Ryan Howard's performances have dropped since 2008 and fans in Philadelphia are starting to become worried. Howard however has some promising signs of why he can return to the MVP caliber level that he was at a few years ago.
Enough said. Howard obviously has the potential to hit 50 homeruns and drive in 130+ runs a year.
Yes, Howard does strike out a lot. But when in a clutch situation Howard delivers more times than not. Double off of Huston Street in the NLDS, Game winning homerun after he was in the hospital, you get the idea. Howard can usually step up to the plate when the game is on the line.
Yes this one may be a longshot but Howard does have a contract extension with the team. Was that holding him back in 2010? It's hard to say. Either way Howard should be able to be completely focused on producing on the field in 2011 rather than worrying if he will be with the team next year.
Howard has gained a reputation for not being a very good fielder. With 78 career errors I have a hard time arguing this fact. However Howard has been working a lot in the off season to improve his defense and he has some bright spots during the season. With his defense improving, there will be less pressure on him to perform well in the field and he can concentrate more on offense.
With Jayson Werth out of the lineup, the argument has been made that any manager would be out of their mind to pitch to Howard. It has been said that he will not see anything to hit like Barry Bonds did a few years ago. This may not be a bad thing for the Phillies. The projected 5,6,7,8 guys are Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Carlos Ruiz, and Ben Francisco respectively. These guys are often forgot about and they can surprise many people this year. All four of them with the exception of Raul Ibanez at times all make good contact in many plate appearances. If Howard gets on base this can set the table for the bottom of the lineup to produce runs. Howard's improved speed and base running also helps. Howard now has the potential to score from first on a ball in the gap. If Howard gets walked a lot this year it may not help his own stats but it should lead to more runs for the Phillies.
This is often forgot about. Howard had a severe ankle sprain towards the end of the year last year. Like Chase Utley with his hip, we may never know if it was fully healed when he returned to action and his performance dropped after that injury. It was clear that there were still some issues with his ankle when he did come back and this could have affected his approach at the plate. Coming into the 2011 season Howard should be completely healthy and ready to go. This could lead to a hot start for Howard this season.
Keep criticizing Howard all you want about his strikeouts but the numbers don't lie. Howard's strikeout numbers have dropped every year he has been in the league as a starter.
2007 - 37.6% of PA
2008 - 32.6% of PA
2009 - 30.2% of PA
2010 - 28.5% of PA
If this trend continues his batting average is bound to increase along with run production. When Howard puts the ball in play good things happen.
Along with striking out less Howard's contact has gone up every season so far.
2007 - 64.7%
2008 - 66.5%
2009 - 67.3%
2010 - 68.2%
Again when Howard puts the ball in play, good things are bound to happen.
The Phillies have the most dominating starting pitching rotation in the Major Leagues. Because of this there is going to be a lot less pressure on Howard along with the rest of the offense to perform. If the starters perform as well as they have in the past, the Phillies may only need 3,4,5 runs to win games. This takes the pressure off the lineup to score constantly. This should help Howard perform better with less pressure put directly on him.
2010 was not a good year for the Phillies starting lineup. Chase Utley tore a ligament in his thumb, Rollins had all kinds of issues, Polanco has elbow issues, and Howard of course had his sprained ankle. The lineup was erratic at times and the projected starting lineup did not play together that often. This year the lineup will be starting healthy and again this will put less pressure directly on Howard to perform well. Howard is just a piece of a very dangerous lineup and the home runs and RBI's will come. He just doesn't have to do it himself this year.