Ryan Howard is batting .151 since the beginning on July. Here is how this last road trip went for him (and Chase Utley):
In Howard’s last 14 at-bats, he has zero hits. So, what does this mean for him? More playing time. According to Jim Salisbury, the benching of Howard and additional playing time of an also slumping (3 for 17) Darin Ruf was just to see what Ruf’s got. And now, since they’re both doing terrible, it’s time to start playing Howard again:
Since the benching, Howard has started eight of the last nine games and is just 4 for 36 over that span.
Sandberg seems to have changed his tune on Howard. He’s now echoing Amaro’s remarks that the Phillies need to do everything in their power to get Howard going. That translates to playing him.
“We’d like to get him going for us,” Sandberg said. “And he’s working on some things. He could be a big bat for us.”
Howard has 10 strikeouts in the last nine games. Despite that, Sandberg said he has seen improvement.
“He’s made progress with making some contact,” Sandberg said. “It’s a matter of finding some holes and elevating some balls, but he’s made more contact.”
Though it was a popular topic immediatlely post-deadline, a “Howard put on waivers” headline still sits unused, much like his bat. Why Sandberg thinks Howard, a man who still hits into one of the most extreme shifts in baseball, is going to all of a sudden become adept at hitting the ball into holes and lifting them over the heads of deep infielders is beyond me. Maybe it’s hope. Maybe it’s a general feeling of “well, this season is a bust anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.” But if the season ended today, Howard would finish with a batting average one-point below his career worst of .219, set during an injury shortened season in which he only played 71 games. He’s also on pace for a strikeout total in his usual 180s. It’s a continuation of the Amaro strategy: Put a name out there on the field, a name fans like and recognize, even if he isn’t producing in any manner.
Kyle: It’s as if Sandberg expects Howard to suddenly stop generating the most predictable ground ball spray chart in baseball:
But indeed Howard does have to start elevating the ball, because THOSE ARE THE ONES THAT DON’T GO TO THE EXACT SAME PLACE EVERY TIME.