Ryan Howard: Is the Phillies Star “Overrated” or a 2011 MVP Candidate?

Joe IannelloAnalyst IIIMay 9, 2011

Ryan Howard: Is the Phillies Star “Overrated” or a 2011 MVP Candidate?

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    Each season it seems that there are more and more Ryan Howard haters. "He strikes out too much, he's a liability defensively, his power numbers are down" are all things that Philly Nation has heard since Howard broke onto the scene in 2005.

    Let's put this argument to rest right here and now. Ryan Howard is the key to the Phillies lineup and their success. It is no coincidence that the Phillies became the beasts of the NL East when Ryan Howard was given the everyday first basemen's job.

    The Phillies have the best record in baseball and they are missing a lot of key cogs to their team. As long as their starting staff keeps dominating the way they have been and Ryan Howard is anchoring the lineup, don't expect much to change.

    The big man is already one of the greatest baseball players in Phillies history as he has put up mind-boggling numbers. He has hit more home runs since entering the league in 2005 than any other player in baseball. Let's shut-up the haters right now.

    Here are ten reasons why Ryan Howard will win the 2011 MVP and is in no way "overrated."

1- a "Big Piece" of the Lineup

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    The Phillies are tied for the best record in Major League Baseball right now. Thus far they have overcome injuries to Chase Utley, Brad Lidge, Carlos Ruiz, Jose Contreras and Roy Oswalt. They have flourished even though Raul Ibanez had a 0 for month of April and their lineup did not score more than three runs for a month straight.

    The Four Aces have been spectacular and my main man Vance Worley has made two terrific starts in two weeks. Heck, even Kyle Kendrick shut down the rival Braves and Fat Joe Blanton is looking like an after-thought. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/675656-philadelphia-phillies-five-reasons-kyle-kendrick-should-be-fifth-starter

    But where would this team be without the big man in the middle? Ryan Howard has been everything to this lineup and has proven that he can carry the load by himself (see Met's series.) The Phillies as recently as last year had a stacked lineup with at least three players capable of hitting 30 home runs.

    This season, one of those hitters is in Washington and has struggled mightily. Do you think Jayson realizes the "werth" in hitting behind Ryan Howard now? If Howard wasn't making $25 million a year, I would suggest that Jayson Werth send some of that money Howard's way.

    Another one of those hitters (Chase) has been suffering from "pre"pre-season soreness and has not played a game in the majors yet. Pretty common no? Howard has shown this season that it does not matter who hits in front of him, he will drive in whatever runners are on base. Opposing pitchers are always aware of when Howard will be stepping to the plate, and you better believe that affects how they pitch the first three Phillies hitters. In fact, just Howard's presence in the lineup affects how pitchers....well, pitch each player in the lineup.

    Quite simply, number six for the Phillies makes everyone in the lineup better.

    That is why he is the Phillies MVP. Most Valuable Piece. (Sorry Doc you can settle for another Cy young right? I love you man!)

2- Who Else but Ryan?

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    What other player in baseball would you rather have than Ryan Howard? Albert Pujols? Probably, but who else? Mark Teixiera? A-Roid? The Fat "Prince" of Milwaukee? Philadelphia has withput a doubt one of the top five hitters in baseball in Ryan Howard. Drink that in Philly because it always goes down smooth.

    He has eye-popping career numbers (which we will address later) that have stayed pretty consistent throughout his career. Howard is in the prime of his career and has finally moved closer to the plate to counter the outside pitch. We have seen for years now that he has unmatched power in the game today and he can hit the ball out to any part of the field. The hitter-friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park no doubt will help Howard's numbers, but no professional baseball field in America can hold a Ryan Howard bomb.

    A perennial All-star who has already moved into second place on the all-time home-run list in Philadelphia after he passed Del Ennis on Saturday night. Howard's latest victim was Julio Teheran, who made his major-league debut for the Braves and was ranked as the number one pitching prospect in all of baseball before the season by Baseball America. He also was hyped up by Chris Wheeler (in typical Wheel's fashion) like he was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    Mr. Teheran didn't see many hitters in the minors like Ryan Howard did he? Welcome to the majors young fella and meet the Philadelphia Phillies Ryan Howard; he will be haunting your dreams for at least the next five seasons.

3- Power Hour

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    Thus far in 2011, Howard's power numbers rank the following:
     • 6th in NL in HR (7)
     • 2nd in NL in RBI (30)

    In his last ten games, he has 11 RBI's and four HR's. He is on pace for 35 HR's and 152 RBI's with a .266 average. MVP like numbers no?

    Let's take into consideration that we are still in early May and Howard has been the type of hitter that heats up with the temperature. He has carried the Phillies on his broad shoulders when the games matter the most. It is a great sign that he has been knocking in runs the way he has in the early going. Add Chase Utley and a few degrees to the mix and Howard will continue to put up monster numbers; just like he has done his entire career.

    Over Howard's career, he has AVERAGED 46 HR'S and 139 RBI's. Insane stuff in it's own right, and then you add on an average of 85 walks per season and you understand how this power hitter has a .370 career OBP.

    You want to talk about power? Let's talk about Ryan Howard belting the ball over 500 feet into Ashburn Alley. Sports writers across America take notice of such things...I'm just saying.

4- in His Defense...

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    Ryan Howard may not be Travis Lee (thank God) at first base, but he also isn't Mo Vaughn. He has trimmed down to around 235-240 lbs. and is more athletic and agile than he has ever been in his professional career.

    With all of the accolades Howard has garnered thus far in his career, he has turned himself into a solid defensive player. He is no longer a liability like he may have been earlier in his career. The best part about Howard's improved defensive play? He has improved by working extremely hard. Taking countless ground  balls and practicing throws to second base (which he still hasn't perfected admittedly) is not really what Ryan Howard gets paid to do.He gets paid to hit homers and drive in runs, but that hasn't stopped him from improving his fielding percentage to .990 in 2010.

    Howard may not be winning any Gold Glove's any time soon, but his improvements defensively have made him a complete player. A complete player that is looking for some more hardware at the end of the season.

5- Not Your "Average" Hitter

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    Howard has been a .280 hitter over his eight year career, not too shabby for a power hitter. As mentioned earlier, Howard's numbers rise exponentially in the late summer months and that is great news as he is hitting a solid .266 right now.

    We all know Howard will produce the power numbers, but you can mark it down now that his final batting average after this season will not be a detractor for MVP voters.

    His lifetime batting average is even more impressive because he is a power hitter that plays almost every game. His numbers this season are impressive because of the lack of pop protecting him in the lineup. Expect the average to increase with the return of Chase Utley and increase the likelihood of him winning another MVP award.

6- Been There, Done That!

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    In 2006 Ryan Howard won the MVP by hitting .313, belting 58 HR's, knocking in 149 RBI's and scoring 104 runs. Who did he beat out in the voting that year? That's right, Albert Pujols.

    Howard hit at least 40 HR's in four straight seasons before last year when he finished with 31. His power numbers were down, but he was leading the league in homer's and RBI's before he was injured last season. 

    Howard is the centerpiece of the Phillies lineup and rarely misses a game. If Howard can stay healthy this season, expect him to put up the huge numbers he has done his entire career, and Phillies fans have become accustomed too.

7- Game in and Game out

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    From 2006-2010, Ryan Howard has averaged over 153 games per season. Game in and game out you can expect "The Big Piece" to be in the lineup. It doesn't matter if it is a hard-throwing lefty or a slop throwing righty, Howard will be the cleanup hitter for the Phillies.

    He is a streaky hitter and when he gets hot, he can carry an entire team from an offensive standpoint. He has been a ridiculously productive hitter throughout his career and the fact that he doesn't miss games only helps his power numbers.

    Howard trimming down and building more lean muscle will help him stay in the lineup and stay productive during the grueling regular season.

8- "Just Get Me to the Plate"

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    The big man has always been a big-time hitter for the Phillies. Get him to the plate and he will get the big hit when it matters most. How many people EXPECTED Howard to crush the ball off Brian Wilson in last year's NLCS? The loss in that series hurt even more because Philly Nation had their go-to-guy at the plate and he failed to produce.

    The reality is, that instance was the exception and not the norm for Ryan Howard. He has been a clutch hitter throughout his career. He has thrived in the biggest of situations. Whether it is the "just get me to the plate" hit against Jonathan Broxton or his home-run parade in the World Series, Howard's light shines the brightest in the biggest of situations.

    Citizens Bank Park has sold out 143 consecutive games and the fans create an atmosphere that is unrivaled by any other park in Major League Baseball. Some players may look at such an atmosphere as pressure, but not Ryan Howard. Each game in Philadelphia (and Phillies away games for that matter) are packed in a sea of red of phanatical fans who want to win. Howard will continue to play all out every day behind the backing of the best fans in sports.

9- Is It Fair to Remember the Hardware?

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    Ryan Howard has collected a ton of hardware thus far in his career. It was obvious from the time he arrived in the big leagues that he was going to be a once-in-a-generation player. He even forced the Phillies to move Jim Thome to make room for him. Charlie Manuel might have said it best after his first season with Howard:

    "He (Ryan Howard) did some unbelievable things for our team out of this six hole [in the lineup]. I don't know where we would have been without him. He has no fear about being up in a big spot. He's going to be a special player." - Charlie Manuel on MLB.com (Ken Mandel, 11/07/2005)

    He already has won more awards and honors than many players in baseball could dream of, take a look at the listing from Baseball Almanac:

    2005     Rookie of the Month Award (September)
    2005     Rookie of the Year Award
    2006     Hank Aaron Award
    2006     Mike Schmidt Most Valuable Player Award
    2006     Most Valuable Player Award
    2006     Player of the Month Award
    2006     Player of the Month Award
    2006     Player of the Week Award
    2006     Players Choice Outstanding Player of the Year Award
    2006     Players Choice Player of the Year Award
    2006     Silver Slugger Award, National League
    2006     Sporting News Major League Player of the Year Award
    2007     Clutch Performer of the Year Finalist
    2007     Player of the Week Award
    2007     Player of the Week Award
    2008     Clutch Performer of the Month Award (September)
    2008     Player of the Month Award
    2009     N.L.C.S. Most Valuable Player Award
    2009     Player of the Month Award
    2009     Player of the Week Award
    2009     Player of the Week Award
    2010     Mike Schmidt Most Valuable Player Award
    2010     Player of the Week Award

    Howard has the skills and the experience to add to his trophy collection. Expectations have never been higher in the entire 121 year history of Phillies baseball. and the Phillies historic rotation have already proven their worth. They will continue to keep the Phillies in games and Ryan Howard will continue to be the main reason the lineup will produce runs.

    Best hitter on the team with the best record looks very nice in the eyes of the Baseball Writers of America.


10- a Memorable Year to Say the Least

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    This is probably the most obvious reason as to why Ryan Howard will win the 2011 MVP award: He is engaged to an Eagles Cheerleader. Life is good for the big man. How sweet would it be for Howard if he gets married and wins the top individual award for a hitter?

    The Eagles haven't won anything in a while (or ever if you consider the Super Bowl era) and you can be sure Howard wants to impress the new wifey by doing something the Eagles don't do much of...winning something. Believe me when I say how much it pains me admitting this as I am a lifelong, diehard Eagles fan.

    2011 will be one Ryan Howard never forgets: Wedding, MVP and World Championship. You can't blame a guy for wishful thinking can you?