Howard's season ends in agony

Ryan Howard

HowardRyan Howard made the last out for the Philadelphia Phillies in their NLDS Game 5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night, but that wasn’t the only disappointing outcome for the team and for Howard coming out of that final play.

Howard fell as he ran out of the batter’s box, and on Saturday night learned that he has a torn Achilles tendon. According to ESPN Medical Analyst Dr. Michael Kaplan, Howard is expected to miss six to nine months with the injury, making his return uncertain for spring training next year.

Highest Average Annual Salary
MLB History

This is potentially bad news for the Phillies, given that the team awarded Howard a five-year, $125 million extension in late April 2010, which takes effect for the 2012 season.

Howard’s average annual salary of $25 million will make him one of the most highly-paid players in the history of the game.

Howard’s large contract becomes especially disconcerting considering the steady decline that he has shown over the past few seasons. Howard has regressed from an MVP winner in 2006 to a slightly-above-replacement player over the last two seasons, according to Fangraphs.com.

Digging deeper into the numbers behind Howard’s decline, pitchers appear to be exploiting Howard’s weakness against sliders at an increasing rate in recent seasons, especially in the postseason.

In 2009, 59 percent of the pitches he saw in the playoffs were fastballs, and 26 percent were sliders. In this year’s postseason, 48 percent of his pitches seen were heaters and 35 percent were sliders.

Ryan Howard Career
Regular Season vs Postseason

Howard just completed one of the worst Division Series performances in the Wild Card Era. He had .406 OPS in the series, and went 0-for-12 with five strikeouts in the last three games. His batting average of .105 is tied for the fifth-worst by any player in an NLDS since 1995.

Despite Howard’s slumping stats in recent years, he has been one of the best and most feared sluggers since becoming a full-time player in 2006. He has more RBI and more homers than any other major-leaguer during that time, and only Albert Pujols has been intentionally walked more than Howard.