Should Ryan Howard keep his job when Jim Thome comes off the DL? Not if Thome is 100 percent healthy.
On the surface, if any fan would be ready to anoint Ryan Howard the full-time job at first, it would be me. Just ask my wife.
Beerleaguer base camp - a smallish computer desk that once belonged to my in-laws – has but one decoration: a Ryan Howard bobble head perched next to my Bill James Handbook, Baseball Prospectus annual and back issues of Baseball America. And somewhere buried under the clutter are three Ryan Howard autographs in various forms, in addition to a fading Reading Eagle poster we ran last season.
Watching Howard tear through town was a blast, and seeing him deliver big hits for the Phillies during the recent homestand is a credit to the emerging star. But a 100 percent healthy Thome would be even better, especially in situations like the upcoming series against Houston.
It’s one thing for Howard to produce in the comfort of Citizen’s Bank Park against the Tim Stauffers of the world, but it’s an entirely different game to keep that momentum going on the road against good teams. In 34 at bats this season away from the Bank, Howard is hitting just .118, .162 OBP, .118 SLG, with no homers. For a list of pitchers he’s faced to achieve his .263 BA, 6 homers overall, click here.
I can confidently write that the young slugger is about to face the toughest pitching of his life, starting with left-hander Andy Pettitte tonight, followed by Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens.
In a perfect world, the Phillies would rather have Thome this series. He’s 9-16 (.316 BA, .830 OPS) lifetime against Pettitte, and against Clemens, try 21-57 with 8 homers. (He's 1-6 against Oswalt).
Thome’s return in contingent on being 100 percent healthy. The biggest key here is honesty. If Thome isn’t 100 percent, he needs to sit, and Charlie Manuel must make him sit. It’s not like Tomas Perez is the only option.
Stranger things have happened, and I wouldn't be completely bowled over if Howard stays productive this series, but in a perfect world, I'd rather have Thome in this situation.
Pratt, Perez + / -
In games when Todd Pratt and Tomas Perez had three or more plate appearances: Todd Pratt: 17 wins, 9 losses. Tomas Perez: 13 wins, 9 losses