Home Run Howry

I'm a relatively patient person - a dog, twin 3-year old daughters, the Angel-fan wife and being a Cubs fan do that to a person. But the antics of Bob Howry have grown tiresome. And yeah, I'm probably the last on that bandwagon (see above about being patient).I mean, he was good for us in 2006 and 2007. Not great, but good; as he posted ERA's of 3.17 and 3.32, along with respectable win probabilty added scores of 0.93 and 1.73. So I think some of that patience was warranted - unfortunately so does manager Lou Piniella.

Lou's consistent reliance on Howry out there in crucial situations, even with a depleted bullpen of late, is near Dusty-level stupid. The decision to let Bob Howry pitch to notorious Cub-killer Carlos Lee with first base open yesterday, is Andy McPhail-stupid.

Let's take a look at what could be troubling Howry...

 Season ERA
 2005 2.47 5.92 1.97 0.49 .222  4.7%
 2006 3.17 8.33 2.00 0.94 .299  8.3%
 2007 3.32 7.97 2.10 0.89 .302  7.0%
 2008 5.09 6.96 1.36 1.70 .336  11.6%

 A few points of reference for some of the less numbers-inclined, average is considered around .300 for BABIP (Batting Average in Balls in Play). When you see something in the .222 range like Howry's 2005 season, expect it go up the next season (in most cases) and the ERA to follow, as did Howry in 2005. Most pitchers give up homers on around 10% of the flyballs they give up (HR/FB%) and the same corollary applies. Now, it's in my opinion that the peripheral stats of a reliever tend to look better than the norm in most cases. For example, take a look at the leaderboard on ESPN for strikeout rates with at least 40 innings pitched and you'll find 10 relievers with at least a 10 or more strikeouts per nine innings and just one starter. So the 8.3% and 7.0% of home runs that flew out of the park the last two years are pretty much right in line with Howry's career mark and didn't call for too much of a correction.

Back to the chart o' numbers and there's a few things that stick out about Howry's 2008 season to date. His strikeout rate has been declining steadily now for a few years and is down to 6.96 for 2008. He thrived in 2005 with an even lower strikeout rate, but that seems due to a healthy dose of luck. Now his walk rate has also gone down as well this year, so it might be a bit of gaining control while sacrificing velocity (spoiler: he hasn't). Of course, it appears he's sacrificing getting batters out as well, as evidenced by the skyrocketing ERA, BABIP and home run rates. It's a bit of a chicken and the egg theory going on here, is Howry just being unlucky at times as evidenced by his BABIP and HR/FB% rates this year, or is he losing some of "stuff' and getting pounded accordingly, hence the reason for the rise in his ERA and peripheral numbers.

I took a dip into the Pitch F/x waters to see if I could spot anything that might indicate Howry has lost something on his pitches (and I profess I'm a newbie at analyzing the Pitch f/x data). As Transmission pointed out earlier this year, Howry averaged 92.3 mph on his fastball last season, but that was only measured for games played at Wrigley. I believe the Pitch F/x system has been installed in all parks for 2008 and Howry's average fastball velocity has taken a very small dip to 91.2 mph on average (according to Fangraphs).  The 2008 player card by Josh Kalk shows an average of 92.14 on his fastball, so I think it's safe to say his velocity is about the same. I did notice on the Fangraphs info that he's throwing quite a quite a few more sliders this year, up from 9.7% of his pitches(that were actually tracked) to 22.7% this year. You then combine that with the info at Inside Edge scouting report that shows his slider is getting whacked for a .353 batting average(out of games scouted) and you start to piece together that Howry may be getting away from his bread and butter of pounding the outside of the plate with his fastball. 

The numbers also indicate why Lou seems to keep giving him a chance. His "stuff" still seems to be there for the most part. And we know Lou's preference for pitchers, particularly relievers, that don't walk batters. And for all the troubles of Howry, he's making the other team earn it for the most part. But at some point, Lou's going to give up on faith and take a look that Howry just can't get anyone out right now. Of course, it's going to help that Kerry Wood is back and Carlos Marmol can go back to being the main set-up man. The shutdown bullpen of Howry in the 7th, Marmol in the 8th and Wood in the 9th, never really materialized this season and I do hope that Howry is pushed way back on the depth chart and Chad Gaudin and Jeff Samardzija are given his late-inning opportunities.


Well done, Rob. Possible Lou is giving Howry a chance to straighten himself out before he has to make a hard decision and drop him or push him to the back of the bullpen as we get to the real grind of the pennant race? In any case, it's nice having Gaudin and Samardzija to turn to if Howry is done.


I should learn to read more completely before I comment since what I wrote is exactly what you wrote at the end of the post, Rob.

I can only conclude that you and I are both geniuses. 

How can anyone disagree with this thesis? The man's been given numerous chances to right himself, yet neither Lou nor (hello!) Rothschild can straighten him out at this point. We're in a pennant race, no more opportunites unless it's a blow - out (and I mean a huge blow - out).

Great breakdown on Howry. What happens with Lieber gets ready to come back? Do you send down Samardzija? Or do you DFA Howry? Or DFA Lieber?

I'd like to see more of Samardzija before declaring him trustworthy in the bullpen. I would probably DFA Lieber, because maybe Howry can turn it around, but I think Lieber is probably just about cooked.

send Marshall down, he's not doing much and he'll be back by September

Let's get the Gooz up here, ASAP.

How is he doing? Will he finally be out of options next season, or do we get yet another extension? If Guzman turns into a good relief pitcher, what a bonus on a guy we all wrote off.

I believe he is out of options, but the Cubs do have control over him for one more year. As for his rehab, the minors page at BR.com shows one game started, two innings, one earned run (three overall), 2 K's, 0 BB's at Hi-A Daytona. Before he left Daytona, AZ Phil said he was looking pretty good down at Fitch Park. 

pretty good shot to be a Sept call-up...

The Cubs are #2

"Although Bob Howry's overall numbers aren't pretty, manager Lou Piniella keeps running him out there. Howry has a 5.30 ERA, but he's stranded 21 of 24 inherited runners."


I respectfully disagree with Crasnick's rankings. 

And yeah, Howry came in and shut the door yesterday in the 6th stranding some inherited runners and then shit his pants in the 7th. 

But he wasn't sliding into home!

Karstens in Arizona through 7.1 IP

made it to 7.2 IP and then gave up a double to Chris Young....

a walk, a double play, a single to Drew in the 9th...29 hitters.

Well, who you gonna believe, Crasnick or your lyin' eyes?

goes 2 for 4 in his major league debut with a homer for the O's.

Way to go kid...

You may remember several posts I made last year discussing the fact that Howry had, in the second half of last year, almost entirely junked his slider and was relying nearly exclusively on fastballs and that, moreover, his decision to do so seemed to coincide largely with greater effectiveness in the second half. That he was able to be as succesful as he was last year in the second half was largely due, in my view, to his ability to locate the fastball.

I am troubled by his increased reliance on the slider (as the graph shows), although I have not seen it personally. It's not a great pitch for him; it doesn't break a lot, he has a tendency to hang it and he doesn't have great command over it. What is more a problem is that he doesn't seem to be locating the fastball as well as he did last year. I think the velocity is still there, but the location doesn't seem to be.

Howry seems to be a stand-up guy and a competitor, which is why he has been somewhat of a favorite of mine. When he pitches well, he executes pitching strategies pretty well (climbing the ladder, etc.) He does not "give in" to hitters. He does not walk a lot of people. That said, his repertoire is pretty simple. He throws one fastball (4-seam), has no changeup and his slider (his only breaking pitch) is weak. He needs to be pretty fine with his location on the fastball in order to be at all effective.

sounds familiar, and you sure seem to be on to something...

I do believe he does have a change that he uses as often as Rich Hill uses his. His charts show him using one about 4% of the time.  

It's NOT.

This was Howry a year ago today vs the middle of the Astros order according to MLB Gameday:

1] 96 mph, 95, 94
2] 95,95,95,95,95
3] 95,95,95,96
inning over

every pitch was a fastball

This was Howry in the 7th yesterday vs the Astros:

1]92,slider **single**
3]slider, slider, 93,93, slider, slider, slider
coaching visit to mound
4]92 **Carlos Lee HR**
5]slider, slider, slider
inning over

6 fastballs, 9 sliders


MLB gameday uses the same pitch f/x data that I used and the averages were about the same. I didn't study each of his individual games though or any time periods.

It's certainly possible that he was hitting mid 90's for a time last year. It's possible he was hitting it for a time this year  as well though. 


I think the velocity is OK. Howry does not have a 98 mph heater or one with a lot of movement. People with that kind of stuff can get away a lot of the time by just throwing it in the strike zone someplace. He's not in that category.

Off topic, but never too early to review upcoming schedules.

As of right now, each of the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers has 47 games left (the Cardinals have a night game tonight). Here’s how they break out:


Home 23
Away 24

Games against teams with a .500 (or better) winning percentage: 26 (9 STL, 6 MIL, 3 FL, 4 PHI, 4 NY)

Games against teams with a less than .500 winning percentage: 21 (3 ATL, 6 CIN, 3WAS, 3 PIT, 6 HOU)


Home 22
Away 25

Games against teams with a .500 (or better) winning percentage: 27 (2 MIL, 2 LA, 9 CUBS, 7 FLA, 7 AZ)

Games against teams with a less than .500 winning percentage: 20 (9 CIN, 3 ATL, 5 PIT, 3 HOU)


Home 26
Away 21

Games against teams with a .500 (or better) winning percentage: 18 (2 STL, 3 LA, 6 CUBS, 3 NY, 4 PHI)

Games against teams with a less than .500 winning percentage: 29 (4 WAS, 7 SDG, 9 PIT, 6 CIN, 3 HOU)

The schedule favors the Brewers in a fairly major way at this point. The Cardinals’ schedule is slightly tougher than the Cubs’. Of course, the big thing will be the head to head between the three teams. The Cardinals and the Brewers play each other only twice more this season. The Cardinals and Cubs play 9 times and the Brewers and Cubs play 6 times. Put another way, slightly less than a third of the Cubs’ remaining games are against Milwaukee and St. Louis.

At this point, I think it will take at least 95 wins to win the division. I like where Chicago sits, but the Brewers could make a lot of hay playing the Nationals and Padres 11 times from here on out.

If the Cubs can take care of business in their games against St. Louis and Milwaukee (play .500 or better, say 8 wins), and win 12 of their 21 against below .500 teams, that would get them to 89 wins. Then they would need to take 6 of 11 from the Marlins, Phillies and Mets to get to 95.

If the Brewers play .500 against the Cubs, that would get them to 67 wins. If they cleaned up against the below .500 teams (say .700 winning percentage, or 21 wins) that would get them to 88 wins. They would then need to win 7 out of 12 against the other .500 or better teams (STL, NY, PHI and LA, which is, incidentally, exactly .500 as of now) to get to 95.

The Cardinals’ road is much tougher, with 7 games each against Florida and Arizona. Also, their below .500 teams don’t include San Diego (.381) or the Nats (.372), like the Brewers (who have 7 games against the Padres). If they split against the Cubs (say 5 wins), that would get them to 68 wins. If they won 14 of 20 against the below .500 teams, that would get them 82 wins. They would then need to win 13 out of 18 against Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Florida and Arizona to get to 95.

Dodgers ain't helping -- about to lose their 2nd straight to Cards. Cards absolutely pummeled Lowe tonight.

If the Cubs can keep winning series after series, I'll stop scoreboard watching.

Okay, no I won't. Who am I kidding?

And while he has become the newest target of Wrigley Field boo birds, Howry has the manager's backing.

"Bob works hard and I have confidence in him," Piniella said. "I keep bringing him in there and I'll continue to do so.

"The home run ball has hurt [him]. Maybe he's just in a little bit of an unfortunate streak, but he gives you everything he has. I expect him to have a pretty good finish."


Uh-oh. Don't like the sound of that.

"Bob works hard and I have confidence in himhe has naked pictures of me," Piniella said. "I keep bringing him in there and I'll continue to do so.

Fixed it for ya, Lou.

Pinhead's Dustiness coming out. Apparently you just have to work hard, not actually be good to get into Lou's good graces. So now we know the difference between Eyre and Howry. I wonder if it all boiled down to Eyre's shin splints issue. 'What? He doesn't run? Well he better be good or he's not going to pitch.'

On Howry's pitching I don't really see the great command that his low BB rate implies. If you lose a bit of control, you tend to aim more for the heart of the strike zone if you want to keep your walk numbers down. If you do that, you also tend to give up more home runs.

Howry's slider moves so little, that I don't even recognize it. When I see the 84 MPH pitches come in, I was assuming they were change-ups.

somewhere along the line howry and wuertz both forgot how to keep their control in the zone low. howry's slider has never been a big control pitch for him, but when he can locate his fastball low in/away he can junk over a slider every once in a while and use that effectively.

im not gonna get into the "why is he throwing so many more sliders" thing...some people wanna blame the catcher, rothschild, howry, the pope, whatever. there's gotta be a reason he's throwing so many sliders. maybe that's what he's doing when his velocity isn't there that day. i mean, his fastball isn't THAT good even when it's 100% there.

one thing i have noticed about howry is his velocity doesn't hold up over multiple starts like it used to.

he used to come out and boom...93-95mph easy. 3-5 times a week, no prob.

now it seems like he's doing a lot of 91-93mph work on days following 94+mph outtings.


Whatever the reason, he's not getting beat on bloopers and dribblers. These things are rockets. When that many hitters are hammering the ball, it's time to move out of the late inning role for a while.

s.gallagher to miss his next start due to shoulder soreness...they're not going to DL him, though...for now, anyway.

Coery update:

Now hitting .191 after an 0-for-4 yeserday, which is an improvement over his .183 at July 30.

Dude, that sucks, big time.

Recent comments

Subscribe to Recent comments
The first 600 characters of the last 16 comments, click "View" to see rest of comment.
  • 2nd in defensive WAR, NL.

    6th in NL in RBI

    Go complain about something else, like, "they never play good against the good teams", or some other shit.

    The E-Man 8 hours 30 min ago view
  • Addy really has trouble breaking through .250 BA -- after his hot streak got him to .251, he has gone 1-for-17.

    billybucks 9 hours 46 min ago view
  • Thank goodness for Jansen's 2 WP on Friday -- otherwise this would have been a sweep.

    billybucks 10 hours 29 min ago view
  • There seems to be a direct correlation with overconfidence in the Cubs offense against mediocre/young pitchers and really poor offense against mediocre/young pitchers. So, let's fear the Pirate pitchers!

    billybucks 10 hours 30 min ago view
  • Rizzo due for a power surge -- one HR in August so far. He truly does hit them in bunches.

    billybucks 10 hours 31 min ago view
  • Sometimes I'm not as supportive of Cahill as maybe I should be. There, I said it.

    Jackstraw 10 hours 35 min ago view
  • Rough 8th inning all around -- HBP, Cahill error, Javy's poor decision.

    Oh well - given that the Cubs didn't look like they were going to score, it's better to lose in 9 innings, save the bullpen and get changed for the PJ trip home.

    billybucks 10 hours 35 min ago view
  • Baez still learning

    jacos 11 hours 3 min ago view
  • heyward with his 3rd multi-hit game since the all-star break (all in august)...2nd in the past 3 games during his 7 game hitting streak.

    he's gone from flirting with a sub-.300 ob% to nearing .310 ob% in 3 games (1 game was just a 1 for 1 pinch hit appearance). all 5 hits in the past 3 games have come in a row...neat.

    crunch 12 hours 7 min ago view
  • stewart with 7Ks through 3ip...of course.

    that 10-13 mph difference in his fastball/change is working today...and they're swinging at his crappy slider.

    crunch 13 hours 13 min ago view
  • brock stewart...steven brault...fun times for the cubs hitters vs allegedly competitive teams...maybe.

    crunch 14 hours 2 min ago view
  • Maddon would have started three lefties against the Dodgers, Montgomery, Zastryzny and Lester, except that he doesn't have the juice to do that. No manager does. Maddon has a boss, Epstein (and probably Hoyer, too), who gave him a starting rotation of five guys including Hammel. Maddon was asked yesterday about the starting group for next year and basically said, Not my call, that's why I drive away in my RV in the summer and occasionally check in, etc.

    VirginiaPhil 18 hours 32 min ago view
  • video of Maddon.


    always nice that he actually tries to honestly answer questions. Does mention that he wanted to give Zastr? a chance in a meaningful spot rather than a mop-up role.

    Rob G. 1 day 9 hours ago view
  • from Muskat:

    #Cubs Maddon: "I'm not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence" ... "It was the right thing to do today based on what I saw, what their lineup looked like and Rob Z.'s availability." #Cubs

    Rob G. 1 day 9 hours ago view
  • http://www.espn.com/espn/now?nowId=21-0561339391889382475-4

    Hammel not particularly understanding of getting pulled out...as he should. Be curious what Maddon had to say. All I can think of is is keeping arms fresh and maybe wanting to see if Zastr? is worth considering for the playoffs and how he'd do against the Dodgers.

    Rob G. 1 day 9 hours ago view
  • great defense

    Heyward, Russell, Baez, Bryant, Ross in particular...although Bryant's a bit hard to judge with all the positions.

    Fowler and Rizzo in the top half of the NL for their positions as well (per fangraphs)...Zobrist right at the halfway cutoff for 2b in the NL.

    I'm sure some luck is involved too, but the Cubs and Maddon knew what they were doing.

    Rob G. 1 day 10 hours ago view