Phillies slugger Ryan Howard reached a tremendous personal plateau on Saturday, becoming the second-fastest player to ever hit 300 home runs, accomplishing the feat in just 1,093 games.
His momentous, towering drive fell high against the ivy in centerfield, just like so many of his round-trippers have before.
For Howard, it has been a nine-year career of dominance to this point, slowed slightly by injuries, but nonetheless something truly remarkable. How remarkable? Let’s take a look at some of the numbers associated with Howard’s first 300 homers.
It started on Sept. 11, 2004, at Shea Stadium. Met’s pitcher Bartolome Forunato left a pitch in a bad location, and received a less than fortunate response from the slugger. It was the first home run of Howard’s career, and boy, did it get the ball rolling.
After hitting 22 home runs in his 2005 Rookie-of-the-Year season, Howard established himself as the premier longball hitter in the MLB in 2006. In April, he became the first person to ever hit a ball into Ashburn Alley-a feat he would accomplish several more times-and in June, he became the first person to hit a ball into the third deck in right field at Citizen’s Bank Park. Impressive. He would hit four homers that year longer than 450 feet, and to this day in 2012, he has hit 15 of them just as long or longer.
Howard finished his second year with an MVP award and 58 home runs, which is the most ever by a second-year player and tenth most all-time in one season. Three of those 58 came in one game, and all three of those came off Atlanta’s Tim Hudson. Fitting, because the Braves are the team Howard has homered against the most, with his 300th homer against them on Saturday being the 42nd of his career against Atlanta. Also fitting that it happened in September, the month in which Howard has hit 64 home runs.
By the way, he hit an extra 23 big flies in 2006 if you count the exhilarating home run derby show he put on, winning with a 440-foot bomb with one out remaining in Pittsburgh.
Over the next year he climbed his way to 100 career homers- the 100th being a 505-foot shot off Aaron Harang on June 27, 2007-and was the fastest player in terms of games played to do so. Then he was the fastest to 150, 200, 250, and he finally lost to Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner at 300, accomplishing the milestone in just six games more.
His place in Phillies history is secure. Only four Phillies have ever hit 250 home runs. Pat Burrell, Del Ennis, Howard, and Mike Schmidt, who is the only man standing in Howard’s way with 548 career blasts.
As the years went by, the home runs kept coming. In 2007 he hit 47, then 48 in ’08 and 45 in ’09. The next three years were “slow years” with just 31 and 33 and 14 (due to injury), but still his 162 game average is at 44 home runs and 136 RBI.
He has hit 226 home runs off righties, and significantly fewer against southpaws (74), although three of his last four home runs to this date in 2012 have been off lefties, including No. 300. Oh, and those last four homers he has hit came in four straight games, one shy of the team record.
He has hit more than one home run in a game 28 times, and has even done it in the World Series-in game 4 of the 2008 Fall Classic against Tampa Bay. He has eight total postseason homers as well, which is third most in Phillies history.
How about those who say Howard’s bombs come only when the team is down by a lot or up by a lot and that he is not clutch?
He has four walk-off home runs, 35 that tied the game and 113 that put the team ahead. So almost half of his home runs either tied or gave the Phillies the lead, not even counting the ones that helped pull them closer in already close games.
And he is no stranger to perhaps the most impressive home run of all: the grand slam. Yeah, Howard has 12 of those in his career, which is second in the N.L. to Carlos Lee’s 17 and the most in Phillies history.
He doesn’t seem to care if he is away from home either. His numbers are practically identical: 151 homers at home, and 149 on the road.
What is crazy about these numbers is that they are a sample of nine seasons. Who knows what he can do if he can play another five or six, or what he would have done if had not been injured the last few years.
Hitting 300 homers is no easy task, and doing it in just over 1,000 games is absurd. So pay attention to Howard over the next few seasons. He may be slower and he may strike out more, but he can still hit ’em with the best of them and that won’t change any time soon.
Kenny Ayres is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a journalism minor. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.