Stepping Up To The Plate: Can Ryan Howard Recapture The Magic In 2011?

January 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Only a chosen few minor league baseball players from each team earn the opportunity to play in the big leagues. Of these, only a select few rise to the upper echelon of the Majors.  Ryan Howard earned just this opportunity in 2005 to play in the Majors as an everyday starter after Philadelphia Phillies‘ first baseman Jim Thome became injured and was out indefinitely.  

In 2005, Howard seized the moment and won the NL ROY award appearing in only 88 games.  He subsequently won the first base job, and in 2006, he had to follow through with a good season.  He did just that and far beyond.

In 2006, he took Philadelphia and the majors by storm batting .313/.425/.659 with 58 home runs and 149 RBI’s and in the process capturing the NL MVP Award.  In one fell swoop, he had established himself as one of the elite talents in all of the Majors.

While still putting up MVP-caliber numbers from 2007-2009 by crushing at least 40 home runs and 135 RBI’s in each season, the young slugger seemed to fall a notch in comparison to his stellar 2006 full year debut with his batting average dropping under the .280 mark in each of those years aside from his drop in power production.  

In 2010, a further production falloff was evident whereby Howard went though long episodes without hitting a single home run. Although he was still driving in runners and his batting average was higher, his power numbers were falling off further.  Coming out of the all-star break, nevertheless, Howard was in position to have a strong second half by maintaining his high average while boosting his power production.  

Suddenly in early August, Howard went down with an ankle sprain which landed him on the 15-day DL, and lets face it, upon his return to the line-up after missing 16 games, Howard struggled to regain the momentum he had had.  Scott Butler pointed out in a recent blog that “After July and before the injury, Howard had a .292 average with 23 home runs and 91 RBIs. That would have put him on pace for 36 homers and 127 RBIs, which would have been 11 less HR than his 162 game average, but 13 points above his normal batting average and 15 RBIs below his normal RBI totals* Howard just wasn’t the same for the first couple weeks after the injury, batting just .125 with 1 home run and 4 RBIs in 10 games in August.

The Phillies still made the post-season with barely any offensive contributions due to the outstanding pitching displayed by 2010 MVP Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels. 

They had made it past the first round with a complete lack of hitting, but they finally paid the price for their slumbering offense as the Phillies fell to the San Francisco Giants in game four of the NLCS.  The loss was crippling and to make things worse for Ryan Howard, he was the last strikeout of the game, yikes! 

The 2010 season was disappointing for the Ryan Howard and the Phillies offense as a whole.  A lot of questions linger for Ryan Howard this coming season.  Will his power come back, will his batting average get higher, and will The Big Piece stay healthy? 

Ryan, you have done a lot for Philadelphia.  You’ve won an MVP award, you have made three all-star appearances and doing so while St. Louis Cardinals‘ first baseman Albert Pujols has dominated baseball as the most consistent, offensive player, making it difficult for Ryan or anyone else to compete for any awards in the NL.  You have led Philadelphia to a golden age with four post-season appearances, three NLCS appearances, two WS appearances, one title and one season having the best record in the majors.  Yes, we owe a lot to you Ryan, but we frankly expect more.  

Your numbers have been respectable in the past few seasons, yet you have simply not returned  to your 2006 MVP form.  Do fans have the right to expect you to have future seasons where you again hit in the range of 58 homers and 149 RBI’s, while still batting .313?  I would respond yes, that it is reasonable to expect you to once again put up such numbers.  At 31 years old, you are in your athletic prime and your ankle injury of the previous season will be completely behind you.  Further, coming out of the 2009 season, you committed yourself during the off-season to shedding much of your excess pounds in order to be in better shape.  You successfully achieved a significant weight loss in a relatively short time frame, and this rapid weight loss arguably could have compromised your stamina and your strength and been the cause for your drop in power production.  At this stage, your body has likely adapted to the weight loss, and thus you should now be physically poised to perform at a high offensive level for this coming season.    

Additionally, with the long-term signing made in mid-2010 that will keep you in red pinstripes through 2017, you should now be able to devote your full attention to focus on simply playing baseball, with the mental distraction of your career path uncertainties now laid by the wayside.  

The table is now set for you.  Nobody believes that the numbers you put up in 2006 were a fluke and that you do not have the capability to put up such numbers once again.  If anything, your five years of major league experience and accumulated knowledge should theoretically propel you to even more outstanding offensive accomplishments than those of any year of your career, including 2006! 

Your team has a lot riding on you for you to perform like the MVP-caliber player you once were, and we are all pulling for you to put it all together for this coming season.  Good luck Ryan- we are all watching. 

*Reflects corrected data from Scott Butler’s original blog.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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