Ryan Vs. Adrian

Some discussion during the Keith Law chat today about: who is better?  And who will be better?  Out of Ryan Howard and Adrian Gonzalez?

Statistics are what I believe in, so there isn’t too much that differentiates what I believe from what the next “statistician” believes.  As long as we are looking at roughly the same type of numbers.  And Ryan Howard being the most overrated player in baseball is an opinion that I share with other baseball minds.  But if you read my writing, then you know this already…

But right now, the two players are far from light years apart.  In the future, Gonzalez should separate himself from Howard.  But as of now, both are good players.

These players are actually incredible examples of how fans and analysts underrate the quality of teammates that surround a star player. 

Ryan Howard plays in a large market, with a rabid fan-base, and some talent around him.  Ryan Howard hits home runs in September, in meaningful games.  Ryan Howard plays in the postseason, and has recently.  Everything that the media pounds into our head would lead us to believe that Adrian Gonzalez is not even close to the same caliber of player that Howard is.

But it is not true.  It is because the facts are simply not right.  Mostly based on failed analysis.

Adrian Gonzalez, in 2009, may play in a situation that is the complete opposite of Howard.  Probably as close as it is going to get to being night and day. 

Gonzalez plays in a pitchers park, the most difficult park in baseball for hitters to perform in.  Ryan Howard plays in a bonafide hitters park, a place where fly-balls turn into home runs, sometimes anyway.  I don’t mean to downplay what Howard does, he does actually hit the ball quite hard.  But the Padres, Adrian’s team, might be the worst in baseball.  While Howard’s team should win around 88 games or so.

But Adrian Gonzalez’s career road OPS is .904, really good.  Howard’s road OPS over his career is .956, not to far from his home numbers, implying that Howard has been a great hitter regardless of where he has played.  But Philly has helped a little. 

But the numbers are a little skewed. 

One reason being that home numbers should not be ignored.  However, in Gonzalez’s case maybe they should.  There is clearly a much harder task that hitters face when hitting in Petco, than in any other park.  I have disputed that Rice’s home numbers shouldn’t have been the only numbers that voters should have viewed.  You can’t just say that “is what he was,” and that “his numbers were clearly good, only because of Fenway.”

There is the possibility that Rice felt comfortable at home, leading to better numbers.

I cannot prove that, but cannot exclude it either.

So Howard has hit great everywhere.  Gonzalez has struggled hitting in a canyon, but then again, every hitter that has hit in that canyon has struggled.  And that is the reason that we have adjusted statistics nowadays. 

Another reason why the numbers are skewed is because Howard has two of his prime seasons included, while Gonzalez is basically just beginning his prime. 

Simply put, Howard is in what should be his prime right now. 

Gonzalez’s has just begun. 

And something that cannot be ignored is Adrian’s glove-work vs. that of Howard’s. 

And that is a part of why Adrian was significantly better when reviewing the final WARP1 results from 2008. 

Gonzalez’s fielding at first was way better than that of a replacement player.  Howard’s was basically what a replacement player would do with the glove at that position.

Of course, WARP liked Gonzalez’s bat a lot more to, because, you know, he didn’t suck for two months.  So the cumulative input into winning games that Gonzalez had, was greater (although there was a month in which Gonzalez had some struggles, comparatively) than Howard’s total. 

WARP1 also enjoyed Gonzalez’s production more so than Howard’s in 2007, as well.

Basically, Howard has been declining some, and Gonzalez has been improving.

Of course, 2006 has to be included to be fair.  Howard was clearly better that season.  A great year for Howard, and the only year that MVP consideration is warranted. 

But Adrian Gonzalez is the more complete player.  His glove is superior.  And Gonzalez has much more room for improvement.  Howard should be just about what he has been the past few seasons, moving forward (the next couple years anyway).

For the future, there is no doubt that Gonzalez should be the better player.

Currently, it is still relatively close, but I give the nod to Gonzalez.