Ryan Howard- Room for Improvement

By jason keen
Updated: October 13, 2009

After listening to Howard Eskine argue with Ike Reese quite adamantly during today’s broadcast that Ryan Howard could improve his offensive numbers if he were to “choke up” with two strikes, I decided to research the issue. How could someone that has averaged 100+ runs, 25+ doubles, 51 home runs 144 rbi’s, and 100 walks over the past three seasons improve such monster numbers? Let me explain.

There are a few unwritten rules that are distilled upon all baseball players from the first time he or she picks up a bat. Always freeze on line drives. Never swing at the first pitch of an inning. Never stab at a pitch when bunting. The list goes on. But there is one rule that few players not named Bobby Abreu or David Eckstein have forgotten somewhere along the way; shortening your swing with two strikes.

Sure people argue that Howard should swing for the fences every at bat and I agree to some extent. That extent includes all pitch counts other than 0-2 and 1-2. Over the past three seasons Ryan Howard has 416 at-bats in which the count grew to 0-2 or 1-2, or roughly 25% of his total at-bats.

In those 416 at-bats Howard is batting a measly .158 with only 19 home runs. His 261 strikeouts add up to a 63% strikeout to at-bat ratio during those counts. If he were to shorten his swing like Jayson Werth did last night in his game winning and series clinching single against the Colorado Rockies, he could surely increase his numbers.

Sure, he would lose those 19 home runs, but I can live with a 45 home run average per year if he hits more singles and gets on base for Jayson Werth who hit .283 with runners on over the past three seasons and Raul Ibanez who hit .321 over the same span. Being clutch does not always mean hitting the long ball. And, only time will tell if Milt Thompson can teach this to the former most valuable player Ryan Howard.

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