If opposing pitchers didn't already know how to pitch to Ryan Howard, they know now. Bobby Cox and his Braves had him guessing low-and-away all night in ESPN’s nationally televised game.
Good word for Ryan Howard these days: Scuttling. Good word for how I feel about Ryan Howard: Worried.
Howard is a .291 hitter after last night’s 2-for-4, so on the surface, there appears to be no concern. But last night’s broadcast showed how even overmatched pitchers, like those in the Braves bullpen, can work over the Phillies second-year slugger.
The low-and-away hole is the main reason Howard struggles against lefties. He doesn’t have as much time to react to the ball out of hand and sweeps quickly across the plate. Right-handers can have the same effect with a breaking pitch or sinking fastball away.
Howard’s swing isn’t especially quick, but when he connects, the bat head is travelling at such a high rate, the ball explodes off his bat.
From my vantage point, it looks like Howard should stand about six inches closer to the plate, and it might be time to move him higher in the lineup to offer more protection. Facing the smart pitching of Atlanta for two more, the rest of this series could be difficult if he's not seeing anything to hit.
Speaking of smart pitching, the Phillies could use some of that ....