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Is Ryan Howard Done?

Research shows that when the title of an article is in the form of a question, the answer is almost always "No".

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Howard has certainly struggled so far this year, hitting an anemic .161/.233/.381. The.614 OPS is by far the lowest of his career. In terms of the comprehensive stat wRC+ (where 100 is average), his stats add up to a wRC+ of 58, i.e. 42% worse than the league-average hitter. Especially at first base, that kind of production is not acceptable, and particularly when he has had the platoon advantage in 89% of his at bats.

He has hit eight home runs though, including several in key situations, and is on pace for 29 for the year if he continues playing as much as he has. By the way, the only player in history to hit 20+ home runs with a lower OPS is old friend J.P. Arencibia (21 HR, .592 OPS) in 2013.

Nevertheless his overall stats are just horrendous, and even more so in recent weeks. For the month of May, he is hitting only .091/.180/.318, with only 4 hits in 44 at bats (3 of them homers).

But there are reasons to think there may still be some life in his bat. Howard has the lowest BABIP in the majors at .155, among the 243 players with 100+ PAs (in May, only one 1 in 25 balls in play has fallen in, an .040 BABIP).

That .155 BABIP is in spite of a very healthy 25.3% line drive rate. In fact, if we graph LD% and BABIP for the 243 players, Howard is a clear outlier:


It's possible line drive percentage may not be the best measure of contact quality. Let's try another one from Fangraphs, Hard%, or the percentage of hit balls classified as hit hard. As it happens Howard has the 4th highest Hard% in the majors. And graphing his BABIP against the Hard%, we get a very similar picture, with Howard again as an outlier:


Now, maybe "is Howard done" is not the most useful or pertinent question. Maybe regardless whether we expect hits to begin falling in sooner or later, it's time to try something else. The sentiment is understandable.