If getting released by the Atlanta Braves while playing in Triple A is indeed the last chapter to Ryan Howard’s baseball career, it’s not the best way to see the former Phillies slugger go out.
Then again, there is no good way to end a career that has been spiraling ever since he suffered an Achilles tendon tear while making the final out of the 2011 National League championship series. That came in a 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals and Howard the Phillies have never been the same.
After spring training Howard signed a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves. He didn’t have a long stay with the Braves’ Triple-A Gwinnett Braves team. He appeared in 11 games and hit .184 (7 for 38) with one home run, 5 RBI and a .501 on base plus slugging percentage. Howard also struck out 11 times.
While that wasn’t a long audition, the Braves apparently felt that the 37-year-old Howard couldn’t recapture his old magic.
Before his injury, Howard was among the most feared sluggers in baseball.
From 2006 through 2011, here were Howard’s averages for that six-year span - .274 batting average, 28 doubles, 44 home runs, 133 RBI, a .929 OPS and 139 OPS+ (where 100 is average).
Conversely, in his final five seasons, his average was .226 and he averaged 19 home runs, 66 RBI and a .719 OPS. He was still productive, but nowhere near his old self. And he progressively got worse hitting lefthanders.
In fact his final season with the Phillies he had just 35 plate appearances against lefties, and batted just .121.
He was rookie of the year in 2005 and the National League MVP in 2006 when Howard hit .313 with 58 home runs and 149 RBI. Those are just staggering stats.
In the postseason he was also productive (although not dominant). Howard batted .259 with eight home runs 33 RBI, an .845 OPS in 199 plate appearances.
Howard was a dominant performer during a time the Phillies won the 2008 World Series, along with five consecutive division titles. The Phillies also appeared in a second World Series, losing to the New York Yankees in 2009.
That season Howard was the MVP of the NLCS series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. In five games he hit .333 with two home runs eight RBI and a 1.457 OPS.
Overall in 13 seasons with the Phillies, Howard hit .259 with 382 home runs, 1,194 RBI and an .859 OPS and 125 OPS+. Those aren’t quite Hall of Fame numbers, but he will no doubt be a Phillies Hall of Fame choice.
And it’s hoped that the last five plus seasons haven’t made people forget that at one time Ryan Howard was the most feared slugger in all of baseball, not the player who struggled to recover from a most difficult injury.
Photo By Marc Narducci: Ryan Howard at first base
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