Howard’s Historic Struggles

Ryan HowardRyne Sandberg spoke assertively a couple weeks ago when he discussed Ryan Howard’s future at first base. He said he knew what Howard could do, so it is time to see what others could do. He talked about a platoon and said the remaining $60 million on Howard’s contract following this season would have no impact on his lineup because he is trying to win.

But since a couple meetings between Sandberg and Howard and since Ruben Amaro Jr. countered his manager’s comments to say he expects Howard to be his first baseman in 2015 and there are no plans to release him following the season, the narrative has changed completely. Howard has started eight of nine games at first base, including one game against a left-handed pitcher.

“We’d like to get him going for us,” Sandberg told reporters Sunday at Nationals Park. “And he’s working on some things. He could be a big bat for us.”

The Phillies face Houston left-hander Dallas Keuchel tonight at Citizens Bank Park. Will we see Howard in there, hitting fourth?

Howard is tied for seventh in the National League with 63 RBIs, but there is a reason the Phillies would need to eat every dollar on his contract to trade him. His .664 OPS is 132nd out of 152 qualifying hitters in baseball. And while Howard is on pace for 91 RBIs, he has had 331 runners on base during his plate appearances this season, which ranks third in baseball. Howard’s spot in the lineup has had as much to do with his production than anything.

Howard is on pace for 594 plate appearances in the No. 4 spot. There have been 400 hitters in baseball from 1914-2013 with 575 or more plate appearances hitting cleanup and 322 (80.5 percent) had at least 90 RBIs. In other words, hit fourth regularly and the RBIs will come. But one wonders how much longer the Phillies will hit Howard fourth? His .302 on-base percentage as a four-hole hitter would be fifth-lowest out of those 400 hitters. His .363 slugging percentage would be second-lowest.

His .664 OPS? It would be dead last, 14 points lower than Washington’s Chick Gandil in 1914.

If Howard is the Phillies’ first baseman in 2015, will they continue to hit him fourth? The Phillies need to make changes. If they can’t significantly alter the roster, they can at least shake up the lineup.

18 Comments

Howard either strikes out or hits into the shift. Why doesn’t he poke the ball down the 3rd base line for a while in an attempt to negate the shift. He does the same thing over and over and over with the same end result. Have Matt Stairs work with him. Or I’ll work with him even though I’m an accountant. Give me a call.

Simply because he can’t hit it down the third base line, just like he has a problem throwing to second base a lot of the time and hitting left handed pitching. But hit a home run and it’s all forgotten… just like the Phillies past few seasons. If Ryan was Mike Schmidt he would have been booed so badly by now, he wouldn’t want to come to the plate.

Hitting Howard 5th has made sense for years. Either Byrd gets to see LHP brought in for Utley or Howard gets RHP brought on for Byrd. I can’t imagine a cogent counter argument.

One of those problems that won’t go away…unless it does!

I’ll be surprised if Ryno doesn’t resign at the end of the season if he’s being micromanaged from the front office. It’s all about saving Doofus Amaro’s ego and the asinine contract he offered to Howard. One out might be to rewrite Howard’s contract to a personal services contract from player contract. Say $5M/y x 12y. RH gets 2y free time (doesn’t have to be with the team at all) and he still gets his $. The Phils would then be free of RH on the roster. Howard is in his 10th year, so we’re coming up on his being a 10+5 guy, which would make him almost impossible to move, not that he isn’t moveable now.

Barring some major upswings in fortune before the end of the year, either the manager goes or the GM goes. That will tell us how series the owner is about winning. I have not been among the many calling fro RAJ’s job over the years, but this is the final straw. I have come full circle on this one. He has done virtually nothing to merit keeping his job after this year. These extremely player-friendly contracts are the final straw – this team has no way to maneuver thanks to those contracts. Not just Howard, but players like Byrd, who you have to think was always going to be a short-timer due to his age – why would you offer such an incentive-laden contract to someone like that? Pay him more $$ this year, but without all the clauses that could keep him locked in for the next 3 years. Someone who has never been a star, and is on the backside of his career, should never be getting multi-year, option-laden contracts. No matter that he has been great for this team in 2014: that is no guarantee of what he will be like in 2016! And again, it makes him very hard to move. One example out of many this team has conducted under Amaro’s watch. If they don’t give him the boot and Ryno leaves, it tells the fans all they need to know about how serious this team is about winning….

“There have been 400 hitters in baseball from 1914-2013 with 575 or more plate appearances hitting cleanup and 322 (80.5 percent) had at least 90 RBIs. In other words, hit fourth regularly and the RBIs will come.”

That is a *very* misleading way to [mis]read those stats. If that were the case (i.e. “hit fourth regularly and the RBIs will come), then bat Ben Revere or Michael Martinez cleanup and see what happens – I dare say neither of them would have 90 RBIs. Those stats only speak toward hitters who actually batted 4th for an extended period of time, not all hitters in general.

No question that Ryan is having a bad season, and hasn’t been really good since 2010, but let’s not make his stats worse than they already are.

Nobody has to make his stats worse than they are — HE does it himself! 25 million dollars JUST FOR THIS YEAR is INSANE. Oh! he says “it is just a game – I have a life outside of baseball” What has supported that life? And, you get 4 months off to enjoy your family unencumbered by baseball.

Like I said, there is no question that he is having a terrible season. But Zo’s misinterpretation of the stats made it sound much worse than it really is. That’s all.

And I think everyone is reading too much into Ryan’s comments. He wasn’t saying that he doesn’t care how he plays.

I’m not saying if Michael Martinez or Ben Revere hit fourth they’d have 90 RBIs. I’m saying Howard’s production as an everyday cleanup hitter has been substandard. If you’re hitting fourth for an entire season, 90 RBIs is nothing to hang your hat on because 80 percent of regular cleanup hitters do it. And the fact Howard’s on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS as a cleanup hitter are at or near the bottom of 400 cleanup hitters over the past 100 years is VERY relevant.

I understand that point completely. (No one is saying anything different.) But the way you worded your conclusion (I think) was a bit misleading. Your overall point still stands.

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Sandberg claims that Howard is working on some things. Fine, let him work on these “things” in the 7th spot. The Phillies could be a lot better team than they are showing and Ryan Howard batting clean-up is just one factor. Lost is the horrible job Rollins does batting second.

Andy S. I think you need to take your ROSE COLORED GLASSES off. What is — IS. Did you drink the Amaro “grape juice?” Amaro is the cause of this mess and he needs to be relieved of the GM position.

Where did I say anything about Amaro? (I didn’t.)

FIRE RAJ

“That is a *very* misleading way to [mis]read those stats. If that were the case (i.e. hit fourth regularly and the RBIs will come), then bat Ben Revere or Michael Martinez cleanup and see what happens ”

Agree completely.
As long as we’re talking about #4 hitters then Howard is leading the NL in RBI: http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/sortable.jsp#elem=%5Bobject+Object%5D&tab_level=child&click_text=Sortable+Player+hitting&game_type='R'&season=2014&season_type=ANY&league_code='NL'&sectionType=sp&statType=hitting&page=1&ts=1407362641531&playerType=ALL&timeframe=&last_x_days=&split=b4&sortColumn=rbi&sortOrder='desc'&extended=0

The rest of his game is in the toilet, but runs still win games.

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