I want to share a leaderboard with you that I can’t stop thinking about. These are the top-five National League first basemen in the second half by wRC+:
I cannot fathom a more perfect depiction of the frustratingly beautiful juxtaposition of expected/unexpected outcomes which is so integral to this absurd bat-and-ball game we watch each day. It would be easy to pick Votto, Freeman, Goldschmidt and Gonzalez as top offensive performers among National League first basemen. But Ryan Howard?! That Ryan Howard?!
The thing about Howard is that it’s not as though he snuck onto that leaderboard. He has a 191 wRC+ in the second half! Only four other players in all of MLB have a higher wRC+ since the All-Star break: Votto, Gary Sanchez, J.D. Martinez, and Jose Altuve (min. 60 PA).
What’s more, Ryan Howard’s offensive surge is in true old-school Ryan Howard fashion, which is to say he’s hitting the snot out of the ball. Thanks to a remarkable seven home runs in just 66 plate appearances, he’s posted a .403 ISO and .742 slugging percentage. Of the 294 players with 60 or more plate appearances this half, 142 of them — nearly half! — have a lower OPS than Howard’s SLG%.