As we move toward the 2016 season, let us take a look at each player on the roster and what a reasonably successful season would look like. We started with Aaron Nola. Our most recent entry was Jeremy Hellickson.
Name: Ryan Howard
Age: 37 in November
Experience: 1,460 games
What we saw in 2015We knew we'd have to get around to The Big Piece at some point. This one's a hard one to write because there can be no doubt Ryan Howard had some big struggles in 2015. His walk rate continued the downward trend from earlier in his career. He walked just 27 times last season. It's astounding, really. In both '06 and 07, he was intentionally walked more than 35 times. His fielding and base running continued to not bring anything to the table. That said, he did provide some pop. At age 36, he hit 23 homers and 29 doubles.
Truth be told, that's probably what the team expected at this age when it signed him to his record-breaking extension.
What they surely didn't expect - and what makes his contract so troublesome - was the lost seasons of his age 32-33 years.
Important goals for 2016
Get on-base: Howard will no doubt hit 20 homers if he's healthy. But the fact that he gets on-base at a .300 clip the last four years really hurts. If he could find away to work more walks into his equation, it will help improve his value.
Cut down on his at-bats against left-handers: Howard had an .802 OPS against right-handed pitchers last year. Not in 2011. In 2015. If Pete Mackanin limits the big guy's exposure to southpaws, his numbers should improve.
I've got to make a confession. I still like Ryan Howard. I know he's not a great player. I know he hasn't been for years. But there's a big part of me that would love to see him end his Phillies career with a strong season.
I think the fan base has really forgotten how important he was for the team. Every now and then, I watch highlight videos of the 06-11 seasons and marvel at how often he came through in the clutch.
There's a chance the Phillies might cut Howard at some point, but I think that's unlikely unless Darin Ruf tears the cover off the ball in Spring Training, April and May.
Either way, one thing's for certain Ryan Howard will play his last game in Philadelphia this year. When he finally plays his last game he will have taken the team and its fanbase for one hell of a roller coaster ride with plenty of valleys and the summit included a World Series ring.