Results tagged ‘ Ryan Howard ’
Ryne 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.
“I fully expect him to be our first baseman next year,” Amaro said. “I don’t know where people are coming up with him not having a future with us. He’s a very big part of our organization.”
Ryne Sandberg benched Howard for the third consecutive game Friday, and he said Thursday there could be a platoon situation at first base going forward. Howard is the highest-paid player in baseball this season and he is owed $60 million after this year, which makes the benching and possibility of a platoon a strong indication the Phillies are looking at other options for the future.
Sources also said the Phillies have discussed multiple scenarios about Howard’s future, including the possibility of releasing him in the offseason. Asked about that, Amaro said, “All I can tell you is that’s not in our best interest. It’s not something that we’ve discussed.”
Amaro denied this is a matter of a player not being good enough to play every day. He instead said it is a measure meant to get him back on track.
“Let him mentally get regrouped,” he said. “Listen, everyone needs a break. And I think that’s more of what this is about than anything else. All of us want Ryan to be back and for Ryan to be as productive as he can be. I think that’s the goal. … We’re hopeful. We went through this with Pat Burrell. He had some good years, some bad years and some years in between. I think that’s a part of the baseball process, particularly when you get older. Chase Utley went down and became an All-Star. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. A guy can have a poor year one year and a great year the next.”
Howard’s .682 OPS this season is 207 lower than his career average (.889) and 36 points below his career low (.718 in 2012). His .377 slugging percentage is 155 points lower than his career average (.532) and 46 points below than his career low (.423 in 2012).
“I don’t have any issue with his effort,” Amaro said. “There’s some combination of relaxation and focus, there’s some combination in there that will help him get there. We’ll see. … It’s not about (upsetting him). I think it’s more about … giving him a break to get away from it.
“We don’t expect Ryan to be the Ryan Howard of ‘06, ‘07, ‘08. But we know he’s a more productive player than he has been over this past month.”
Sandberg drove home that point soundly today, as he benched Howard in favor of Darin Ruf for a second consecutive game, but this time against Giants right-hander Tim Hudson. That is noteworthy because Howard has faced Hudson more than any other pitcher in his career, hitting .328 (22-for-67) with seven home runs, 17 RBIs and a 1.112 OPS against him.
“The way I see things,” Sandberg said before their 2-1 victory over the Giants, “I basically wanted to give Ruf two days in a row, just to get his feet wet, see him against a right-handed pitcher, then go from there. But in all likelihood, at least after today, it will be a scenario of … I’d be considering a platoon system at first base.”
The p-word has been uttered: platoon.
Sandberg and Howard held a closed-door meeting in the manager’s office for at least 10-15 minutes about three hours before the game. Howard was unavailable to comment afterward. He made a bee line to the back of the Phillies’ clubhouse upon leaving Sandberg’s office. He returned to his locker to grab his cell phone before going outside the clubhouse to make a call. The clubhouse closed almost immediately after he returned.
Howard had no interest in commenting about his situation after the game.
“Talk to him,” he said after the game, referring to Sandberg. “Bye. Talk to the manager.”
Asked if Howard was receptive to his talk, Sandberg said, “He wants to play and he wants to be in the lineup and that’s totally understandable. So as we go forward and there are some options on some days, then I’ll look at those options.”
It does not take a genius to see the 2006 National League Most Valuable Player is not happy.
If Sandberg follows through and platoons Howard and Ruf it would make Howard, who signed a $125 million contract in April 2010, a part-time player with $60 million owed to him after this season. What that means for Howard’s future remains to be seen. Sources said the Phillies have kicked around multiple scenarios regarding Howard’s future, including the possibility of releasing him in the offseason.
It would seem to be an awkward situation for Ruf, who is trying to prove himself as a regular big-league player. But he said he will not let the spotlight bother him as he is asked to take an iconic player’s place in the lineup.
“Ryan is a great player,” Ruf said. “He’s going to be counted on to help this team win in the last two months hopefully. If we can share a role in making that happen, or he becomes the player that he once was and that we know he can be, and if it’s my opportunity I’ll just look forward to proving I can be that guy, too.”
Ruben Amaro Jr. was unavailable to comment on Howard’s situation and future with the organization.
“Ryno wants to be in there,” Sandberg said. “I totally expect that, so we’ll go forward and make up lineups.”
There just won’t be any guarantee Howard will be in them.
The Phillies signed Ryan Howard to a five-year, $125 million contract extension in April 2010 partly because they believed making a deal more than a year before he hit free agency would become a bargain with fellow first basemen Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez scheduled to hit free agency at the same time.
It hasn’t worked as planned.
Howard is struggling through arguably the worst season of his career, following two injury-riddled seasons, and Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg is ready to look at other options at first base, something unimaginable just a few years ago.
“I know what Ryan Howard can do,” Sandberg said this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. “I think it’s also important to see what other guys can do.”
Darin Ruf started at first base against Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner, and he could be there more often going forward, although Sandberg said that decision will be made daily. Triple-A infielder Maikel Franco could see playing time at first, if he gets healthy and gets called up in September. Asked if this means he is looking for Howard’s replacement at first base, Sandberg said, “No, but I think it’s also important to see and gauge other players to see where they’re at.”
Howard is making $25 million this season, which makes him the highest-paid position player in baseball. He has $60 million remaining on his contract over the next two seasons, which includes a $10 million buyout on a club option worth $23 million in 2017.
Sandberg said the massive contract isn’t a factor in filling out his lineup card.
“It’s also about wins and losses out here,” Sandberg said. “When the game starts it’s about winning the game and being productive and chipping in and doing the part and doing something to help win a game. If that means playing somebody else there and there’s production right away that’s trying to win a baseball game.”
We asked Howard after last night’s 5-2 victory over the Braves about these allegations.
“Damn, that’s outrageous,” he said. “I didn’t know that. Is it bad to listen to Nickelback?”
I mentioned the sign probably wasn’t meant as a compliment.
“I mean, I’m not afraid to say that I diversify my musical portfolio,” he said. “I didn’t know they could see or hear what … how do they know I listen to Nickelback? I listen to everything. I don’t know if there’s a specific song by Nickelback (I listen to).”
Brilliantly, the Braves’ organist (@bravesorganist) played some Nickleback before Howard’s at-bats late in the game. He had been playing the theme song to “The Office,” because a character on the show is named Ryan Howard.
So it seemed like a no-brainer today when Ryne Sandberg started John Mayberry Jr. at first base against Padres left-hander Eric Stults. Howard entered the afternoon with a .209/.268/.413 line against left-handed pitchers, compared to a .198/.254/.350 line the previous three seasons.
But then a quick look at the matchups showed Howard is 2-for-2 with two home runs and four RBIs in his career against Stults.
Despite his struggles against left-handed pitchers, Howard has started 12 of 16 games against lefties this season. He also has hit fifth eight times after hitting there twice in the season’s first four games. Meanwhile, Mayberry has a .273/.385/.545 line against left-handed pitching this season and a .274/.326/.528 line against them in his career.
Can the first series in May be a big one?
I think so because it represents a good test following a 6-4 road trip on the West Coast and an ugly loss Tuesday to the Mets. The Phillies must get on a roll at some point. At some point they need to push past the .500 mark and put it behind them. At some point they need a winning record to back up their beliefs they are postseason contender.
The Phillies have their three best pitchers on the mound to try to make it happen: Cliff Lee tonight, A.J. Burnett tomorrow night and Cole Hamels on Sunday. That is no accident. The Phillies could have kept Kyle Kendrick‘s turn in the rotation, but they pushed him to Monday against the Blue Jays. Kendrick does not have good career numbers against the Nationals (5-8 with a 4.85 ERA in 24 appearances), which could be why they bumped him. But the reality is the Phillies wanted their best to face Washington.
The Nationals are a better team than the Phillies, if you look at nearly every statistical category. They are third in the National League in runs per game (4.50). The Phillies are sixth (4.12). The Nationals have a better on-base percentage (.328 to .315), slugging percentage (.415 to .376) and OPS (.743 to .690). Their rotation has a better ERA (3.74 to 4.06) and their bullpen has a significantly better ERA (2.14 to 4.84). The only edge the Phillies can say they have is defensively. The Nationals have been sloppy in the field. They are tied for third in baseball with 26 errors, while the Phillies are 25th with 14. And while I understand there are other ways to gauge defense, my point is the Nationals have been kicking the ball around, while the Phillies have not. In fact, the Phillies have just one error since April 14. No other team in baseball has fewer than six since then.
Certainly there is plenty of baseball to play following this series, but a series win here would keep the momentum going from Los Angeles and Arizona. A series loss and skeptical Phillies fans say, “See? They are who we thought they were.”
If the Phillies hope to win this weekend, they’ll need strong performances from the bullpen. I looked yesterday at the Phillies’ bullpen, the organization’s troubles at developing young relievers and potential help from outside the organization.
Random stats and thoughts: Ryan Howard is on pace for 31 home runs and 87 RBIs. I think if Ruben Amaro Jr. and Ryne Sandberg were told in February that Howard would finish the season with 30+ homers and 90+ RBIs they would take it. … Phillies third basemen have a .478 OPS, which is the worst in baseball. Third basemen from the 1981 Blue Jays finished with a .516 OPS, the lowest mark in baseball over the past 40 years. … I understand Freddy Galvis‘ value defensively — he is the team’s best defensive player — but he has to hit at some point because no glove can make up for his current offensive production. The Phillies are giving away too many outs at the bottom of the lineup. … Domonic Brown has one home run since Aug. 14. Phillies left fielders are 25th in baseball with a .623 OPS. … Carlos Ruiz‘s .889 OPS is fifth among catchers.
Good morning from California.
If you missed last night’s 7-0 victory over the Dodgers because of the three-hour difference, you missed a rare night when the Phillies didn’t have to sweat out a victory. They took a 2-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back as Cliff Lee allowed four hits and struck out 10 in eight scoreless innings.
Lee is 2-2 with a 1.20 ERA in four starts since Opening Day. In 30 innings over those starts, he has allowed 33 hits, four earned runs, one walk and has struck out 37.
“He’s evolved over the years,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s throwing more changeups, the curveball in different ways. He’s using more pitches. He used to be simple — stuff and location. He doesn’t throw quite as hard, but it doesn’t seem to matter a whole lot.”
Lee’s fastball has lost about one mph since last season, but it hasn’t affected his results.
Ryne Sandberg hit Carlos Ruiz fourth, despite hitting .204 with no home runs and two RBIs. He finished hitting .245 with one home run and four RBIs.
Ryan Howard continues to swing a hot bat. He hit his fifth home run of the season. It is just 19 games, but it is worth noting for the moment that his .905 OPS ranks 24th out of 199 qualifying hitters in baseball. Chase Utley is fourth at 1.086.
If you didn’t see Utley’s play in the bottom of the first inning you should watch it here. Lee called it “advanced” baseball.
If you missed yesterday’s 10-9 victory against the Rockies you missed plenty, so here are a few facts, figures, thoughts and links:
- Ryan Howard went 4-for-5 with a triple, home run, three RBIs and three runs scored. He is hitting .262 with a .360 on-base percentage, .508 slugging percentage and .868 OPS. It is just 18 games so nobody knows where his season is headed, but at the moment he is on pace for 36 home runs, 90 RBIs, 90 walks and 189 strikeouts. His 90 walks would be his most since 107 walks in 2007.
- Howard fell a double short of the cycle, although he came close. He hit a ball to right field in the seventh inning that dropped in front of Rockies right fielder Brandon Barnes. The ball got behind Barnes as Howard cruised into second. The official scorer ruled it a single and an error on Barnes. Naturally, Phillies fans and many people in the Phillies clubhouse thought it should be a double. But not everybody in the clubhouse felt that way. Some thought it was a reasonable ruling. If it is changed, great for Howard. He will have the first Phillies cycle since David Bell in 2004, and the first Phillies cycle on the road since Johnny Callison in Pittsburgh in 1963. But if it isn’t, I don’t think it’s a great injustice. My first reaction when I watched the play? Single and error.
- John Mayberry Jr. replaced Howard at first base in the bottom of the eighth inning. It is the second time it has happened in eight days, and it’s a trend that will continue if Howard continues to struggle defensively. (Ryne Sandberg said as much after the game.) Howard has two errors this season, but he recently had a third error reversed. He also had a catchable ball get past him Saturday in a 3-1 loss. It was ruled a hit, but it probably should have been an error. The Phillies simply do not have much margin for error this season, so in close games with a lead the Phillies need to have their best defense on the field. That means more Mayberry at first base and perhaps more Freddy Galvis in the infield and Tony Gwynn Jr. in the outfield.
- Jonathan Papelbon picked up the save yesterday. He has struggled at Coors Field in the past. He spoke about that, but also being booed by Phillies fans. “To be honest, I enjoy it,” he said. “I kind of relish it. There is a sick side to me. … Guess I’m a sicko.”
- Phillies catchers are trying to get used to these new catching rules on plays at the plate.
Howard is hitting .294 (5-for-17) with one double, one home run, three RBIs and two walks with eight strikeouts. He put up those numbers despite facing three left-handed starting pitchers in the season’s first four games. (Howard had a .604 OPS against left-handers from 2011-13, which was 249th out of 269 qualifying hitters) Howard’s extra-base hits and every RBI have come against a lefty in big situations. His single to right field in the fourth inning Friday against Cubs left-hander Travis Wood advanced Marlon Byrd from first to third. Byrd scored the Phillies’ first run in a 7-2 victory on an infield single from Domonic Brown.
The only issue is Howard’s swings and misses at pitches outside the strike zone. Eight strikeouts in 17 at-bats are a lot.
(It also means Howard is 5-for-9 when he puts the ball in play.)
“I liked the aggressiveness in his swings,” Sandberg said. “I think there is more bat speed. That’s come a long way since the middle part of Spring Training. With that being said, when he gets a pitch in the zone with that swing, he can do some damage for us. He just needs to concentrate on making them come to him. There are some bats behind him. Take some walks if they give them. Ball in the zone, he can make something happen.”