Results tagged ‘ Ryan Howard ’
It might be the most frustrated I’ve seen him when talking about his offense.
It started innocently enough with a few questions about Ryan Howard’s recent struggles and if they might be connected to his ailing left knee. Howard entered tonight’s game at Target Field with just one home run in his past 107 plate appearances. He is on pace to hit just 17 home runs with 77 RBIs this season and his .735 on-base-plus-slugging percentage ranks 100th out of 163 qualifying players in baseball.
That clearly is not the production the Phillies need from their cleanup hitter.
Asked if Manuel could hit somebody else fourth, Manuel said, “What the (heck) are you getting at? Who’s going to hit there? Let me ask you a question. Let me turn that around some. Write what you want to write.”
Well, how about Domonic Brown?
“I could put anybody in there, OK?” Manuel said. “I’ll do the managing. Whoever hits there, hits there.”
But it must be alarming for more than just Manuel that Howard’s production has been declining in recent seasons. The Phillies owe him $85 million following this year.
“Of course I’m concerned,” Manuel said. “I’m concerned with everybody. Hey, look, I’m concerned with every (single) player I’ve got. Yeah, I’m concerned. I want to win. We say that we want to win the division and we want to go to the World Series, right? I’m concerned about every one of our guys. I’m concerned about that (.247) batting average. I’m concerned about that. I’m not only concerned about one guy, I’m concerned about them all. How about that? I don’t know what I can do about it. I can go back to my room and sit there and look at the walls, and get up and come to the ballpark and look at the walls. I don’t know what I can do about it. The only thing I can do is to put them out there and let them play.”
Asked if he was upset about the offense or the questions concerning his offense, Manuel said, “A little of both, probably. We are inconsistent performance-wise. And when you’ve got that, it’s hard. We won five games in a row, then we lose four. That’s kind of how we’ve been playing.”
Get used to it.
Howard did not play yesterday in Washington because of the injured knee, which required a cortisone injection May 19. But he was in the lineup for tonight’s series opener against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
“Right now I’m just looking at it day to day,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a little more, sometimes it’s a little less. Obviously that’s going to be something. Right now I’m looking at it day to day, and trying to run with the good days.”
Howard said surgery is “obviously the worst-case scenario. I guess kind of if all else fails.”
But he said surgery has not been discussed at this point. But certainly a balky knee for a hulking first baseman that missed much of last season recovering from a ruptured left Achilles is cause for concern. Howard is in just the second year of a five-year, $125 million contract, which is the fifth-largest contract in baseball history based on average annual value ($25 million), and his on-base-plus-slugging percentage, a good indicator of a hitter’s overall productivity, has been in decline since 2009.
“His leg is going to always be bothering him,” Charlie Manuel said. “He has some arthritis. It comes and goes in his legs. He’s going to always be bothered by that. On the days when it really hurts him bad, maybe those are the guys where I have to communicate him. He has to tell me.”
Howard is hitting .254 with six home runs, 25 RBIs and a .719 OPS in 181 plate appearances. Howard is tied for 56th in RBIs and tied for 79th in home runs. In the past, he has been near the top in those categories.
Asked if he would drop Howard in the lineup, Manuel said, “He’s kind of different than all those other hitters. If he’s hitting the ball, he stands a good chance of knocking in runs. I don’t really think moving him in the lineup makes a whole lot of difference really. How he’s hitting on that day is how he’s hitting. Some days he has bad days and other days when he’s doing good … if anything, I don’t particularly like sending him a message. I don’t think it’s time in his career for me to send him a message.”
So the Phillies will have to hope Howard can manage the continual discomfort in his knee, which he acknowledges affects him at the plate.
“Obviously it plays a factor with it being my push-off leg, you try to get that extra torque,” he said. “But if I’m out there I’m trying to do what I have to do. I’m not making excuses.”
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.”
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:
- Jimmy Rollins, SS
- Chase Utley, 2B
- Michael Young, 3B
- Ryan Howard, 1B
- Delmon Young, RF
- Domonic Brown, LF
- Ben Revere, CF
- Erik Kratz, C
- Tyler Cloyd, P
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.
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.
There 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.
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 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.
The 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?