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Monday, August 18, 2008

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Howard needs to commit to taking his walks. Impatience, in my eyes, is what is holding him back.

It was indeed re-assuring to see the offesne explode for 6 hits and 2 runs last night. Howard especially looked "in the zone".

If Pat Burrell is responsible for only 3 wins per year as compared to an average replacement player, 2 of those wins came this weekend.

Just your basic .410 difference in OPS splits between Howard and Richie Sexson against left-handed pitching.

We've all seen Howard walking away shaking his head after a called third strike, right? And if you're like me,you probably thought that maybe the pitch was outside or low, right? Last night he struck out and gave his head shake, and I once again gave the benefit of the doubt, but Questrac(or whatever it's called) showed it to be a good call. I know, I know, the machine can be wrong, the ump can be wrong etc, etc. But could it be that they are strikes? Over and over and over again.

This team has become mind-numbingly boring to watch.

Who says this offense is "inconsistant"? Its become very consistant. It stinks on a regular basis now. Just swing for the fences, and hope for a HR. That's the offense. At least you know going in, that if your starter doesn't have a quality start, you probably aren't going to win. Makes it easier to watch that way.

To better news...

Golson went 4 for 5, with 2 dingers and 5 RBI's yesterday. Taylor got a couple more hits, and now is over .330 at Clearwater. His numbers for the year, at both levels of A ball are staggering. What is he still doing at Clearwater?

As we approach September 1, and all of the Phillie farm teams being light years out of first place, we will see callups in a couple of weeks. In my mind, I can see 6 or 7 guys coming up to the big club in September:

Jaramillo (this would free up Ruiz to pinch-hit, if Coste is catching.....sarcasm)

Golson (he adds pinch-running ability if anyone ever got on base)

Donald (why not give him a chance in the bigs after the Olympics?? He can actually hit too).

Cervenek (has some utility value and has some recent big league time)

And, 3 pitchers....

Happ (obviously)

Carrasco (get him a taste of the big leagues in the last month as a long reliever)

Castro (has had a strange year, but has pitched well lately and some experience; can pitch multiple innings in a blowout).


I could also see Patty G and the boys adding some veteran pinch-hitter-type (ala Randall Simon, Russell Branyan or Petey LeForest) off the scrap-heap to put on the bench in September.

What's there to argue? Kendrick is not a good pitcher, he's very average at best. Throw all the fancy Bill James stats you want into the mix. His stuff is pedestrian, so his location has to be impeccable. That means keep your fingers crossed for six innings. Move him to the bullpen, he's best suited for a max of one or two innings of work.

This team needs good hitters. By good hitter I mean a .300 hitter not a .260 hitter who hits 30 homeruns.

Despite hitting under .250, Howard is going to to hit 40 Hrs and drive in 120 runs which will get him 15 million dollars. Is it so tough to conclude that he is completely happy with that.

Milt Thompson HAS to go. These guys don't know how to approach an at bat.

"could it be that they are strikes? Over and over and over again?"

squatter: No way. That would mean that Howard has struck out 162 times in 124 games. That isn't possible.

It's our fault, not Milt's. We boo him after these futile episodes and hurt his wittle feelings

Hey, if Burrell can completely forget what a strike looks like for a prolonged period of time, so can Howard.

PHinBK, I'm happy with the 250-40-120 numbers if he keeps his OBP up over 390 like he has the last 2 years. This year he's at .320 and it's killing them.

Offense is down all over the place. Eight teams with sub-.400 SLG and seven with sub-.320 OBP. Highest team AVG in 2007 was .290 (Yankees) Highest this sesason: .281 (Cubs). That's a big difference.

Nationals: .361 SLG in 2008. Unbelievably bad. Geoff Jenkins has a .387 SLG. Can you imagine?

The Mets won't stop winning.

roxin3, amazing what a couple series vs the Nationals and Pirates can do to a teams confidence.

I applaud you Weitzel for making the Howard platoon statement. Yes, he's a game changing player, but only in a positive way against righties. He changes the game for the worse when facing a lefty.

This is a nice stretch for the Mets. They're playing well against poor competition. That's what you're supposed to do. I hope the Phillies stay with them through the end of the month.

The Phils are going to be in the hunt for the NL East until the end of September. I think they'll win the NL East. This offense is capable of better and will do better, and when they do watch out!

After averaging 2.3 runs per game for the series, they were really lucky to take two out of three. Howard and Utley have shown that they won't turn it around this year, and Milt Thompson has shown that he has no ability to actually coach anyone about hitting.

Despite the series win, this team is still sinking fast.

carson: I think it's time to lay off the Prozac and go back to being depressive and calling players "ass clowns." Your point about Rollins' comments has been made.

Negativity be gone! Creating a harsh environment for the Phils has proven not to help. It's time to change things and make a positive ball park atmosphere. If I can switch my pessimistic outlook anyone can.

Campaign Cheer

Morty - nail on the head....Remember back in '06 when Howard was, dare I say, Bonds-esque in his approach at the plate. If he got something to hit, he put a good swing on the ball and let it fly. If the pitcher gave him nothing, he stood there and took his walk.
I have absolutely no idea what happened to that guy but his disappearance is the reason Howard's numbers - especially against lefties - have dropped off significantly since his MVP year.

It's no longer about Rollins comments. I don't want him to be the villain. He's a fine shortstop, and I'm happy he's a Phillie. I will continue to support him as long as he plays for my favorite team. I'm not being sarcastic anymore, I want to see what effect being making Citizens Bank Park a place of positivity could have.

Well, it's not rocket science.

Charlie should know that, but Milt and Charlie are confused.

They shouldn't be. It's really not hard to figure out.

The 2nd best BA of the regular starters is owned by one Shane Victorino, at .282, right behind Utley's electric .284.

Would you have predicted that?
______________________________________________________

Ryan Howard has now been exposed. Everyone in MLB knows how to get him out....bring in a LOOGY and throw offspeed and breaking stuff.

Actually, he reminds me of Pat Burrell a couple of years ago. If you remember, Pat lead the league in looking at third strikes, because seemingly, he had made the decision to lay off the breaking balls low and off the plate, which he had futily flailed at before then.

Pat got rung up a lot, but now pitchers know he won't wave at bad pitches, and he gets the benefit of a lot of close calls. It's one of the reasons he leads the league in walks. Also, he sees better pitches to hit.

Howard continues to swing at crap that's not even on the plate. He doesn't seem to be able to tell the difference between a strike or ball when it's a breaking pitch away. Maybe he should take the Burrell approach. Keep the bat on his shoulder until the pitcher throws strikes.

Yeah, those front-running Phillies' fans will boo him, but so what. It's happening now.

Is he man enough to take it?

For that matter, is JRoll?

I'm starting to think that Howard and rollins are "front runners" as players.

That is, they can't deal with adversity.


"Hey Ryan, I love watching you hit, but you're not a $200MM player. Maybe in 2006, but not now.

And in the interest of full disclosure, I advocated on this board (I'm sure someone else would remind me) signing you to a long-term, big money deal.

Not now.

There is simply no indication that you can make the adjustments needed.

And in case you think I'm going to leave your teammate "Saint" Utley out of the discussion, you're wrong.

The last 28 days he's hitting .234. An MVP candidate? I don't think so.

He looks just as lost against LH pitching. He's not even hitting to his career averages.

For that matter none of you are. (Well, Jimmy is, maybe, if you throw out 2007 as an abberration.)

Now, my friend clout would argue that that may be a positive, as he could see you all reverting to your norms by the end of the season.

As a front runner I would love that. So would the rest of Phils' fans.

So, we'll see. Right now you guys are in a funk.

The next 23 games against good teams will tell the tale. You'll either be in contention or you'll be blown out.

Good luck!!!!!

We front runners are rooting for you because we actually want to cheer for you, not boo you.

Remember September 30, 2007? I do - I was at the game. I'm hoping for a repeat."

[rant over]

One thing that hasn't been mentioned in all this doomsday conversation of the offense is that it might turn around, and suddenly.

I'm definitely not going to predict that something like this "will" happen, but it is possible. Look at the Rockies last season. Their offense was decent for most of the season, but they got extremely hot at the end of the season. The Phillies have a lot of similar players in their lineup (High K/power hitters). I would not be surprised at all if they went on a huge tear. Right now would be the time to do it, or at least soon. The pitching, except Kyle Kendrick has been excellent of late. If they could just get moderately hot in the next few weeks, they could win a bunch of games over the next few weeks.

I absolutely want to see Carrasco pitch in MLB soon. He could be the final piece of the bullpen. If the starting point for that audition for the bullpen comes as the number 5 starter, so be it.

How about a proactive "Charlie, Charlie"
chant to make him come out of the dugout and tip his cap at random times during the game. Sounds St. Louis like.

I'm liking the buzz this movement is getting, Zolecki's in on it, WIP was talking about it this morning. Hopefully all this positivity brings the offense to life.

Ya I don't know what's going on with Howard and lefties but his lefty splits keep dropping:

.279 - 2006
.220 - 2007
.189 - 2008
.130 - 2009 ha
.050 - 2010 ha ha
.000 - 2011? ha ha ha

Seriously. wtfisup

Tony D: I'm not ok with it because I think he can be a better hitter than that.

Plus a .240 average is pathetic, so he's driving in runs because there are ample opportunities to do so. Replace him with a guy hitting .280 and the RBI totals will balloon not to mention that hitter will be on base to keep innings going.

People can mock this Campaign Cheer idea I came up with all they want, but I'm honestly doing it out of my love for the Phils. Cheering will help, trust in that.

Cheer up! Carlos Ruiz batted .289 over the last 28 days! Woo hoo! Yay! Woo yay! Yay hoo!

Ryan Howard will be chatting at 2:40pm EST on espn.com.

http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/chatESPN?event_id=21998

He's driving in runs because he has a great avg with RISP. The shift is killing him and it will continue to do so until he adjusts.

Pujols would have 200 rbi's by now if he was in Howards spot this year. ha ha (obvious exaggeration)

I agree with GM-Carson.

Seriously, Go Team!

I would maybe give Kendrick one more start, but I think its time to send Kendrick down to work on his changeup and bring up Happ or Carrasco. I wouldn't even mind giving Benson a shot, but Happ deserves a spot in the ML rotation and Carrasco has been pitching well at AAA lately.

Good point by Phh about Milt Thompson- is this guy flying under the radar or what. I don't recall too much discussion here about him, or on tv and radio. It's fair to say that as a team, Phils have hitting problems. He should answer for that.

Also a good point by AWH- Rollins is a front runner player. Cocky when in front, whiny and absent when only a couple games out of first.

Howard does not need to commit to taking walks. He always swings at strike one then gets buckled/puzzled watching strike two. Then with two strikes, its a free for all. Who know whats next. Let's face it...he has a bad eye and cannot read when the junk is coming. I have never so many 3 pitch stirkeouts or a hitter behind in the count so much in my life! That being said, I want him in there :)

Howard in 2008:

Runners on: .276 avg/.370 obp/ .904 ops
Scoring position: .306 avg/ .425 obp/ .974 ops

Here's an idear for Howard against lefties: Pat Burrell.

What if they put Burrell at first against lefties? They could move Werth to left, or, heck, start Bruntlett or Taguchi in left, if they don't want to give Jenkins time vs. lefties.

The comforting thing to think about this team is that they're in the thick of it. At least we're not the Indians, Tigers or Mariners, teams with high expectations that flamed out. Although the team hasn't played up to expectations, they have been competitive and given us something to cheer for. Hopefully they turn it around, but it could be worse.

Seriously philsphan...BENSON?!? I mean come on...he's been a decent guy at AAA so far but there's a reason he's still there.

Happ and Kendrick are interchangeable.

I think RH's 08 BABIP numbers with and without runners on are very telling, regarding the shift:
BABIP bases empty: .205
BABIP runners on: .333

Hey Carson
Thank Bill Conlin for fueling the fire with his JRoll article this morning.
Doesnt help Campaign Cheer all that much.

I think his timing is bad. He's beating a dead horse. That article may have been more timely if it was put out last week IMO.

Good luck Campaign Cheer. Wont make the game, but hope to catch it all on Comcast.

Burrell hasn't played 1B since 2000...I doubt he even still owns a 1B mitt.

Conlin is a A$$...he needs to permanently retire at this point.

Also, if you put Burrell at 1B instead of Howard you are essentially replacing Howard's bat in the lineup with Jenkins...is that even an improvement?

Let's put Milt in the broadcast booth and move Sarge to the dugout. Most announcers take a look at a successful at bat and reel off the good points, Sarge (over and over) analyzes the bad ABs and details the problems. Perhaps Sarge says it as an unstated dig at Milt- a chance to say that these guys have unaddressed fundamentals problems without actually saying it.

Last night when they were showing the player's batting averages at each count, Howard's were kind of revealing. With two strikes on him, Howard doesn't hit over .150. Doesn't matter if the count is 0-2 or 3-2, his average is well under .200 in all two strike situations.

Suggestion- give KK a turn off in the rotation- bring Happ up to take his start,
A lot of innings for our starters- he looks bad his last couple of outings,
After that the Sept call ups should add some arms to the mix

Kendrick straight out wasn't challenging hitters at all in his last start. He was pitching scared against a weak SD lineup. He cannot nibble like that and hope to get calls.

Happ doesn't work as a potential call-up for Kendrick because Happ has no chance at making the post-season as a reliever. If you call up someone to take Kendrick's spot in the rotation, it needs to be someone who has a chance at being useful in the post-season. Carrasco is really the only guy who fits that description.

I'm not advocating for the removal of Kendrick because I think the guy replacing him will be necessary as a starter in a hypothetical post-season situation. I'm advocating it as an audition for a post-season bullpen spot. Neither Kendrick nor Happ will make it in that role, absent injury, so whatever either of them give you in the last month and 1/3, that will be it. . Even then, I would much rather see Carrasco take the role even if there were an injury.

Conlin with one of his bigger jackass moments with that column today. Not once did Rollins even infer that the negative fan reaction have anything at all to do with his poor play - in fact, he pointedly said he could handle it, and it wasn't himself he was concerned about, but the effect it had on his teammates. Christ - you can disagree with Rollins' comments, but don't blatantly *misrepresent* them. Lazy, irresponsible 'journalism' from a guy who doesn't even stop to think enough to know better at this point.

Any talk about Howard's numbers with RISP has to start by acknowledging that 144 ABs, and 176 PAs, is a small sample size. However, it's striking that, in the 2 seasons before the shift was implemented, Howard hit worse with RISP than in other situations. In the last 2 years, it has been exactly the opposite.

Sticking to this year, the following is worth noting: With RISP, Howard has struck out in 30.6% of his ABs and 25.6% of his PAs. In all other situations, he has struck out in 35.9% of his ABs and 33% of his PAs. The shift, at least in theory, should have nothing to do with strikeouts.

This suggests to me that it's not all about the shift; there is an element of random chance in the fact that Howard is hitting so much better with RISP. Of course, an alternate explanation would be that the shift is a distraction to him and that, if you take it away, he makes better contact.

Finally, consider also that teams pitch Howard considerably differently with RISP. For instance, 32 of his 60 walks have come with RISP, even though those situations account for only 1/3 of his PAs. Perhaps he fares better in these situations because he knows that he's going to get fewer good pitches to hit and he is more selective.

Ultimately, I think the shift is having a significant impact, but I also think it's an oversimplification to just blame all of Howard's problems on the shift. The shift gives up some hits too, on ground balls that would otherwise be outs, so its effect is not 100% negative. There are clearly other issues going on here besides the shift -- and other explanations for his strong hitting with RISP.

Avery:

I sure do remember Howard taking his walks in '06 and '07. Even at the end of '06 when you know he was dying to get to 60 home runs, he was patient and did not force the issue. His BB rate is way down this year, and it shows. He is going up to the plate swinging at anything.

malcolm: NEPP said it before I could. Your "solution" basically consists of platooning Geoff Jenkins, So Taguchi or Eric Bruntlett for Ryan Howard. Jenkins is even worse than Howard against left-handers, and the other 2 are just flat-out horrible.

Its called FB inside (usually fouled off), fastball outside (strike called looking), breaking ball outside (hopeless look on his face when he swings and misses).

Variations include jamming him twice for foul offs and then throwing low and away...jamming him twice and getting the 3rd strike called on the outside black (a popular one) etc etc.

Hell If I were lefthanded I could strike him out assuming I hit my spots all 3 times...or at least miss away.

At this point he wets himself when a lefty comes out of the pen even if its a journeyman or a AAA guy etc etc.

I don't agree with the "platoon Howard" idea. The Diamondbacks (nor did the Reds) don't platoon Adam Dunn against LH. The Marlins don't platoon Dan Uggla against LH (Although he is batting about .180 against them).

I don't profess to understand what exactly distinguishes a Russell Branyon from an Adam Dunn, Dan Uggla, or Ryan Howard. All I will say is that there must be some difference in managers minds when it comes to these guys. You can say that they are all idiots and that Alfredo Amezega or some no-name RH would be a better option than Uggla or Dunn, but the truth is that most managers don't see it that way. Perhaps the reason Branyon struggles against LH is that has rarely faced LH in his career, or at least much less frequently than RH. If that doesn't hurt his confidence, it definitely limits his exposure. Perhaps Branyon is just not that good of a hitter in general, but just much worse against LH.

Howard has hit LH at times in his career. He is not doing it well right now, but that doesn't mean that it wont change. The bottom line is that Howard's bat in the lineup is potentially much more potent against any pitcher than any other option available at any given time. The mere fact that he might hit a HR is reason enough not to platoon him, because it is doubtful that the guy replacing him has any better chance at doing so either. If anything there is probably less of a chance that the other guy hits a HR. Howard just needs to work on his mechanics. He had it going for a while, but he has slipped back into old bad habits. He just needs to work on eliminating the bad habits, but removing exposure to LH is not a positive direction to go for someone of his talents.

What disgusts me about Howard is that he shows absolutely no inclination to make adjustments or figure out why it is he's going to break his own strikeout record; it's apparently good enough for him to just whale away at mistakes and shrug off the .235 average. It shouldn't be. With any kind of determination to learn from his mistakes, Howard would be a far more complete hitter. It may yet happen later in his career - if he makes it that far - but the guy's not all that young now. I really don't comprehend why a player wouldn't want to be the best he can be. Rollins talks about all the work he sees Howard put in, and I'm sure he does, but it's not just about where you're standing in the box or your balance or your hips, it's also about having a game plan when you go up to the plate. It's absolutely repulsive to hear Thompson and Manuel exasperatedly proclaim that they have no idea what the problem is, and if Bush wants call over from the White House, they'll listen. The problem is that your hitters are *not mentally prepared* and don't approach the game intelligently. Is that so difficult for these guys to see?

ESPN said that in the last three seasons Howard has more HR's and RBI's than any other baseball player, period.

I'm no expert here, but given that knowledge, I don't think that I want to cut down on that players plate appearances by 1/3 or 1/4. At least I wouldn't if I valued my job as an MLB manager. It would probably be easy to find some idiot who would say, "splits be damned, this guy is too talented to sit." Sometimes you can over think the situation.

I don't think Howard will be platooned b/c the minute it happens, his trade value goes down.

Someone ask Howard at his ESPN chat if he's ever hit a curveball before.

2008: 66-58 2 GB

2007: 66-58, 5 GB

1980: 66-58 2.5 GB

Mets trip to LA and SD: 1-6

Phils trip to LA and SD: 2-5

A more effective remedy to the Howard problem, and much easier to implement, is to bat Burrell 3rd and Howard 4th. Splitting up the two primary LH batters would force a LH to face Burrell to get to Howard. Sometimes it might mean that the LH only faces one or two batters. Sometimes he would get Burrell out as well. Sometimes Burrell would burn him. Sometimes Burrell would be walked to face Howard, and sometimes Howard would burn the LH. In any event it would make the opposing manager give some thought about use of LOOGY's, particularly late in close games.

Parker: Branyan was always a pretty terrible hitter, even against right-handers, so the idea of starting him full-time would never have even been on the manager's radar screen. As for Dunn & Uggla, there are distinctions between their situation and Howard's. The distinction with Uggla is obvious. He is right-handed, so there is no rational reason why he shouldn't hit left-handers at least as well as he hits right-handers -- and he did exactly that in his first 2 seasons. His 208 numbers against lefties reek of statistical fluke. And Dunn's OPS against left-handers this year is .754. That isn't good, but it's not horrific like Howard's .587.

Howard has had past success against left-handers (although that was really only in 1 season). Because of that, and because of his overall upside, any manager would give him a substantial benefit of the doubt before turning him into a platoon player. Based solely on this benefit of the doubt, I would guess that he probably has one more season left as a full-time starter -- even if he continues to be terrible against left-handers. But if his 2009 numbers against left-handers are anywhere near as bad as his 2008 numbers, then he will be platooning in 2010, and probably not for the Phillies.

Howard's situation (and the rest of lineups) screams NEED NEW HITTING COACH!!!. Seriously though what's the point of having a hitting coach if he's just hanging out day after day while a supposed great offense is barely putting 2-3 runs up a game.

I know I've said this before, but I really think the shift has been used on Howard since 2006 and that his dropoff has little to do with the shift. In 2006 he was an extremely patient hitter. Yeah, he struck out a ton, but he walked a ton and displayed a Bonds-esque ability to wait for the one good pitch he would get every at bat. Pitchers knew as much about him in 2006, at least late 2006, as they do now. The difference is that Howard is now a very eager hitter, especially against lefties. He doesn't have a disciplined, Bonds-like plan like he used to. His obp. is down 125 points from 2006, his slugging is under 500 and while he's only 19 k's away from his 2006 total, he's 48 walks short. Mechanically, he's a little messed up compared to that year but its really all about discipline with Howard. This may sound crazy, but he should really seek out (or rather someone should seek out for him) the tutelage of Barry Bonds, who was clearly his most comparable player in 2006. 2006 Howard is the only player to ever come close to that kind of sheer dominance and the talent is still there. He can be that player again, if he wants to be. Perhaps his desire for that A-Rod contract can inspire him, b/c he's not gonna get Utley money if he has another year like this year. He has .320 obp and less than .500 slugging from the most offensive position on the diamond, and he certainly ain't making up for it with his glove. He ain't worth $90 million without discipline, but with it he's a young Bonds without the side effects.

Milt Thompson will probably be let go after the season, wouldn't shock me. Every so many years some of the coaching staff needs to be turned over for a fresh perspective.

Ledezma threw Howard 3 fastballs down the middle. It seems lefties don't even have to bother with the old reliable breaking pitch 8-16" off the plate.

"I don't think that I want to cut down on that players plate appearances by 1/3 or 1/4."

Why is it so hard to understand that Howard does his damage this year against RHP?

RHP

.947 OPS - 45 BB / 78 SO - 74 RBI - 25 HR - 12 2B

LHP

.587 OPS - 15 BB / 84 SO - 30 RBI - 8 HR - 3 2B

The idea that Howard turns into an RBI machine with men on against LHP is mistaken. His OPS goes up but not to even above average levels. In 58 AB with RISP against LHP he has 2 HR and 1 2B.

At this point, there aren't any platoon options on the roster (unless you start Coste at 1B when Ruiz catches), and Howard has hit LHP at some points in his career. Just leave him in and maybe he'll learn. But some of these arguments are flawed.

It would be nice if the Buccos could score a run. I'm beginning to think the offensive drought is Gov. Rendell's fault.

I've always been a little skeptical about a hitting coach's ability to be of much use. Still, Thompson's job description is to make the Phillies' hitters as good as possible. Whether it's his fault or not, he clearly isn't succeeding at the job.

A mid-August change, however, is pointless. If a hitting coach has any impact at all, it's probably something that only develops over time. A new hitting coach is not going to have an instant impact.

go phils go!

Didn't the Mets try changing hitting coaches in season last year (Ricky Henderson, right)? Didn't help them at all, so don't see how it would help the Phils at this point.

Hitting coaches notice changes in mechanics and try to point such things out...obviously that is a huge problem for Howard right now. Milt isn't doing anything as far as anyone can tell...if nothing else canning him might jolt the team into realizing how bad they've been.

Yo, new thread.

Umm...the Phillies Manager is supposed to be a hitting guru, maybe he would've passed on some advice to the players and/or Milt?

the mets hit better after the change. only exception is end of september.

They should play a prank on one of the players to lighten the mood in the clubhouse. I don't know...say...trick someone into thinking they got traded to a Japanese club. Yeah, something like that.


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