Ryan Howard was a disaster in 2014. We all know this. There really isn't a better way to say this. His triple slash line was .223/.310/.380/.690. He still had some pop in his bat, as evidenced by his 23 home runs, but aside from the long ball, he did not bring much to the table.
Now, while he wasn't the worst player in baseball, he was 11th in lowest rWAR, with -1.1, finishing "behind," among other notables, Chris Johnson and Dan Uggla of the Atlanta Braves. And also Domonic Brown. *cries* Still, he was not good this year, and, at his $25,000,000 salary, he was certainly the least efficient player in the National League.
Howard's Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs pages.
Still, there were some bright spots.
On April 11th, the then 3-6 Phillies were facing the Marlins' young ace, Jose Fernandez. With the score knotted up at 2-2 in the third, Fernandez faced Howard with the bases loaded. The Phillies would go on to win 6-3.
Boom, I guess.
Known more for his fielding gaffes than his Ozzie Smith like reflexes, Howard's defense has often been an issue. But not on May 2nd, against the Nationals.
Ryan Howard is not an agile man. He's enormous, for one thing and in his mid thirties, time has taken its toll. But on occasion, he can move quickly enough, if he needs to, as he did on May 11, when he faced Mets' catcher Anthony Recker.
At the end of May, Howard was struggling somewhat, though not as much as he would later on. This game, on May 28th against Colorado, helped keep him, and the Phillies, afloat a little longer.
Just three days later, the big man went deep again, racking up his 1,000th RBI. Now, Runs Batted In is not the most predictive statistic, as we all know, but it does paint a picture of what happened. And Howard has caused a lot of things to happen, if you know what I mean.
In early June, the Phils' swept through Atlanta, taking a three game series by a combined score of 21-8. Howard finished the series with two home runs and a double, and six RBIs.
Of course, baseball isn't just about bombs and RBIs and winning streaks. Howard has been a fan favorite much of his time in Philadelphia, and it's not just because of dingers (though that's helped). In early July, as part of the Phillies' Phantastic Auction, Howard put on a literal hitting clinic with a couple youngsters. D'awwwwww.
As mentioned above, Howard's fielding has not always been what you'd consider "good." However, he can, on occasion, flash the leather, as he did here against Washington on August 1st.
A few days later, on Hiroshima Day against Houston, Howard showed the world that he even still had some wheels.
The following day, however, he reminded everyone what he was doing in the Major Leagues, with his Phillies'-record 13th career grand slam.
Speaking of wheels, Howard has long been the victim of an infield shift which moves all six thousand infielders to the right side of the infield, forming an impenetrable barrier to baseballs. Sometimes, though, to beat the shift, you don't need to hit it over them, you just need to hit it to them.
On the season's penultimate day, Howard, these highlights aside, was carrying a woeful .219/.306/.372/.678 slash line. Meaningless or not, his 3 for 4 performance against Atlanta raised his OPS by nine points, largely due to his 23rd home run of the season.
I'm not going to belabor the details. We all know Howard had a terrible season, one of the worst ever, given his contract. But I hope we all can agree that there was some real gold in the shitheap this year and, even if it doesn't lend itself to many promises for the future, it was a helluva fun thing to watch while it happened.
Ed. note: There will be no formal exit interview for Mr. Howard.