Ryan Howard's highly anticipated return following his devastating Achilles tear was the talk across Philadelphia for quite sometime, but once Howard took to the field, it was clear that he was not same player he once was. The injury has definitely left a hitch in Ryan's step and the Phillies are left with a player they owe a lot of money to in the coming years. $20 million in 2013 and $25 million from 2014-2016 and a 2017 $23 million club option with a $10 million buyout.
Is Ryan Howard really going to be the difference maker in whether or not the Phillies will make the playoffs in 2012? Probably not. The Phillies should protect their investment, let him sit the remainder of the season and get a head start on rehab for 2013.
Since Howard's return, he has struggled immensely to make solid, consistent contact. Through 227 at-bats, he is batting a career low .225 with 85 strikeouts. He's even worse against lefties, hitting just .163. His WAR (wins above replacement), is a -1.0, which in laymen's sabermetric terms means he is doing more harm than good for the Phillies in 2012.
Also, Ryan has appeared limited in his ability to play first base. His range and mobility are both suffering from the injury and it is costing the Phillies outs.
Is there any really upside to letting him play at 75%?
Doesn't seem like it, but if the Phillies somehow pull off a miracle and make the playoffs, by all means, they should let him play. That doesn't mean he should be playing as much as he has been. Days off are critical to helping muscles heal and by his performance he could use the rest.
The Phillies also brought up Darin Ruf who still hasn't had a chance to start one game. So much for seeing what you have for next year. They could also have the right-handed hitting Ty Wigginton or John Mayberry spell Ryan at first base against lefties if they are not comfortable with Ruf. Both hit lefties very well, a lot better than Ryan's .163 mark this season.
Don't get me wrong, this year is important and there still is a fraction of a chance the Phillies make the playoffs. The fact is that the Phillies owe Ryan Howard a ton of money. Next year, the year after that, and the year after that are much more important than a pipe dream playoff push.
Let's hear what everyone else thinks.