Results tagged ‘ Ryan Howard ’

Problems Down the Road? Howard Hopes Not

Ryan HowardRyan Howard has thought about the long-term prognosis about his balky left knee.

He tried his hand at gallows humor to discuss those concerns this afternoon at Marlins Park.

“I guess if I blow up, then I’d be worried about that then,” he said.

Howard received a cortisone injection in his knee Sunday in Philadelphia. A MRI exam yesterday revealed inflammation and changes in the meniscus, which essentially means he has tears in the cartilage. That would be a concern for anybody, but considering Howard is in just the second season of a five-year, $125 million contract and $85 million of that is owed following this season, Howard’s left leg problems carry a little more weight.

He said he does not know if the knee issue could require surgery following the season.

“I would guess that would obviously be worst-case scenario,” he said. “But I mean, right now I think it’s too early to tell.”

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Howard Is Back

Ryan HowardThat didn’t take long.

Ryan Howard received a cortisone injection into his left knee Sunday in Philadelphia, but he is back in the lineup tonight against the Marlins in Miami. A MRI exam Monday revealed inflammation and changes in his meniscus. The Phillies said yesterday they were hopeful Howard would respond positively to the shot, although they could not be certain it would.

The Phillies face Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez tonight. He has thrown 13 scoreless innings in two starts against the Phillies this season. Can the Phillies finally find a way to score against him tonight? If not, the sad sack Marlins will win just their second series of the season.

Here is tonight’s lineup:

  1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
  2. Chase Utley, 2B
  3. Michael Young, 3B
  4. Ryan Howard, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, RF
  6. Domonic Brown, LF
  7. Ben Revere, CF
  8. Erik Kratz, C
  9. Tyler Cloyd, P

Howard’s Achilles and Knee Issues Related?

Ryan HowardRyan Howard missed much of last season following surgery to repair a ruptured left Achilles.

He then had a cortisone injection in his left knee yesterday in Philadelphia because of inflammation and changes in his meniscus. He is unavailable to play tonight against the Marlins, but the Phillies said he is day-to-day. They are hopeful he can avoid a trip to the disabled list. They also hope this is not the beginning of a trend of leg injuries for the $125 million first baseman, who has $85 million remaining on his contract following this season.

“Injuries are a part of the game,” assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said. “That comes with the territory when you sign these guys. We have a bunch of pitchers on long-term contracts, too. It’s just a risk you take. You never know what’s going to happen. Chase (Utley) signed a seven-year deal and we lost out.”

Howard had an MRI exam this morning in Philadelphia before joining the Phillies in Miami. Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said Howard had symptoms in his knee for a couple weeks, but it was manageable. Recently, however, Howard told Sheridan the knee bothered him more.

Could the Achilles injury he suffered in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series be related to the knee injury? It is common for pitchers to develop elbow issues because of shoulder and back issues. As a pitcher’s mechanics get out of whack, it causes stress on other parts of the body.

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It’s Ohio Week In Philly

Chase UtleyHola, amigos.

It’s been a while, I know. I took a few days away from the blog to recharge the batteries. But it’s back to baseball tonight at Citizens Bank Park.

This week is a good test for the Phillies. They went 4-3 in San Francisco and Arizona and return home to play five games against the Indians and Reds. The Indians outscored the Phillies in two games two weeks ago in Cleveland, 20-2. The Reds swept the Phillies in three games in April by a combined score 16-4. If my math is correct, that’s zero wins, five losses, six runs for and 36 runs against. So I guess we’ll see if that 4-3 road trip meant anything.

A few random stats to digest:

  • From Elias Sports Bureau: Ryan Howard drove in the game-winning runs in the 10th inning Sunday. It’s the 13th time Howard has had extra-inning go-ahead RBIs. The only active players with more extra-inning, lead-assuming RBIs are Raul Ibanez (16) and Placido Polanco (15). Adam Jones and Albert Pujols also have 13.
  • I took a look in yesterday’s Inbox at the Phillies’ All-Star candidates. Interestingly, I found Chase Utley‘s .858 OPS best among NL second basemen. He’s third in baseball behind only Ian Kinsler (.911) and Robinson Cano (.895). Among NL second basemen, Utley is first in slugging percentage (.514); tied for first in triples (two) and home runs (seven); second in hits (41) and RBIs (24); third in batting (.289) and on-base percentage (.344); tied four fourth in runs (21) and sixth in doubles (seven). There is no question Utley has been the team’s bright spot offensively on a team that has struggled to score runs. (The Phillies’ three losses in San Francisco and Arizona were by a combined three runs.) Where would this team be if Utley’s knees were keeping him from the lineup?
  • The Phillies are 12th in the league with a 4.11 ERA. Remove Roy Halladay and they have a 3.60 ERA, which would rank sixth. I’ve said this for a while, but I consider the complaints about the Phillies’ pitching overblown. Halladay isn’t the same and he might never be, despite his optimism. No matter who takes that fifth spot while Halladay is out (right now it’s a four-man rotation), it’ll be an improvement over his 8.65 ERA. And while the ERAs of Jeremy Horst (5.51 ERA), Chad Durbin (6.17 ERA) and Raul Valdes (7.00 ERA) are scary, we’re not really pinning this team’s record on three pitchers in the front of the bullpen are we? Typically those guys are pitching when the Phillies are trailing or when the starter has gone less than six innings (again, which means things probably haven’t been going well). They aren’t pitching in too many high-leverage situations. Clearly, they need to pitch better, but this team’s problems fall mostly on the offense, which is 13th in the league averaging 3.54 runs per game. At some point this offense is going to have to get its act together or we’ll be looking at a fire sale in July.

Brown, Howard Heating Up

Ryan Howard Domonic BrownThere has been plenty of focus in the past 24 hours on the Phillies’ pitching staff (and pitching coach), but I maintain the biggest reason for this team’s losing is its struggling offense. They are averaging 3.7 runs per game, which is 11th in the National League and 23rd in baseball.

But a couple key bats have started to show a pulse, which could get the offense moving. Domonic Brown and Ryan Howard have homered in consecutive games. Brown is hitting .382 (13-for-34) with two doubles, three home runs and eight RBIs in his last nine games. Howard has four homers and 12 RBIs in his last nine. He also is hitting .348 (16-for-46) with five doubles, four home runs, 13 RBIs and a 1.090 OPS in his last 13. It goes without saying the offense stands a much better chance if these guys start producing on a consistent basis.

(Ah, for the days when fans complained the Phillies relied too much on home runs. They sure seem to like them now.)

The offense needs to continue to build this weekend against the Marlins. Yes, the Marlins are terrible, but the Phillies need some positive vibes before they fly to San Francisco on Sunday evening to open a seven-game road trip in San Francisco and Arizona. The Giants are 17-12, and tied for first in the National League West. The Diamondbacks are 15-14. Things won’t be easy out there. If the Phillies move to .500 with a sweep of the Marlins or split the remaining two games to head West 15-17, it would be another bad sign if they limped back from the trip 2-5 or worse. At some point this team, if it’s as good as it thinks it is, needs to go on a run. And that won’t happen if they aren’t hitting.

Long Overdue: Utley and Howard Split Up in Lineup

Rob McElhenney Talks Utley, Howard and PhilliesCharlie Manuel made a noticeable change to his lineup today at Citizens Bank Park.

He finally split up Chase Utley and Ryan Howard with right-handed-hitting Michael Young.

I think it was long overdue.

Theoretically, it should make life more difficult for left-handed pitchers. Utley entered the game against the Pirates hitting .125 (2-for-16) with one triple, one RBI, two walks and five strikeouts against lefties this season. Howard entered the night hitting .111 (2-for-18) with two doubles, one RBI, one walk and 10 strikeouts against them.

But their struggles against lefties are not coming from a small sample size. Utley has hit .197 with a .634 OPS against lefties from 2011-13. Howard has hit .199 with a .608 OPS against lefties in that span.

They essentially have been automatic outs against lefties for two-plus seasons. Young has not been much better this year, hitting .200 (3-for-15) against lefties, although he has a much more than respectable .832 OPS against them from 2011-13. But simply having a right-handed hitter between Utley and Howard will make opposing managers think a little more late in games. Before Wednesday, managers could just run a left-handed reliever to the mound to face Utley and Howard in succession. Now the lefty will have to face a right-handed hitter, or the manager has to remove him from the game, if he does not want him facing Young.

“I can see how that would be beneficial,” Utley said.

It also makes perfect sense to keep this look against right-handed starting pitchers, too, but Manuel was noncommittal.

“I could,” he said. “It depends how we match up.”

He absolutely should use this look against right-handers, too. By having Utley and Howard hit back-to-back against a right-handed starter the Phillies essentially are banking on getting to the starter in the first five or six innings. If they don’t, which often has been the case this season, things get easy again for the opposing manager late in the game.

Howard’s Lefty Problems

Howard, Utley StrugglingEverybody knows Ryan Howard has struggled terribly against left-handers, especially opposing managers, who happily run a steady stream of them at him late in the game.

Howard has a mere .604 OPS against lefties from 2011-13, including a 1-for-15 effort with one double, one walk and eight strikeouts this season. His .604 OPS against lefties ranks 170th out of 178 qualifying players in baseball in that span. (Coincidentally, Jimmy Rollins‘ .605 OPS ranks 169th.) Howard also has nine home runs, 18 walks and 108 strikeouts in 283 plate appearances against lefties in that stretch.

So it made perfect sense to rest Howard against Cardinals left-hander Jamie Garcia tonight at Citizens Bank Park, although Charlie Manuel said Howard did not play because he has tightness in his right groin. Howard is day to day.

But Manuel also acknowledged Howard’s struggles against lefties, when he said, “This is a good time, gives me a chance to sit him down. He can pinch hit.”

Kevin Frandsen got the start at first base. It is his first start of the season, despite the fact he hit .338 with 10 doubles, three triples, two home runs and 14 RBIs last season, including a .400 (26-for-65) effort against left-handers. Maybe Frandsen can find playing time at first base when the Phillies face lefties.

It would make sense to rest Howard more against lefties. But if I were a betting man, I’d say Howard continues to get the majority of starts against them. He is making $20 million this season and $25 million in 2014, 2015 and 2016 with a $23 million club option or a $10 million buyout for 2017. The Phillies are thinking long game here, and that means keeping Howard an everyday player. But I think a happy medium can be reached. Manuel doesn’t have to play him every game against lefties, but he also doesn’t have to go into a straight platoon. It would be a good way to get an extra right-handed bat in the lineup, which the Phillies could use. They are hitting just .131 against left-handers this season.

Down Doc, Up Brown

Domonic BrownThe Phillies returned home last night, and most things in camp went well except for Roy Halladay. I don’t include Darin Ruf here because I think people in the organization hoped Ruf would fare well in the outfield, although they did not necessarily expect it. And starting him in Triple-A isn’t the worst thing in the world, nor is it a crushing blow to the team’s chances. But Halladay’s importance is obvious, and the fact he had so many issues and struggles leaves one enormous question mark on the mound.

I said a couple weeks ago I thought the Phillies would jump at the opportunity if somebody told them Halladay would finish 14-10 with a 3.80 ERA in 30-32 starts this season.

I believe that even more today.

I’ve never seen a premiere pitcher struggle like this in the spring. I mean, I’ve certainly seen great pitchers struggle in spring training before, but it never looked like this. He labored, he struggled to command his pitches, he lacked velocity, he didn’t have a feel for his cutter, which has been a money pitch for him. But if you’re an optimist, then you believe each of Halladay’s explanations for his struggles following his last five starts. He mentioned “dead arm” March 6, when his velocity dipped for the first time. He said he felt lethargic March 12, when the Tigers battered him in 2 2/3 innings. An extra bullpen session in between starts, plus the rigors of a more intense workout program, sapped his energy, he said. He promised he would pull back before his next start and there would be improvements. But he suffered from a stomach virus March 17, and lasted just one inning against the Orioles. Then last Saturday in a minor league game against Toronto’s Triple-A hitters, Halladay allowed 11 of 18 base runners to reach base. He blamed a “mushy mound” for his lack of velocity and said throwing more hard stuff against minor league hitters hurt him. Then yesterday he allowed two runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays with Toronto picking up three of those outs on the bases. He said he found it difficult to grip the baseball because the balls were not rubbed up with mud properly before the game. The Phillies also said he is still trying to recover his strength following his sickness.

Again, each of these explanations are completely plausible, but coming off last season’s struggles it would unwise to take them at face value.

If the over/under on Halladay’s ERA this season is 4.19 (average ERA for starters last year) I’d have to take the over.

Conversely, Domonic Brown has been Halladay’s polar opposite. He has looked incredible this spring. I wrote earlier how Brown’ spring training numbers could indicate a successful 2013. John Dewan said players that show a 200-point increase in their spring training slugging percentage from their career slugging percentage have performed significantly above their career marks in the upcoming season 60 percent of the time. Brown finished the spring with a .675 slugging percentage compared to a .388 career slugging percentage. That is a .287 difference, which puts him in that group. Like I wrote in my story, eight of the 12 Phillies previously on Dewan’s list ended up surpassing their career slugging percentages during the regular season. Of the four players that fell short, two were not everyday players (Eric Bruntlett in 2009 and Pete Orr in ’11) and one got injured midway through the season (Jim Thome in ’05). Maybe Brown will make Dewan 9 for 13.

If the over/under on Brown’s slugging percentage is .428 (average slugging percentage for outfielders last season), I’m taking the over.

Ryan Howard also had a great spring, compiling a .663 slugging percentage, but his career slugging percentage is .551 so he fell .088 short of Dewan’s mark. But Howard’s slugging percentage the previous two seasons is just .468, so maybe he is in line for a bounce back season, too.

Opening Day is three days away.

Predictions for Halladay, Brown and Howard?

Do Big Spring Training Numbers Matter?

Domonic BrownDomonic Brown and Ryan Howard have been bashing baseballs since the Phillies opened their Grapefruit League schedule last month.

That’s great, but does it really mean anything?

“It’s good for someone who we think needs to show us something,” Charlie Manuel said following today’s 10-6 loss to the Twins at Bright House Field. “That’s definitely good. But at the same time, when the season starts we’re talking about two different seasons. But it is very encouraging when you see somebody swinging the bat like Brown. I’ve seen some real big improvement out of him.”

But keep an eye on Howard, Brown and other Phillies hitters through the end of spring.

Particularly, pay attention to their slugging percentages.

Baseball statistician and author John Dewan found that players who beat their career slugging percentage by more than 200 points in Spring Training have more than a 60 percent chance at beating their career slugging percentage during the regular season (minimum 200 regular season at-bats and 40 Spring Training at-bats).

It is not a fail-proof predictor obviously, but it is something interesting to watch before the Phillies open the regular season April 1 in Atlanta. Consider for a moment that since Dewan started writing about his Spring Training predictor in 2005, eight of the 12 Phillies on his list ended up surpassing their career slugging percentages during the regular season. And of the four players that fell short, two were not everyday players (Eric Bruntlett in 2009 and Pete Orr in 2011) and one got injured midway through the season (Jim Thome in 2005).

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Play Ball

2013 spring training 002The Phillies open their Grapefruit League schedule tomorrow against Houston at Bright House Field, and Chase Utley will be in the lineup.

Utley, who played in today’s intrasquad game, will play in his first Spring Training game since 2010. He missed the previous two because of bad knees. Ryan Howard, who missed last spring following left Achilles surgery, also will be in the lineup.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel’s lineup looks like this:

  1. Ben Revere, CF
  2. Michael Young, 3B
  3. Chase Utley, 2B
  4. Ryan Howard, 1B
  5. Darin Ruf, LF
  6. Domonic Brown, RF
  7. Laynce Nix, DH
  8. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
  9. Erik Kratz, C.
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