Baseball fans in 2014 are confronted with an unfortunate and mostly disingenuous debate between “old school” and “new school.” There may not be a better case study than Philadelphia Phillies’ first baseman Ryan Howard, a candidate to be traded this off-season.
In this dichotomy, the new school stat guys are those who favor advanced statistics like WAR (wins above replacement) over traditional measures like batting average, home runs, and runs batted in.
One of the many reasons that these debates are not useful is because the conversations are more nuanced than that on both sides. For example, the primary point that a so-called “new school” person would make is that those old stats can be misleading on occasion. Case in point: the aforementioned Howard, who is batting .220/.303/.372 this season, is among the National League leaders in RBI with 77.
Any statistic that argues that Howard is having a good season is inherently misleading.
With that being the case, it is only logical that the Phillies will express a willingness to absorb a big chunk of Howard’s remaining contract to trade him this winter. In their efforts to do so, they might point to those RBI numbers and hope the other team falls for it.
He ranks fourth in the NL with 77 RBIs. Keeping him on the field gives him a chance to approach 100. Maybe Amaro can shop that number to an American League team and move Howard this winter. Of course, the Phils would have to eat a large sum of the $60 million that Howard will be owed after this season, but they appear willing to do that to change the mix of this stale club.
At this point the Phillies might be just as willing to pay Howard to not play baseball for them as they are to pay him to struggle in the middle of the lineup. But hey, how about those runs batted in, right?