Results tagged ‘ Ryan Howard ’

Howard Sits Against Lefty … He Hits

Ryan HowardRyan Howard has been a bit better against left-handed pitchers this season than the previous three, but not substantially better.

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.

Big Series In May? Big Series In May

Jayson WerthIt has felt a little like the All-Star break this week with just one game since Sunday, but the Phillies open a three-game series tonight against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.

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.”

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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.

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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.

Phillies Cruise in LA

Cliff LeeGood 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.

Howard’s Big Day

Ryan HowardIf 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.

Ryno Likes Big Piece’s Start

Ryan Howard, Cody AscheRyne Sandberg said he is encouraged with what he has seen this week from Ryan Howard.

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.”

Howard: Wherever My Name Is, There’s Where I’ll Hit

Ryan HowardRyan Howard had hit fourth every time he started a regular-season game for the Phillies since June 29, 2008, in Texas.

The streak ended at 665 games Tuesday at Globe Life Park.

Ryne Sandberg dropped Howard to fifth against Texas left-hander Martin Perez. Marlon Byrd hit fourth, splitting up the left-handed-hitting Chase Utley and Howard. Sandberg split the lefties with Byrd four times in Spring Training, a strong indication he would make the move in the regular season.

“He’s the manager,” Howard said. “I don’t make the lineup. Whatever the lineup is, that’s what the lineup is. As far as spots and stuff, wherever my name is, that’s where I’m supposed to hit.”

Sandberg made other platoon-type moves, playing John Mayberry Jr. in left field and Jayson Nix at third base instead of Domonic Brown and Cody Asche, respectively.

“I’ve talked with him about it,” Sandberg said about Howard. “I’ve talked to him a couple of times about that, the reasons for it. I noticed in the Spring Training games – I think he had four or five – two of those games he had two hits and he had one hit in the other. So he had some success there. The fifth spot is still an RBI spot with men on base. It’s a power spot. It’s still a good spot for him regardless.”

Howard deferred to the manager when asked about the change.

But does he have a preference?

“I don’t know,” he said.

There are reasons for the adjustment. The Phillies ranked 22nd in baseball last season against lefties with a .679 OPS, a number which must improve. Byrd had a .959 OPS against lefties last season, which ranked 13th out of 173 qualifying players in baseball. Meanwhile, Howard has a .602 OPS against lefties from 2011-14, which ranks 203 out of 213 qualifying players.

“Yeah, it’s noteworthy,” Howard said. “But at the same time … I’m not even going to go there. I really have nothing to say about it. I’m going to stay away from all of that. Just try to keep everything on the up and up. You say the wrong thing and then all of a sudden … people just misconstrue or whatever. That’s not what I want to have happen.”

Ryno Makes Changes to Lineup

lineupRyne Sandberg isn’t the type of manager to find a lineup and stick with it.

He made considerable changes to his lineup following Monday’s 14-10 victory over the Rangers at Globe Life Stadium.

He has Marlon Byrd hitting fourth between Chase Utley and Ryan Howard tonight against Rangers left-hander Martin Perez. That itself should not surprise people. Sandberg hit Byrd fourth several times in Spring Training. Byrd also had a .959 OPS against lefties last season, which ranked 13th out of 173 qualifying players in baseball. Meanwhile, Howard has a .602 OPS against lefties from 2011-14, which ranks 203 out of 213 qualifying players.

But the move is noteworthy because Howard had started 665 consecutive regular-season games in the cleanup spot. The last time he started a game and did not hit fourth? June 29, 2008, in Texas.

Pat Burrell hit fourth that afternoon.

Sandberg also has Cesar Hernandez playing second base with Utley the DH. John Mayberry Jr. is starting in left field, giving Domonic Brown a day off. That’s a platoon move. Brown’s career splits: .794 OPS vs. righties to .672 OPS vs. lefties. Mayberry’s career splits: .852 OPS vs. lefties to .668 OPS vs. righties.

Cody Asche, who had a big game yesterday, also takes a seat to Jayson Nix at third base. Nix has a career .727 OPS against lefties, compared to a .602 OPS against righties. Asche has a .629 OPS against lefties in his brief big-league career, compared to a .762 OPS agianst righties.

Interesting stuff …

Abreu Unlikely for Phillies

jose abreuThe Phillies need a few right-handed hitters with pop next season.

If you look at the projected Opening Day lineup you see many of the names you see today: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Cody Asche. That’s five left-handed hitters. You also have Jimmy Rollins, who is stronger from the left side of the plate. That has had a few people wondering if the Phillies could take a run at Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu.

But one source said yesterday it doesn’t seem to be a fit because Abreu is a hulking first baseman and is not a candidate to play the outfield.

In other words, Ryan Howard is in his way. He has three years and $85 million remaining on his contract.

But so is Darin Ruf and Maikel Franco. Ruf has pop and can play first base. Franco is the organization’s top hitting prospect. He came up as a third baseman, but the Phillies are trying him at first base to give them more options. If Franco becomes what the Phillies project him to be they already have a right-handed first baseman with pop. And at a whole lot less money.

Lannan Finished; Howard, Revere Make Progress

John LannanJohn Lannan’s season is finished as he requires surgery on his left knee.

Lannan is on the disabled list with tendinosis in the knee. Phillies physician Michael Ciccotti has recommend surgery, although Lannan first will receive a second opinion from Dodgers physical Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

“I think he ruptured the tendon,” Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said.

Lannan missed two months earlier this season with a strained quadriceps tendon in the knee. He said last week in Atlanta he wanted to get this recurring issue – the knee has bothered him in previous seasons – resolved.

Proefrock offered health updates on other injured Phillies:

  • Ryan Howard (left knee surgery): He saw a doctor Monday and will begin baseball activities Thursday.
  • Ben Revere (right ankle surgery): He is finally off crutches. “I don’t know whether Ryan or Ben will be back on the field here or in Florida, but the expectation is that they’ll be back on the field somewhere before the end of the season,” Proefrock said. “Whether it’s up here, whether they’re playing in Instructional League, I don’t know. … I think the main thing for both of them is to just get them to the point where there are no surprises in Spring Training next year.”
  • Mike Adams (right shoulder surgery): He continues to rehab and as Adams said recently he expects to be ready come Spring Training.
  • Mike Stutes (right biceps tendinitis): He is long tossing. “He’s making good progress,” Proefrock said. Proefrock said there is a chance Stutes could be back at some point, although it’s too early in the process to offer a timetable.
  • Jeremy Horst (sprained left elbow). He visited the doctor Tuesday. He could begin a throwing program soon.
  • Joe Savery (stiff left elbow). He will begin a rehab assignment later this week, most likely in Clearwater, Fla.

Amaro Talks Howard’s Surgery, Buying at Deadline, Etc.

Amaro Talks Werth, Getting Old and MoreRuben Amaro Jr. seemed to have a pretty easy decision to make a little more than a week ago.

Sell! Sell! Sell!

But the Phillies entered tonight’s game against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park winners of six of their last eight games and playing in a division that is arguably the weakest in baseball. So he seemed buoyed by the news Ryan Howard had successful surgery earlier in the day.

Howard had a debridement of the left medial meniscus. His timetable to return is six to eight weeks.

“After (Phillies physician Michael) Ciccotti went in there and went in with the scope, it was a little better picture then we thought,” Amaro said. “I think the player is feeling better about it, we’re feeling better about it. As news goes, this is as good as we can get.”

Amaro said it probably changes the season’s outlook “because we’ll have him back. There’s a reasonable chance we’ll have him back at some point. We still have a lot of question marks about where we’re going to go in the next couple of weeks. Right now, the team is making decisions a little harder on me which is fine and which is good. I’d rather be in this situation than thinking about 2014 right now.”

Amaro met with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, the Phillies coaching staff and others in the organization Tuesday, although he declined to call it an organizational meeting.

Regardless of what one calls it, the organization’s decision makers met to discuss the team leading to the July 31 Trade Deadline.

“There were no real revelations,” Amaro said. “We are playing better baseball and putting ourselves in a position to be buyers. But there was nothing new out of it.”

So they are leaning toward buying at this point?

“Yeah, I think we’ll try to do that,” he said.

(more…)

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