Philadelphia Phillies: Cody Overbeck Not First Answer If Ryan Howard Misses Time

Bobby YostCorrespondent IIOctober 22, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 07:  Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies stumbles as he runs out of the box on his ground out for the final out of the game as they lost 1-0 against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Five of the National League Divisional Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 7, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

If the majority of fans had their way come spring, Cody Overbeck would be the favorite in-house substitute for Ryan Howard.

There's options to choose from—from bringing up Overbeck or Matt Rizzotti, moving Utley to first while plugging in Valdez or Martinez at second or moving Mayberry to first and plugging in Domonic Brown in left.

Yet, the fans' favorite choice could be the worst of the litter. 

There's no doubt in my mind Overbeck would struggle in the majors. Many of his supporters see his .279/.331/.416 line in just under 250 plate appearances in Triple-A as enough evidence that he can adapt to tougher competition and continue his Double-A success(.275/.331/.532 in 257 plate appearances this year).

However, they fail to look deeper.

Two problems quickly jump out when looking at Overbeck's Triple-A "success" last year. The first being his batting average of balls in play. It was a career-high .370.

Aside from a similar fluky half to start the 2010 season in High-A ball, his career BABIP has been a much more appropriate .300.

That begs the question: What would these fans think if his BABIP was more realistic?

Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume his true BABIP skill level there is .305 and all of those extra hits were merely singles. His line would come to .235/.290/.371.

That's not as impressive. 

The other major problem for Major League success are his strikeout and walk rates. Guys who strikeout a ton and walk very little don't often reach the majors. If they do, they do not last long.

Last year Overbeck struck out 27.2 percent of the time while walking just 4.9 percent of the time. That strikeout-to-walk ratio was seventh worst in the International League.

Players with those numbers simply do not do well in the majors. Players in the Major League last year (among 150 plate appearances), who struck out five times for every walk had an average OPS of .632.

Their wOBA was an average .276 and wRC+ was 70, meaning they were about 30 percent worse than an average major league player. For Phillies fans, this is the kind of output Wilson Valdez gives you offensively.

Putting such a player at first base, where hitting is at a premium, is a huge mistake. 

It's a common theme in his career that he struggles with plate control and power in his stints at a particular level. In his first season at High-A ball, he walked just under 6 percent of the time while striking out over 27 percent. His power was not there either, with a .169 isolated slugging percentage.

The next year at the same level, he improved dramatically. He increased his walk rate to over 11 percent while cutting his strikeouts to 21 percent with a .251 isolated slugging. 

His two years at Double-A showed the same trend. In his second year at Reading, he dropped his strikeout-rate from 27 percent to less than 23 percent. He increased his isolated slugging from .182 to .258.

Relying on Overbeck to improve or provide adequate offense replacing Howard in the majors, would be a huge mistake.