Of all the wonderful Sabermetric numbers, my favorite has always been wins above replacement (WAR).
The Philadelphia Phillies, if they haven’t already, need to figure out what to do with Ryan Howard the day after the season ends and—if they are still searching for an answer by then, wins above replacement would be a good place to start.
Simply put, Howard’s WAR has been negative in two of the last three seasons, meaning that he has been a below-average MLB player. Worse yet, the WAR is so low that the Phillies could have probably brought up any first baseman either playing for their Triple-A or Double-A team and won more games without him than with him. That’s a sobering and sabering thought, especially for a team that owes Howard $70 million on an ill-advised extension they offered him during the 2011 season.
Howard ended that season on a stretcher after he clumsily fell to the dirt after grounding out in the playoffs. He was later diagnosed with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Coming off of such a gruesome injury, his extension already started off on a bad note.
Worse yet, his body type made him fall into the category of players whose career are shorter than workout freak types. Howard was overweight before the injury and he’s at his highest playing weight of his career (240) now, an indication of a half-hearted approach to his rehab. His performance has been the equivalent of a first baseman who the Phillies might call up from the minor leagues. Forget about his .223 batting average this season, knowing that the Phillies do not do better with him than without him over an extended period of time is enough data.
As bad contracts go, this might be one of the worst ones in major league history. The Phillies can do one of two things. Eat the contract and give someone else a chance at first base, notably Darin Ruf, or continue to trod out a substandard major leaguer, which the numbers show Howard is right now. Eating all that paper money will not be tasty, but it beats the alternative.
Numbers do not lie and the Phillies should listen to the truth.