The "Ryan Howard Can't Hit Lefties" Myth

The common groupthink in the sabermetric community right now is that Ryan Howard can't hit lefties.  It is a myth, but it gets spouted just as carelessly as talking heads in the mainstream sports media like to make declarations like "ARod is unclutch", "Abreu is lazy", and "Eckstein is clutch."  We all know these are false.  However, a mixture of an inability to avoid comparing Howard's skills versus lefties from his skills versus righties, and unwillingness to actually look up the numbers has led the sabermetric community to be just as inaccurate and groupthinking as the mainstream media.

Let's replace that: Ryan Howard hits lefties about as well as the average first baseman hits same handed pitching, and better than the average player hits same handed pitching.  However, he will mash your righties.


Ryan Howard has a career OPS of .786 against LHP and had a 2008 OPS of .746 against LHP.  The average LHB had an OPS of .699 against LHP in 2008.

Now consider the following table.  It took me twenty minutes to put together and it's all the research that was needed to disprove the silly point that so many have been making, reducing the story on Ryan Howard from "the best power hitter in baseball, and generally one of the best all around first basemen in the league" to "Ryan Howard really just can't hit lefties".  This is a list of all 30 starting 1B for 2008.  The last four columns are OPS in career or 2008 against same-handed and opposite-handed pitchers (I treated switch hitters as lefties).  It is sorted by 2008 OPS against same-handed pitchers.

Notice that Ryan Howard is 16th out of 28 non-switch hitting starting 1B at batting against same-handed pitchers in 2008, and 15th of 28 for their careers.  He is approximately average at hitting same-handed pitchers, and he was 2nd among non-switch hitters for career OPS against opposite-handed pitchers, and 6th among non-switch hitters for 2008 OPS against opposite-handed pitchers.

Hopefully, this disrupts the groupthink, and it took 20 minutes.

 

FIRST BASEMAN Bats car SAME 08 SAME car OPP 08 OPP
Albert Pujols R 1.035 1.063 1.089 1.233
Kevin Youkilis R 0.859 0.946 0.852 1.009
Chris Davis L 0.916 0.916 0.866 0.866
Mark Teixeira S 0.935 0.902 0.912 0.994
Miguel Cabrera R 0.903 0.869 0.989 0.939
Carlos Delgado L 0.804 0.863 0.982 0.88
Joey Votto L 0.833 0.862 0.9 0.88
Jason Giambi L 0.854 0.842 0.979 0.889
Casey Kotchman L 0.749 0.819 0.749 0.708
Lance Berkman S 0.801 0.803 1.027 1.057
Ryan Garko R 0.767 0.795 0.894 0.708
Daric Barton L 0.831 0.787 0.685 0.629
Derrek Lee R 0.846 0.785 0.924 0.948
Conor Jackson R 0.774 0.782 0.893 0.938
Justin Morneau L 0.739 0.778 0.899 0.928
Adam LaRoche L 0.767 0.765 0.848 0.87
Paul Konero R 0.823 0.765 0.901 0.825
Ryan Howard L 0.786 0.746 1.065 0.966
Prince Fielder L 0.793 0.733 0.953 0.955
Kevin Millar R 0.823 0.709 0.804 0.736
Todd Helton L 0.877 0.678 1.051 0.809
Mike Jacobs L 0.689 0.677 0.85 0.857
Adrian Gonzalez L 0.734 0.675 0.888 0.991
James Loney L 0.744 0.664 0.867 0.815
Carlos Pena L 0.752 0.654 0.894 0.994
Aaron Boone R 0.755 0.594 0.747 0.816
Ross Gload L 0.74 0.589 0.737 0.69
Richie Sexson R 0.842 0.58 0.878 0.992
Lyle Overbay L 0.728 0.54 0.838 0.865
John Bowker L 0.323 0.323 0.751 0.751
Average   0.794 0.75 0.89 0.885

 

 

Looks pretty average to me.

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