The Ryan Howard Platoon Has Begun


June 30, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (6) reacts after striking out in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It appears as though the platoon of Ryan Howard has begun. At least, to a degree.

On Friday night, Howard was given the night off against left-handed starter Chris Capuano. That’s nothing new. Howard has often been given the night off against a left-handed starter, especially if he had been struggling at the plate. He entered Friday night’s game 1 for his last 15 with 7 strikeouts.

Then he was benched again on Saturday night, this time against left starter Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Phillies said they wanted to give their $125 million slugger a couple nights off in a row to clear his head.

OK. Curious, but not particularly eye-catching.

However, the ultimate proof that Charlie Manuel may have decided to employ at least a moderate platoon with Howard came in the 8th inning of Saturday night’s game against the Dodgers.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Manuel brought Howard into the on-deck circle to pinch hit. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly countered by bringing in lefty reliever J.P. Howell to face him.

Manuel then pulled his clean-up hitter, the guy making $20 million this year and $25 million a year the next three years, back to the dugout and sent up the right-handed hitting Kevin Frandsen to face Howell.

To this, we all say, bravo, Charlie.

Even though Frandsen grounded out to end the threat, Manuel finally did what so many people have been calling for. He pulled Howard against a tough lefty in a pressure situation for a right-handed hitter.

Ryan Howard is simply too much of an automatic out, especially when he’s slumping, against left-handed pitchers to be allowed to hit.

Our long national crusade may now be over.

The Phillies had a much better chance for success with Frandsen against a left-hander than Howard. Ryan is a career .224 hitter against left-handers, with an OPS .728 against them. Last year, he hit .173/.604 against lefties, and this year has hit .173/.516 against them.

Frandsen, meanwhile, has a career .284/.772 hitter against lefties in 296 plate appearances. Last year, Frandsen hit .400/.980 against lefties and this year is hitting .296/.980 against them.

This is a move Manuel should make almost every time.

The only time to leave Howard in against a lefty is when he’s in one of his patented hot streaks. And until just a few days ago, Howard had been scorching hot. From June 9 to June 22 (12 games) Howard hit .432/1.273 with 3 HRs in 52 PAs. In the past, Howard would go on two-month hot streaks like that.

No more.

For the season, Howard is now at .268/.321/.468 with an OPS of .789, 10 HRs and 41 RBIs. Those are Rico Brogna numbers. He has also struck out 89 times in 299 PAs (that’s 30%).

Howard is battling knee problems and is still recovering from an Achilles injury that apparently is going to sap him of power for the rest of his career. The Phillies and Howard might both be better served by letting him just have surgery on his knee, rest up his Achilles, and come back strong in 2014, hopefully the way David Ortiz did this year.

Unless that happens, Ryan Howard is a $125 million platoon player.

But let’s face it, pretty much EVERY team has one of those, right?

The Phillies have begun the full-on platoon of Ryan Howard this weekend in Los Angeles.

It’s about time.