Ryan Howard Clogs Phillies' Batting Order, Starting Pitching in Trouble

Ari BluesteinCorrespondent IMay 20, 2008

Well Jimmy Rollins is back, Cole Hamels is coming off a complete game shutout, Chase Utley is having an All-Star season, and the bullpen has been rock solid.  So what seems to be the problem? 

Well a big problem is the #4 hitter clogging up the heart of the order.

His name is Ryan Howard. Although he is starting to come around, Howard is still hitting a dismal .187, including a colossal 65 strikeouts.

Howard is clearly struggling so why does manager Charlie Manuel continue to keep him at the #4 spot in the lineup? It gives teams an easy decision to pitch around Utley and just bring in a lefty to pitch sweeping sliders to strike out Howard yet again.

So what is the solution? 

I propose a lineup change:

Rollins SS
Victorino RF
Werth CF
Utley 2B
Burrell LF
Howard 1B
Feliz 3B
Ruiz/Coste C

How does that sound? 

Yes, I think Manuel should bump Ryan Howard all the way down to sixth. It gives a solid heart of the order, especially with Jayson Werth smashing the ball lately. 

Rollins and Victorino give a speedy 1-2 punch at the top and Utley and Burrell are certainly capable of holding up the 4 and 5 spots. This will potentially give Howard some better pitches to hit and take the pressure of hitting in the clean-up spot off his shoulders.

Another problem is starting pitching. 

Brett Myers is slowly getting back to form, but not fast enough. Hopefully he continues to come around after a better performance in last night’s 4-0 loss to the Washington Nationals. 

Veteran southpaw Jamie Moyer is doing what he can and has kept the Phils in most games that he has started. 

Young right-hander Kyle Kendrick started the year rough, but has since recovered and pitched a few consecutive quality starts.

Adam Eaton is again a problem this season. While he started off the season fairly better than last season, he continues to struggle to get through innings.

So what is the solution to this problem? 

Myers will hopefully come around. Hamels, Moyer, and Kendrick are fine, so Eaton must be replaced.

But with who? 

The Phillies have a starting pitcher ready to go and has proven that he can be a consistent, reliable pitcher. It is right-hander Chad Durbin, who is currently working in both short and long relief in the bullpen. Durbin is effective, he has good movement on his fastball, has a good breaking ball, and is consistent in his location. 

Inserting Chad Durbin into the starting rotation would strengthen the entire team. His absence in the pen won’t be missed a whole lot since Ryan Madson has begun to pitch much better and can fill in for the role that Durbin served so well.

Move Howard down to number six in the lineup and put Durbin in the starting rotation. 

Simple as that. 

Someone send the message to Charlie Manuel.