Player Review/Preview: Ryan Howard
Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
2013 Key Statistics: .266 BA, 11 HR, 43 RBI, .784 OPS, 286 AB, 95 SO, 80 G
What Happened in 2013
Ryan Howard, his teammates, the Phillies’ front office, the Phillies’ coaching staff, and Phillies fans here, there and everywhere, are hoping. Hoping the black cloud that has followed the first baseman the past two seasons, has dissipated. Who could forget the cold, autumn night in October 2011. The big slugger writhing in pain with a ruptured Achilles tendon – the Phillies’ dreams of a World Series title right there with him.
Last season started with promise for Howard. Finally healthy. A year-and-a-half removed from the Achilles injury. But once the season began, something was amiss. Howard still wasn’t able to drive the ball with any authority. Through the team’s first 21 games, he had one home run and was slugging a paltry, un-Howard-like, .384. He was striking out more than usual and had trouble with runners in scoring position. At one point during the season he went 16 games without a home run. At another point, eight games without an RBI. Something was obviously wrong. The Phillies, however, kept insisting he was healthy. On July 5, Howard launched a titanic home run into the bullpen beyond centerfield. It would be his last hit and home run of 2013. The next day, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with what was described as soreness in his left knee. On July 8 he underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. A 6-8 week timetable was placed on how soon he could be back on a big league diamond. However, once the Phillies completely fell out of contention, the decision was made to shut him down for the remainder of the season.
What To Expect in 2014
Ryan Howard will be a man-on-a-mission in 2014. To prove that he is still an elite power hitter in today’s game. He also is keenly aware of the talk amongst fans and pundits throughout baseball about the $25 million annual salary. He is out to prove them all wrong.
If Howard is indeed healthy the entire season, there is no reason to believe he cannot play 140-150 games. If he does play in 150 games, there is no reason to believe that he cannot hit between 25-30 home runs and drive-in between 100-110 runs. He will never again be the feared, 50 home run slugger – that much is certain. Once the New York Yankees exposed his weaknesses during the 2009 World Series, the rest of Major League Baseball caught on. He is still, however, the key to the Phillies’ offense.
The Phillies are 93-69 in the last 162 games he has started. During the Phillies’ 2007-2011 playoff run, Howard never played fewer than 143 games in any season. Injuries have limited him to 71 and 80 games in 2012 and 2013 respectively. It is no coincidence that the Phillies did not have a winning record either season. For all of his flaws and short-comings, he is still the key offensive component.
Should Howard have an offensive season remotely similar to the 2010 and 2011 campaigns, the Phillies should once again, find themselves north of the .500 mark. However, should injuries or a severe drop off in production occur, then it will be another long season at Citizens Bank Park. A healthy and motivated Ryan Howard would be quite the asset to the Phillies’ fortunes next season.
It really is that simple.