On September 22, Halladay pitched 1.67 innings and yielded seven earned runs. During the same game against the Atlanta Braves (which the Phillies lost 8-2), Howard hit his fourteenth home run of the season. That centerfield shot was also the three hundredth of his career. But, more will be offered on that important historical point later.
Age isn't just in your mind
People who feel the impact of aging tend to try and convince themselves (and others) that age is simply a state of mind. No, it's not.
Halladay turned 35 in May, while Howard will turn 33 in November.
Watching 'Doc' this season has been a different type of experience. The strain of his right lattissimus dorsi (muscle) put him on the shelf for six weeks earlier in the year. Since returning in mid-July, he's gone 6-3 and has seen his ERA rise from 3.98 to 4.40. The loss to the Braves means that his career record now stands at 198-100.
With all that has been shouted about Howard's health concerns by his detractors, he clearly seems to be recovering nicely from his offseason Achilles' surgery. I'm well aware that his batting average isn't good and that he has returned to striking out at a fierce rate. But, I'm still satisfied with the overall progress that he's made this season.
Regarding number 6
Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner is the only player in major league history to reach the 300 home run mark faster (total games played) than Howard did. When number 6 hit home run number 200 (against the Florida, now Miami Marlins) on July 16, 2009, he accomplished that task faster (total games played) than anyone in baseball history. In that instance, Kiner ranked second to Howard.
Of course, Howard's career home run total ranks second in Phillies' franchise history. Mike Schmidt hit 548 during his Hall of Fame career.
As one of the great sluggers of this era, Howard also ranks fourth all-time in at bats per home run. His 13.50 ratio is slightly ahead of Baltimore Orioles' designated hitter Jim Thome (13.73) and behind San Francisco Giants' outfielder Barry Bonds (12.92), New York Yankees' outfielder Babe Ruth (11.76) and St. Louis Cardinals' first baseman Mark McGwire (10.61).
Through 245 at bats this season, Howard's home run per at bat ratio was 17.50. He had also driven in 55 RBI's. Due to missed time and his ongoing recovery, it's only academic to project his approximate totals over a full season: 30+ home runs and 130+ RBI's.
It's been interesting to watch Howard's power numbers develop since he first entered the League in 2004. People who aren't Howard fans have often cited the statistics of other sluggers, or have said that his accomplishments are more reflective of the caliber of pitchers that are alive today. That type of thinking is always flawed, as men from different eras can never be equally compared.
Regarding the weak comparative point about modern times: Why haven't numerous other players (who have been in the major leagues since 2004) equaled, or surpassed, the home run total and the home run per at bat ratio that Howard has created?
At the plate and on the mound
With whatever happens during the last gasp of this season's National League Wild Card race, Philadelphia will continue to move forward toward next season.
It appears that the Phillies' cleanup hitter should return to full power by next spring. Hopefully, its top right-handed starter will be able to revert to his formerly fine form by then as well.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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