Why do the Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard swap rumors pertain to the Yankees? The Phillies are by far the best team in the National League. You could have argued last year that the Dodgers and the Cardinals were on par with the team from the City of Brotherly Love. Realistically, however, there is no team that matched the Phillies combination of dominant starting pitching and offensive potency other than maybe the Cardinals who relied more on their pitching than their offense for most of the season. So, from a National League standpoint, the teams that are blocking the Yankees campaign to repeat are the Phillies and the Cardinals.
So hopefully everyone understands my justifications for writing this piece. If the Phillies get Pujols they will undoubtedly be upgrading from Howard which hurts the Yankees chances of repeating. That being said, are you kidding me?! I understand why Tony La Russa has called the trade rumors “abusive.” Anyone who watches baseball, especially those who watched the World Series last year, knows exactly why the Cardinals would be crazy to trade Pujols for Howard: strikeouts, plain and simple. Albert Pujols on average strikes out 128 less times than Ryan Howard. Just chew on that for a bit. 128 fewer strikeouts. 128! This statistic became even more important after Howard set the World Series record for strikeout. Beyond just strikeouts, compare the lines of the two players from last season.
Albert Pujols: .334 Average, .427 OBP, .628 Slugging, 1.055 OPS, 124 Runs, 186 Hits, 47 Homeruns, 135 RBIs, 16 Stolen Bases, 115 Walks
Ryan Howard: .279 Average, .360 OBP, .571 Slugghing, .931 OPS, 105 Runs, 172 Hits, 45 Homeruns, 141 RBIs, 8 Stolen Bases, 75 Walks
Okay I confess that last year was not Ryan Howard’s best year and his numbers are a little better overall for his career and that Pujols had one of his best years in terms of OBP, slugging, and homeruns. But, if you look at their career stats there is not much difference between their numbers last season and their career numbers even though Howard has a slight edge in RBIs and homeruns. Even so, this is still a no brainer. Even if you took away the names and just threw the two lines out there and were forced to pick one the answer would be Pujols almost every time.
I am not trying to say that Howard is a slouch. He is one of the best hitters in the game but the only legitimate reason for why the Pujols/Howard swap would occur would be because Howard will be cheaper than Pujols once they sign new contracts. If this trade, which has been angrily denied by both teams, happens then the Phillies will become a much better team, if not the best team in the league, which is exactly why the Cardinals should not go through with the trade and probably never will.