After last night’s horrifying loss to the Mets, Ruben Amaro announced it was likely Ryan Howard would return tonight.
Who versus? Who are we doing it versus?
Will Howard’s return be enough to save the Phillies’ season? Probably not. But The Big Piece did play well during his rehab assignment. He went 2-for-3 last night with Triple-A Lehigh Valley and 10-for-20 with a home run and 10 RBIs in seven games with Single-A Lakewood.
While that’s hardly an adequate sample size, clearly Howard can swing the bat and even at, say, 80% is undoubtedly better than the nonsense that has taken his place this season. His return is probably too little, too late, however. The Phillies are currently 37-47– 13 games out in the NL East. What’s worse, they are 8.5 games back of the Wild Card with six teams ahead of them for the newly-added second Wild Card spot.
The Phillies finished the first half of play 10 games under .500 (where they still stand after 84 games). If they were able to reverse that performance in the second half, playing 10 games over .500, they would, obviously, finish 82-82 81-81. That still wouldn’t be good enough to make the playoffs. Based on the past few seasons, the Phils would need a minimum of 88 wins to have a shot at the second Wild Card spot, meaning they would need to go 52-28 in the second half, or, 51-27 the rest of the way.
For me, the only way that’s even a remote possibility is if Roy Halladay returns soon and is able to be the pitcher we expect him to be. And, for the love of God (this is more a plea than a statement), if the Phils could assemble the top of their rotation with some combination of Halladay, Lee and Hamels. They are three of the best pitchers in the league, and I never understood why Charlie started the year off with them out of order, simply so Hamels could start the home opener. Obviously, the rotation has nothing to do with the outcome of individual games, but there’s something about a team coming into town knowing they have to face those three guys on consecutive days. It’s a cumulative, mental, intangible edge – whatever you want to call it – that works in the Phillies’ favor. SABR nerds may scoff at that notion, but normal human beings (like yourself) can probably understand the draining effect it has on opposing teams. And right now, the Phillies need every advantage they can get.
Having Ryan Howard as their cleanup hitter is a big one. But are they rushing him back?
The All-Star break begins in three days. It’s puzzling that the Phils would bring Howard back now instead of allowing him an extra five days of rest and relaxed rehab starts. Maybe Amaro wants to see how much The Big Piece can contribute, so he can get a better feel for the Phillies’ chances, but given the way the team has mis-managed the shit out of injuries over the past few seasons, you would think they’d err on the side of caution and wait until after the break to bring Howard back.
Anyway, they’re not, and it sounds like Howard will be in the lineup tonight. We’ll see if it matters.