The air has turned cool, the leaves are turning brown, and the NFL is ready for some football.
That's right, Phillies fans, September is here once again, and we all know what that means: Ryan Howard is ready to kick his game up a notch.
Or actually, a few notches.
As the Phillies have returned to the top of the NL East on the strength of their dominant pitching and resurgent offense, much has been made of late of how amazing Howard has been during his career in the month of September.
To put Howard's dominance in September in perspective, let's do this: as of Monday, September 13th, Howard has now played the equivalent of one full season of games in the month of September. Howard has 153 games, totaling 716 plate appearances and 598 at-bats.
With that in mind, let's look at Howard's career numbers in September and analyze how good they would be if they were single-season totals in a given year.
In a season's worth of September games, Ryan Howard has scored 121 total runs. Depending on the year, 121 runs could easily lead the league in a given year.
No American League player has scored 121 runs since 2007.
No one is going to lead the league with 188 hits, but they would be amongst the league leaders. For an all or nothing slugger who takes lots of walks, 188 hits is pretty much a ceiling.
For Howard, 43 doubles is impressive from a personal perspective rather than on a league-wide scale. In seven seasons, Howard has broken 30 doubles only once, and in 2006, when he hit .313 and won the NL MVP, Howard had only 25 doubles.
Home runs is where things start to get a little historic for Howard.
With 57 home runs in 716 plate appearances, Howard's September home run total is the same as the 14th best single season total of all time, tied with Luis Gonzalez and Alex Rodriguez.
And, get this: it took both A-Rod and Gonzalez more than 716 plate appearances to amass their 57 home runs seasons.
With 155 RBI, Howard's September numbers almost put him in the "100-Plus Club", for guys who have 100 more RBI than home runs in a single season.
For the record, 155 RBI would be the seventh highest total in National League history over a full season.
We all know that Howard can take a walk, and he has topped his career September total of 106 in two different seasons.
Still, consider this: for his career in the month of May, Howard has 59 walks; in June, that number is 52.
Here's a list of players with over 100 extra-base hits in a single season:
Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Barry Bonds, Chuck Klein, Todd Helton, Sammy Sosa, Albert Belle, Stan Musial, Hank Greenberg, Rogers Hornsby, Luis Gonzalez, and Jimmie Foxx.
And that's it; those guys have combined to do it 15 times.
Howard's September total, if it were a season's total, would be tied for fifth best all time.
Howard is a .279 career hitters whose season high batting average was .313 in 2006.
So, his .314 average in Septembers is pretty remarkable.
Not much to say here: Howard 1.111 OPS in the month of September, over a full season, would be one of the top 100 OPS's of all time, and is definitely higher than any single season he's ever put together.
It's gettin' historical up in here again: 400 total bases is the standard bearer for an amazing season. The feat has only been accomplished 29 times in baseball history, and if you take out Lou Gehrig's career then it has only occurred 24 times.
To get an idea for how amazing 412 total bases is, consider:
When Barry Bonds broke the single season home run record in 2001, he only had 411 total bases.
When Albert Belle became the first player in almost 50 years with 100 extra-base hits in a single season in 1995, he had 399 total bases.
When Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998, he had only 383 total bases.
In order for Ryan Howard to have put together 412 total bases in 716 career September plate appearances, he has to have been absolutely raking.
We've not done exhaustive research into September hitting splits, so we can't say for sure that Howard is the best September hitter of all time, or even amongst active hitters.
But know this: at a point in his career where he has the equivalent of a full season's worth of September plate appearances, Ryan Howard's career numbers in September would more than likely make for one of the top 20 or 25 hitting seasons of all time.
So, in that sense, we'd say that the nickname "Mr. September" is well earned.
And it is also nice to know that he's on our side as we come down the stretch.