Ryan Howard has always had problems with breaking pitches but he could hit the hell out of a fastball. This year is different, according to David Murphy:
Still, eight games are what we have at our disposal, and the fact is Howard has been abysmal against a pitch he used to destroy with regularity, a pitch whose obliteration used to make up for the flaws in his swing. Heading into last night’s game against the Mets, in which Darin Ruf started at first base against lefty Jon Niese, Howard was averaging a swing-and-miss every five fastballs, nearly double his career whiff rate against the hard stuff. And he has seen plenty of hard stuff. Nearly 65 percent of all of his pitches have been four-seamers or sinkers. Seven of his 10 strikeouts have come on those pitches.
Once again, it’s a small sample size, but Howard is only facing 3.25 pitches per at bat, down from a career average of 4.05. He’s swung at 50% of first pitches, up from 31%. He’s seen zero 3-0 counts, zero 3-1 counts, and zero 2-0 counts. So he’s missing fastballs, missing breaking pitches, and being incredibly impatient.