combined for the last 4 seasons:
2006: He hit .366 with 23 HR's and 61 RBI's in only 205 AB's
2007: He hit .263 with 18 HR's and 50 RBI's in only 209 AB's
2008: He hit .276 with 18 HR's and 51 RBI's in only 196 AB's
2009: Has hit .286 with 11 HR's and 33 RBI's in only 98 AB's and a month to play
Every single September it seems you can’t count on two things. School being back in session and Ryan Howard locking in and carrying the Phil’s to the playoffs. Because of his late season surges he is constantly in the league lead for HR's and RBI's. Now while his critics will say he strikes out too much I will just look at his RBI total which is usually around the 140 mark and at least top 3 in the league. And considering that runs win games and Ryan continually produce runs year after year I don’t mind taking the strike outs.
Ryan was a guy who signed a contract in the off season. But instead of slacking off he worked to improve his defense. It’s amazing I hear Phillies fans say "well I hate the Mets but I like David Wright." Go ask Mets fans about David Wright in September. While Howard is grabbing a Louisville Slugger David Wright seems to grab his pitching wedge. Something should be said for clutch performances and Howard always brings everything to the table when it matters most.
So next time you want to boo Howard in May because he just struck out with the bases loaded just remember what he gives you in August and September, when it’s crunch time. Howard is the definition of slow and steady wins the race and because of that we will be powering our way to another post season appearance.