Saturday, October 18, 2014
Senators Saturday - Frank Howard, 1967.
Howard was the Senators starting left fielder in 1967 and appeared in 149 games. 141 of those games included playing left field and three included right field. He also played first base in four games which opened the possibility of moving him to that position sometime in the future. It was the first time Hondo had played first since 1961.
Over the 1086 innings in the outfield (only 3.2 innings were in right field and he saw no action), Howard committed just three errors en route to a .986 fielding percentage. That was ten points higher than the league average and a very pleasant surprise. His range in the outfield was significantly lower than your average American League outfielder though. At first base Frank played 17 innings without a miscue. Once again, his range was limited compared to most first basemen around the league.
Hondo made 585 trips to the plate in 1967, second only to Ken McMullen in plate appearances on the team. He batted a team best .256 and got on base at a .338 clip, also a team high. Frank's .511 slugging percentage was not only a team best, it was 5th in the American League. He hit 20 doubles, two triples, and 36 home runs (team best). He came in third in the American League in home runs. His 89 RBI led the team and was 4th best in the AL. Howard might have had a higher on-base percentage if he wasn't such a free swinger. He struck out a league-leading 155 times.
The Senators got what they were looking for from Frank Howard in 1967. He was hitting for power and that's why they traded for him. If he could cut down on the whiffs it would be nice but Hondo was a free swinger when he arrived from Los Angeles. The above average fielding percentage was an added bonus, Howard was on the roster for his bat. If he could cut down on the strikeouts in 1968 and maintain his defense, he would have a successful season. Due to his size any increase in range in the outfield was not going to happen.