Phillies: Was Ryan Howard robbed of a 2nd MVP?

Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images) /

Did Phillies legend Ryan Howard have a shot to win more MVP awards?

Phillies fans have grown to have a better appreciation for Ryan Howard since he stepped away from the game. Yes, his Hall of Fame chances were likely killed the second his Achillies went out in the playoffs, but the dominance he displayed early in his career is something that should be remembered.

From 2006-09 Howard averaged a staggering 50 home runs and 143 RBI per season, numbers that no one puts up. If he maintained that average over just a 10 year career we’re talking about a first ballot Hall of Famer who is pushing towards Mike Schmidt’s franchise-record 548 home runs.

But in reality, Ryan Howard’s Hall of Fame case will likely fall to the wayside like Lance Berkman and Paul Konerko, who each had terrific numbers but didn’t have the all-around case to remain on the ballot after one year.

What could have helped Howard was if he won a second MVP award. Thirty-one players have won multiple MVPs, and nearly all of them are on the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds, Juan Gonzalez (named in the Mitchell Report), and Alex Rodriguez will likely not get in for their PED connections. Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Miguel Cabrera are still active. The only player with multiple MVPs who is inactive, not connected to the steroids, and not in the Hall of Fame is Dale Murphy.

Ryan Howard had many great moments in MVP-worthy seasons, but he played in an era where he competed with big home run hitters like Pujols, Ryan Braun, Matt Holiday, Prince Fielder, and David Wright.

The player who really hurt Howard’s case was Pujols, who narrowly beat him in the 2008 NL MVP race by six first place votes and 61 “vote points”. Brad Lidge received two first place votes for his 48-48 save season and finished eighth in the MVP vote.

That season Pujols had a ridiculous .357 batting average with 37 home runs and a 9.2 WAR. Howard did beat out Pujols with 48 home runs, 11 more than his St. Louis counterpart, five more runs scored and 30 more RBI.

That MPV race really came down to whether you preferred Pujols’ league-high .357 batting average or Howard’s league-high 48 home runs and 146 RBI.

In most races, especially nowadays, I think voters would gravitate towards Pujols’ batting average and WAR over Howard’s raw power numbers.

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Pujols also bested Howard in the 2009 MVP race when the Phillies first baseman finished third behind Pujols and Hanley Ramirez. Pujols was the unanimous MVP that year with 47 home runs, 135 RBI, and a .327 batting average, but Howard was right there with 45 home runs and six more RBI. His .279 batting average was his best since his 2006 MVP season, but it couldn’t compare with what others did going well-over .300.

Howard’s game was really one-dimensional, the same thing that hurt the aforementioned players in their bid for Cooperstown. If he didn’t hit into the shift or strikeout as many times as he did, that batting average would be a little more respectable.

Howard likely finished where he deserved to in these MVP races, but if Pujols had left St. Louis for the American League sooner the chances of Howard winning another MVP would have increased. Of course, that Achillies injury really hampered any chances of continuing his dominance at the plate once Pujols did leave after 2011.