Regardless of how high the expectations may have been for Howard going into the postseason, he has met and exceeded them. He owns the cleanup spot in the order and has produced time and time again for his team this month. Talk about joining elite company: Howard tied Yankees Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig by recording RBIs in eight consecutive games this postseason. In all, the slugger has driven in 14.
By no means was he silent at the plate as his team claimed a World Series title last year, but this October has been a constant showcase. This year he hit .375 in the National League Division Series before accumulating four extra-base hits and eight RBIs while hitting .333 and earning the MVP award against the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series. And, of course, he spent the series reminding L.A.'s staff that he plans to punish any and all mistakes pitchers make.
The Phillies will be looking for Howard to produce in the Fall Classic in much the same way he did in '08. Last year, Howard went deep three times and drove in six runs in five games against the Rays. In his career, he has six postseason home runs in 26 games. And keep in mind that he has shown to be much more patient at the plate this year than in seasons past. Obviously, that makes him an even more dangerous presence.
Already a Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year Award winner, Howard's biggest weapon is surely his bat. But his defense has noticeably improved this season as well, in large part due to his work to lose some weight last offseason. His range is better, which makes his glove that much more of an asset.
Mark Teixeira, Yankees
.292 BA, 39 HR, 122 RBIs
Anyone who signs a $180 million contract should feel the weight of a team on his shoulders. Only Teixeira isn't even the highest-paid player on his team. Still, it would be hard to find anyone in New York who would tell you that Teixeira didn't play up to his worth in his first season with the Yankees.
Don't let his .292 season average fool you, as it dipped that low primarily due to his .200 average in April. As soon as the calendar moved to May, Teixeira became a much more consistent threat, hitting .304 with 36 homers and 112 RBIs in his final 137 games.
However, Teixeira has yet to produce on a regular basis this postseason, something that hasn't hurt the Yankees thus far simply because so many other cogs in New York's lineup have come through time and time again. But imagine how much more imposing this Yankees club could be if Teixeira begins producing as he did this season. Scary, isn't it?
Teixeira went just 2-for-12 in the American League Division Series and had six hits against the Angels. He struck out in eight of 27 AL Championship Series at-bats.
Of course, this doesn't mean that the Phillies will enjoy facing the switch-hitting slugger. He can obviously wake up at any time and when he does, watch out.
Defensively, Teixeira has two Gold Gloves to his name, a testament to his abilities to protect that side of the diamond. His .996 fielding percentage ranks second among all active first basemen and is the best of any first baseman participating in the postseason.
Note: Hitter evaluations based on a 100-point scale, factoring in power, contact hitting, speed, fielding, experience, recent performances and moxie. Click on each expert to see all of their selections for the 2009 World Series.
World Series First Base Matchup
|Panelist||Ryan Howard||Mark Teixeira||Expert analysis|
|88||92||Howard is the key to this series. If he stays hot, he can put more postseason hardware on the shelf; if he cools off, the Yankees' job gets easier. Meanwhile, Tex is showing signs of life and has the far superior glove.|
|87||89||Already an offensive force, Howard is improved defensively and on the bases; lefties can handle him, so he may struggle vs. CC and Pettitte, but the Yankees lack an equivalent bullpen weapon. Teixeira is among the game's top talents despite a quiet postseason.|
|95||97||Teixeira is the super defender -- maybe the best in the game at the position -- and he's due to explode. Howard is the guy you have to pitch around, like A-Rod.
|100||100||Howard's consistent ability to be an offensive force in the postseason has been remarkable and has carried the Phils. Teixeira's Gold Glove defense has masked his offensive struggles, but it appears his bat has come to life during the past two games.
|95||90||Whatever the Yankees do to try to stop Howard, they shouldn't copy the Dodgers, because pitching him inside didn't work. Teixeira will need to step it up off his ALCS to keep up with Howard's production.
|91||90||Teixeira is much better defensively, but Howard's ability to hit homers and knock in runs gives him the slight edge.
|90||97||Howard is the most dangerous weapon in baseball against right-handed pitching, with power to all parts of the park against all pitches.His improved defense this year didn't include throwing, so he's error-prone, and he struggles against lefties. Teixeira is as complete a ballplayer as you can be as a first baseman, with power and patience from both sides of the plate and a defensive game with no holes.
|91||90||Don't underestimate Howard's defensive ability, but Teixeira's glove is obviously better. Howard can carry the Phillies in this Series which he has done much of the postseason.
Final tally: Teixeira 92.1, Howard 93.1