Over the last two years, injuries have derailed Ryan Howard. In 2012, he played just 71 games and this year, he played only 80. Those injuries have had a drastic effect on his ability to effectively hit a baseball.
But the decline of Ryan Howard has been going on for more than four years now, before the injuries began. It’s been widely discussed. You may have read something about it. So you would think that a player like Howard, who has never been labeled a “lazy” person and has a reputation of working hard, would be doing everything he can to give himself the best chance possible to succeed, especially as he gets older.
Which is why it was both interesting and frustrating to read, buried in the notes of Philadelphia Daily News’ beat writer Ryan Lawrence today, that Howard apparently has not taken advantage of video as a means of preparation.
Sandberg was also asked about Ryan Howard’s reluctance to embrace watching video regularly.
“From what I’ve gathered, I think that’s something he can be better prepared to face somebody to start a baseball game,” Sandberg said. “Whether it’s through the hitting coaches, having conversations, going over scouting reports, we have plenty of video . . . I think he can utilize that.” – quote per
Now, no amount of video can keep Ryan Howard healthy. And of course, some of his lack of production the last two years is due to that.
But dude, you gotta watch video.
Not only that, Sandberg also mentioned that Howard hasn’t been utilizing the advice of hitting coaches, either.
Howard’s decline has been a long time coming. That Howard has not been doing everything humanly possible to improve himself is a shame. It’s also a shame Charlie Manuel was apparently not able or willing to get Howard to do something that just about every Major Leaguer does.
It’s one thing to ignore watching video and ignoring hitting coaches if you’re batting .320, slugging 40 home runs, and managing a decent strikeout/walk ratio. It’s quite another to ignore it when your slugging percentage has dropped from .571 in 2009 to .465 this year.
Howard is a hitter with a ton of holes in his swing. He can’t hit lefties (.224/.300/.428 career) and this year struck out at a rate that was high even for him (95 in 317 PAs, or 30% of all plate appearance).
Or, to put this in language Ryan Howard would understand, you can’t make an effective 5-dollar, foot-long sub without the bun. But that’s what Howard has apparently been trying to do.
Sandberg this week, also noted that Howard needs to be in better shape for 2014…
“You talk about a player that has his injuries behind him and will be healthy next year,” Sandberg said. “Maybe, in some ways, he’ll be disappointed in this season. It all adds up to a year where he’ll be ready to go. It all starts right now with the games in Florida along with his workout program the whole winter.“Him being healthy will allow him to get into baseball shape. I look for him to come back and be a big guy right in the middle of the lineup. I know I’ll have a conversation with him about continuing to have a good work ethic and get the training he needs this winter.
“He has a knack of driving in runs. Cutting down on strikeouts would be a priority. All of that could come with a better in-shape player, a better frame of mind, and a healthy player.” – quote per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury
Certainly, injuries have kept Howard from being in as good a shape as he would have liked. But just as clearly, Sandberg thinks he can do more. And at this stage in his career, Howard has to understand that he has to work harder than he ever has just to be half as good as he used to be.
It’s disheartening to hear the new manager so openly state that his star player and power hitter isn’t doing everything he can to be successful. One hopes that a new voice will get Howard to utilize all the resources at his disposal to try and be better.