Phillies fans, as they await a nearly written in (Jeff) stone guarantee for third place, can rejoice at least that Ryan Howard, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, is not suffering through a sophomore slump if spring training is any indication.
He stands at ten home runs through 23 spring games, a "record" whatever that means. Meanwhile, the Phils' former first baseman, Jim Thome, just hit his first dinger this spring. One could argue that Howard's performance does not really matter given the state of the Phils today unless he can pull a Babe Ruth and pitch. I would also point out that in 1989 Von "Five-For-One" Hayes had four homers through the first eight games of the season, thereby projecting to a Bondsian 81 for the seasonand the local papers did indeed bother to project it, so what do spring stats mean?
Then there's other side of the argument that goes something like, dang, this has been a boring spring with the unnecessary Wannabe Baseball Classic preempting the action like turning on the TV this season to watch Lost and finding instead of a new show or even a rerun from this season, a season-one Lost re-run for the umpteenth plus one-nth time.
In that spirit, I present the following projections for Howard's performance this season. First, I projected his spring stats based on his at-bats per game this spring projected to a full 162 games. You might be disappointed that Howard comes out as a mere McGwire clone, with 70 homers. However, he projects to a mere 465 at-bats with 35 walks. Given that players constantly traipse in and out of spring games, that projection seems low.
I recalibrated with at-bats based on his at-bat per game rate from last year. Now, Howard projects to a record-breaking 87 dingers. With me ridiculous projection now achieved, I will proceed to present the results at a Spaceballs-esque ludicrous speed:
So does it mean anything? Yes, it means that Ryan Howard will probably not be supplanted by Tomas Perez at first this spring (though Charlie "I Need A" Manuel reserves the right to pull any young player at any given time).
It means that Josh Beckett, who, though a newly minted Red Sock, is already fitting in as a hothead, can key on Howard to the point of causing a bench-clearing shouting match in yesterday's ballgame. Howard's come a long way given that his lollygagging at the plate can now be interpreted as showboating on a potential homer instead of the laziness it had heretofore been seen as. Like Howard could showboat in those silly crappy blue-topped uniforms.
As for watching spring stats, I am more interested in Ryan Madson's (1-0, 2.84 ERA in four appearances) and Gavin Floyd's (3-0 with a 2.30 ERA in five games). If those two guys can pull a Mark Fidrych and lead the staff this year, then the Phils have a chance to be real contenders. Otherwise, it's Franklin and Lidle and hope that they're idle.