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Ryan Howard vs. Chuck Klein

Probably the best statistical single season in Phillies history was Hall of Famer Chuck Klein's campaign in 1930. The best hitter on a Phils team that scored a franchise-record 944 runs (and still went 52-102, thanks to arguably the worst pitching staff in big-league history), Klein posted a video-game line of .386/.436/.687/1.123, with 250 hits, 158 runs scored, 59 doubles, 40 home runs, 170 RBI, and 455 total bases. The OPS, runs, doubles, RBI and total bases are all single-year club records.

For various reasons, one can argue that other Phillies in other years have outdone Klein's 1930: by OPS+ ("adjusted OPS," taking into account league averages and park factors), Klein himself had a better year in 1930 (175 to 159), and he was far behind Mike Schmidt's strike-shortened 1981 season (199). But in terms of the numbers considered by the lay fan, Klein probably gets top honors.

Until, perhaps, now. Ryan Howard's 2006 season might make him the National League MVP, and it's already created a need for serious editing in the franchise record book.



Howard's astonishing takedown of Schmidt's single-season home run record is already old news; with 22 games to play, he's now on pace for 63 homers, or almost a third more than Schmidt's mark. Howard is currently slugging .665; if he stays at that rate, he'll trail only Klein for the single-season record there. He's on pace for 157 RBI, which would leave him behind only Klein's 170 and the 165 Ed Delahanty drove in back in 1895. (Amazingly, even if Howard doesn't drive in another run this season, he's got the most RBI since Klein and Don Hurst drove in 137 and 143 respectively in 1932.) Howard's 1.068 OPS is a bit behind Schmidt's 1.080 mark from 1981, but good for 7th in club history if he maintains it.

(Some of the advanced Baseball Prospectus metrics still give Klein-1930 a decided edge: Howard's WARP3, for instance, is currently 7.8, a far cry from the  10.6 Klein put up in 1930. On the other hand, Howard has the edge in all-time adjusted Equivalent Average, .331 to .323.)

As good as Howard has been all year, since the all-star break he's been all-time, all-teams good.: 67 for 194 (.356), with 47 runs scored, 26 HR, 64 RBI, and 49 walks for an OBP of .492, SLG of .799 and OPS of 1.231. Projected over 600 at-bats, that 80 home runs and 197 RBI. I don't even know how to talk about that kind of sustained production.

Being Philadelphians, we're conditioned to look for the negative; I'm worried that at some point, Howard's "failure" to hit a homer in every tight spot will lead phans to start giving him a hard time, just as they (we?) did with Schmidt 25 years ago. But stepping back from the exigencies of a playoff run, we're seeing something extraordinary here: one of probably the top three hitting seasons in team history. Savor it, folks.