New situation! Ryan Howard has fallen behind in the count 0-2 or 1-2 with a right hander on the mound. The catcher sets up middle in. We all know what’s coming. Here comes the slider or sinker that has some bite on it and there goes Howard’s futile attempt to hit is as he swings over top of strike three.
If I had a dollar for every time one of the previous situations had occurred, I would have enough money to never work a day in my life. Ok, slight exaggeration but you get my point. It happens so often that, when Howard gets two strikes on him, you practically chalked it up as an out. In fact, in the top of the eighth last night, Ryan Howard stepped to the plate with a runner on second and two outs with his team trailing 5-3. After two quick strikes Howard fell to 0-2 in the count with Cardinals lefty Marc Rzepczynski on the mound. I turned to my roommate and said “I hope he makes me look like an idiot here but he is going to strike out on a slider away. He is going to swing right over top of it and look foolish.” My roommate asked me how I knew what they were going to throw and that he was even going to swing at it. I simply responded “Because they always throw it and he always swings at it.” Well, for anyone who missed the game, he did throw the slider on the very next pitch and Howard did go down swinging on it.
If you are consistently striking out on pitches away, maybe you should take a step closer to the plate. That seems obvious but Howard still hasn’t done it. Also, maybe he should try to read the spin on the ball. Everybody who is even remotely familiar with the Phillies knows what the pitcher is going to throw to Ryan Howard in a 0-2 count and he is still unable to make an adjustment on that pitch.
It is clear through the first few paragraphs here that I am frustrated with the product on the field. Howard has made tremendous strides as a defensive first baseman. He isn’t a liability and, in a lot of cases, saves the fielders over there. But at what cost? Since 2009, Howard’s batting average has steadily decreased and, in 2011, he posted the second worst batting average of his career. In the past two seasons combined, Howard has hit 64 homeruns. In 2006, alone, Howard hit 58 home runs. Ryan Howard had his lowest hit total in a season in which he played in 90 or more games. Yes, even last year when he only played in 143 games, he still recorded more hits than he did this year. The power numbers are there but have taken a significant nose dive since the beginning of 2010. In the playoffs, when we need him the most, he has disappeared the last two postseasons. Last year, he didn’t drive home a run. Not a single run in the NLDS or in the NLCS. This year he has driven in six runs but he hasn’t driven in any since his first at bat in Game 2. He is just 2-for-15 this postseason. In 162 post season at bats, Howard has struck out 64 times. That means 40% of the time he comes to the plate he strikes out; not records an out, strikes out!
Well what if they made the adjustments and you just can’t tell? Well if I can’t tell they made an adjustment then they clearly didn’t work. Milt Thompson was the scapegoat last year when the Phillies stopped hitting. Why is no one even mentioning Greg Gross this year? The Phillies need to hit and the fact that they score and subsequently, since game one, shutdown once they have scored is appalling. In Game 1, the Phillies kept pouring it on the Cardinals. They had the opportunity to do that in Game 2 and Game 4. The fact that they were unable to do that is one of the reasons they lost those two games and now return to Philadelphia to play a deciding Game 5.
I still think Howard is one of the better first basemen in the league and can certainly drive in runs; but, I am tired of watching him not make adjustments when the Phillies are paying him $25 million to make adjustments and hit the ball. I am positive I am not the only one who is tired of watching Howard go down on strikes because he hasn’t made the necessary adjustments at the plate.