In the 2010 season, the first basemen of the Philadelphia Phillies, Ryan Howard, spent a great deal of time on the disabled list. When doing the math by analyzing the innings played, it shows that Howard played in about seventeen fewer games in 2010 than he did in 2009.
Of 162 games, missing seventeen games does not sound like that much. Howard usually plays well over 150 games per year. In 2008, Howard started 156 games and 155 in 2009. With the injury, Howard only started 139 games in 2010.
Even with missing so much time during the 2010 season, he still produced numbers better than most other players in baseball. Of 1000+ baseball players, Howard produced numbers good enough for him being tied at 14th rank with the number of home runs. He was 11th in the number of runs batted-in.
Howard was also ranked 49th for on-base percentage, 25th in slugging percentage and 29th in OPS.
Howard had a very productive season in 2010, although it was certainly not his peak year, that we can blame on the time he missed from injury.
He did hit for an average of .276 with 31 home runs and 108 runs batted-in. His on-base percentage was .353 and his slugging percentage was .505 with 152 hits and 59 walks. He also had 157 strikeouts, which is at a ratio of about a two-percent improvement.
Howard’s numbers were good enough, even with missing all of the time from injury, to be the best and most productive first basemen in the NL East Division. When comparing Howard to the other first basemen in the NL East, the only player that can actually challenge Howard’s numbers, according to the stats of 2010, is Adam LaRoche.
LaRoche, who was not in the NL East in 2010, batted for an average of .261 with 25 home runs and 100 runs batted-in. His on-base percentage was .320 with a slugging percentage of .468.
However, LaRoche was still lagging behind the numbers of Howard even though Howard started about 17 less games than usual and less games than LaRoche had played.
When comparing Howard to LaRoche, it is easy to see that Howard will provide more offense to the team. Howard beats LaRoche in batting average, home runs, RBIs, on base percentage, slugging percentage and stolen bases. Although neither are particularly a threat to run.
On the defensive side of the field, they were both credited with the same number of double plays. LaRoche had a few less errors, but you can expect the same from these two players defensively.
Howard and LaRoche produced similar numbers in 2010. Although Howard did not beat LaRoche’s numbers all that significantly, that wouldn't have been true if we were talking about a season that Howard played the entirety of.
Either way, Howard is the most productive first basemen of the NL East, followed by LaRoche. The other three first basemen follow these two further down the line.
The New York Mets have Ike Davis and the Florida Marlins have Gaby Sanchez for their role in first base. These two players are coming off of productive 2010 seasons, but they cannot compare to the top, Howard or LaRoche.
The Atlanta Braves have Freddie Freeman for first base, but it is hard to speculate how he will fair in 2011 since he is only 21-years-old and has only had 24 major league at bats.
In those at bats, he had four hits including a double and home run, but only an average of .167. Seeing how Freeman will fare in 2011 will be interesting, but as of right now, I will predict that he will not produce numbers that can compare to Howard, which I think is a pretty safe prediction.
Davis batted for an average of .264 with 19 home runs and 71 RBIs. He had an on-base percentage of .351 and a slugging average of .440. Sanchez had an average of .273 with 19 home runs and 85 RBIs. He had an on-base percentage of .341 and a slugging average of .448.
As these numbers show and Howard continues to prove, he is one of the best offensive producers in baseball, and he is, undoubtedly, the best first basemen that will be found in the NL East for at least the 2011 MLB season.
If Howard stays healthy, which would be safe to presume about this season, he will certainly shine above the rest of the NL East at first base and most other players in baseball like he has in seasons past. Howard can afford to play less then 15 games than usual, and still reign towards the top of offensive productivity.
Not only is Howard the most productive first basemen, but he is also the top producer of those who remain in the NL East Division. With the rosters currently set the way they are in the NL East, with all players included, Howard was second with the number of home runs and first with RBIs.
In the NL East, Howard is one of only three players with over 100 RBIs, where the rest of the RBI leaders did not cross 85 RBIs last season.