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The Dip: Pretzel Logic

Posted by The Dipsy, Sun, February 14, 2010 11:19 PM | Comments: 67
Posts, The Dip

This is The Dip, a column penned by our regular commenter, The Dipsy.

Contrary to popular opinion, I happen to be a big Phillies fan. But, perhaps my type of fandom flies in the face of the traditional method of rooting and team support; in that tend to criticize, loudly and resolutely, the very team that I have pledged my undying love to. Today I return to one of my cause célèbre, that being the absolute necessity that Ryan Howard be dropped to sixth in the batting order against left-handed pitching. The fact that this has not been tried already, never mind discussed, just boggles my mind.

Below is a sampling, and I seriously only went through half the teams, of how NL first basemen fared against left handed pitching last year:

Player HR/RBI/AVG
Fielder -  13/47/.292
Dunn – 7/28/.268
Helton -  1/28/.311
Votto – 7/27/.329
Howard – 6/33/.207

Joey Votto? .207! And all those mentioned above are lefties. Quite simply, Ryan’s numbers against lefties have progressively gotten worse each year to the point where his spot in the order is now the place where baserunners go to die when a left handed pitcher is on the mound.

Look, Ryan is a stud. A once-in-a-generation power hitter – an institution maybe. But the fact remains that while he is lethal against righties, he is horrible against southpaws. The disparity of performance is so marked that the whisper “he’s great but he has trouble with lefties” is one bad month away from morphing into the dreaded “can’t hit lefties” (because he can’t) moniker, and that’s hard to shake. Anyone with two eyes and watches games knows that Ryan has the plate discipline of a six-year old at a piñata party. Consequently, he sees a steady diet of head high fastballs and off speed slop that breaks five feet off the plate. So that’s what he swings at. Frankly, now that I think about it, I’m tired of analyzing the “whys”.

Just make the move. No excuses. “Ooohhh, you’ll take away his aggressiveness”. “Oooooh, who’ll drive in all those runs?”. “But, we’re paying him 20 million dollars”. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Baloney. Drop him to sixth. Let Jason and Raul hit 4-5. Jason kills lefties and Raul hits them. It will be a better lineup. We will score more runs. So, why not do it? I haven’t the faintest idea. All one needs is the courage to change.

Avatar of The Dipsy

About The Dipsy

The Dipsy has written 29 articles on Phillies Nation.

 
 
  • Posts: 95 Paul Boye

    Avatar of Paul Boye

    This is the exact reason why he is not worth $20M+, to boot. He absolutely does need to be handled differently against lefites, and he’s shown absolutely zero signs of improving against them.

    He’s dangerously close to being a platoon player who just really, really smokes righties.

     
  • Posts: 0 Blaise

    Joey Votto is a beast. Would have gotten some MVP votes last year if he played all season (put on the DL for depression or somethin)

     
  • Posts: 0 derekcarstairs

    Howard’s OPS against lefties in his 4 full seasons:
    2006 – .923
    2007 – .826
    2008 – .746
    2009 – .653

    That’s a terrible trend, and I doubt he will improve much. A player with a .653 OPS should lose his job.

    On the other hand, Howard’s career OPS against righties is 1.070. If he only had to face righties, Howard would be behind only Ruth, Williams and Gehrig in the history of baseball. Howard’s overall career OPS (against both righties and lefties) of .961 ranks 19th in the history of baseball, just behind ARod.

    We have a real dilemma. We can’t really platoon him, but we probably should rest him in 10 more games each season against tough lefties. I also agree with your suggestion of dropping him to 6th in the order against lefties.

    My bottom line? Sign him to a four- or five-year extension at up to $25 million per.

     
  • Posts: 0 Jeff Dowder

    This is why signing Jayson Werth long term, moving Utley to 1B and trading Howard after this season would be a smart move. Boston has a deep farm system and I would think they’d have strong interest in Howard as a DH.

     
  • Posts: 0 Brooks

    I never doubted your phandom, Dipsy, never. Your logic though… lets take productivity as the key stat. Runs produced, rallies prolonged, hits that count.
    I cannot figure out the stats but, its like firing a mortar or a 30mm cannon, right?
    I know there is a huge drop off from the best to Ryan but, I would believe after watching his defense improve dramatically that the Big Piece will be working on his hitting this year.
    Imagine even a slight improvement in average – when he comes to bat there are a lot of men on base. I quiver at the thought!

     
  • Posts: 0 joepa

    Dipsy, nice article. I’d be curious to hear Jayson’s numbers against righties becuase if we start Jayson in the 4 spot against lefties, then early in the game we have a substitution, then we’d have the same problem with Jayson wouldn’t we?

     
  • Posts: 0 Jack Man

    I agree 100% but I was talking about this a long time before today. This is hardly a new request from Phillies fans.

     
  • Posts: 0 randy

    geez, way to bash on howard…..sounds like everyone on here should be a coach. im never coming back to this shit site,
    phillies fan
    go howard!

     
  • Posts: 0 Brooks

    Give up Ryan Howard, and it puts the Phils in the pack with the Dodgers, Rockies, Cards – who are always behind the Phils.

    We shall see.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Joepa – Jason is better against righties than Howard is against lefties.

    Rollins
    Polanco
    Utley
    Werth
    Ibanez
    Howard
    Victorino
    Ruiz

    Oh, and by the way, as good as our lineup CAN be, Victorino in the 7 hole. Thats dysfunctional. Buy its either him or Polanco. I guess. I would think that if Vic is in the 7 hole, we would at least have the option of stealing 2nd with two outs and getting a run on a Ruiz single. Maybe Polanco should bat 7th. I don’t know.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 Ed R.

    Werth’s OPS vs Righties

    2007 – .760
    2008 – .767
    2009 – .805

    Match that up with his OPS vs Lefties

    2007 – 1.058
    2008 – 1.020
    2009 – 1.080

    Yep…that’s where I invest long term…in Werth. Like Paul said…Howard is not far off from being someones lefty off the bench at either 1B or DH. Trade Howard after this year, fine with me.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Brooks – All those things you note – they all happen against righties. He wreaks havoc. Against lefties – I mean, half the time he can’t even move the runner – a productive out. My kingdom for a “productive out”. Last year he struck out 83 times in 252 at bats against lefties – just about 1/3 of the time.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 Crack Man

    Trade Ryan Howard to the Astros for cash!

     
  • Posts: 0 bfo_33

    Definitely a scary trend against lefties, but what happened? Did Howard change his approach, or did the lefty pitchers find the hole (up/in fasball)? If he could get back to 2007 numbers, I’d be happy with him sticking at cleanup, minimizinf tinkering with theline-up.
    Agree that Vic batting 7th is a waste, but putting Polanco there would be worse. My dream line up for Lefties:
    Vic
    Pol
    Utley
    Werth
    Ibanez
    Rollins
    Howard
    Ruiz

    For Righties,
    Vic
    Pol
    Utley
    Howard
    Werth
    Rollins
    Ibanez
    Ruiz

    If you have guys on base with speed, the 7 hole can be an RBI spot. Putting speed at 7 does little.

     
  • Posts: 0 Brooks

    I saw the same games Dipsy – I think he can and will improve on his hitting, this team will be nearly invincible if he can bring his average up by say another 15 to 20 pts.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    No one is accusing you of not being a fan but you’re not a Howard fan… the fact that he HAS posted better numbers against lefties than he did in 2009 is probably enough to leave him there. I would not be surprised if he saw more days off against lefties, like someone else suggested, but you’re not going to move him out of the cleanup spot… he is our cleanup hitter and he deserves to be there. He needs to get better against lefties but he’ll work on it and I think that he can correct it. Say what you want, the guy is a hard worker and he’s a hell of an athlete… a special ballplayer. Given what he has done for this team and this city, I think that he deserves a free pass… I know this much, moving him down in the order might give us a more balanced lineup or whatever but it could also affect his confidence and in my opinion, it’s not worth risking it and it’s not the way that Charlie does things (see Rollins, Jimmy).

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    you don’t drop Howard to 6th, because after the 6th-7th inning, when the pressure heats up and the game really gets on the line … and the other team has their crappy Right Handed reliever in the game …. you want Howard getting an at-bat in the 4-spot, because he’s one of the most dominant hitters in the game today.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    I agree with you OCP. But he has languished in the 4 hole against lefties for two seasons. Two seasons where he has been terrible. Do I think he can correct it? Sure do. Hey, and I AM a Howard fan. I love the guy. I want him to correct it. Just hit .240. For all he has done for the team, the fans, and the city, how mucher long does his free pass last for? Eternity? Against lefties he is an automatic out. He’s a rally killer when he’s batting 4th. It is what it is. If Charlie wants to keep him in the 4 hole, given his ineffectiveness, I say Manuel is doing his team a disservice. Now, I’ll just lump Charlie in, too. Leaving him there is bad managing. Plain and simple.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 Smokey

    Wishful thinking. Ryan Howard will be our clean-up hitter in 2010, and hopefully beyond, regardless of what hand the opposing starting pitcher throws with. We all know what you’re talking about, every one of us, but Charlie is not going to make that change and you ought to know that by now. It is a fact that Ryan gets killed by left-handed pitching, but on the bright side he really can’t get any worse. There is only room for improvement at this point, and his strong work ethic makes me believe that he will step it up in the future, even if it’s only by a little bit. How much longer does his free pass last for? As long as he is playing in Philadelphia. People just don’t seem to realize what this guy has done and will continue to do for this ballclub…

     
  • Posts: 0 S. B.

    Alot of good ideas here – but the one absolute no-brainer is to break up Utley and Howard in the line-up at all times. How many LOOGY’s came in during the playoffs to get Utley and Howard in order – and at times made it look easy?

    Gotta go Utley, Werth, Howard – Werth has earned the right to be a cleanup guy, and has decent speed so won’t clog up the bases in front of Howard.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    “Werth has earned the right to be a cleanup guy” …..

    Werth is a very good player… Ryan Howard is a BEAST

    I personally like Werth more than Howard, but Im not going to move one of the greatest Power Hitters in the game today, and drop him from the cleanup spot because he doesn’t have a great batting average against LHP … you look at his overall body of work, and realize that there aren’t many guys you would rather have than Howard . . .Howard is, and will continue to be our #4 hitter, and we should stop trying to fix things that ain’t broken

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    You people have to get a hold of a concept. While Ryan Howard is one of the “greatest power hitters the world has ever known”, which sets him apart from other players, so does the gap, or yawning chasm, of what he can do against lefties as opposed to righties. This is an anomaly. I, personally, have never seen anything like it. You can deal with it or ignore it. So, I guess your options are: 1) Drop him down; OR 2) Leave him in against LHP because he is so great against RHP, which is in essence what you would be doing, and because he is “our guy” or “thats just not what Charlie does”. F that. In my mind, the sole criterion by which a manager should consider when to make a move or not make a move should be: “By doing this would I be making us a better team”. I mean, am I the one that’s high here? \

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 Richie

    It sounds good and all folks, but it just ain’t gonna happen. Especially not to the 6 hole that will never happen. As frustrating as it is to watch Ryan lunge at breaking balls away like watching a moron reach for a dollar bill on a string trick. It is incredibly gratifying to watch or hear the crack of his bat put a ball damn near close to the Bull’s Barbecue!

     
  • Posts: 0 Richie

    You are not the one that is high here. You are trying to make an argument that looks good with pure numbers, but in the reality of it all will never happen. There are many cliches that I refuse to say such as…”if it ain’t broke… Let me ask you this no matter where you put him in the lineup he will be a liability against lefties and a monster against righties. You are never going to take him out against lefties alltogether and there are a hell of a lot more RHPs than LHPs in baseball in general and a ton more relief RHPs than LHPs, so when this lefty starter comes out and the other team uses their Loogy once through and their RH closer is in and there is two outs and Utley gets on who do you want facing this closer Werth or Howard? Remember Werth had a great year. One great year! He is not a proven guy yet. When the game is on the line I don’t want that beast in the on deck circle.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Pure….numbers? Pure….numbers? 95% of baseball is….pure numbers. Richie, its about getting the best hitters the most at-bats, not leaving Ryan on deck when Werth is up there hitting. When we fixate on the image it skews the bigger picture, that being making this offense better. And remember, a homer run that goes 500 feet still only counts for one run. What does it say to you that, with the game on the line, the opposing manager is probably dying to have his stud lefty matched up against Howard?

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 Richie

    I understand your point I really do. I am trying to play devil’s advocate while being an advocate to keep Werth and get the most value for Howard this fall. The point I guess I am trying to make is that you never see done what you are asking Charlie to do. Never is a successful clean-up hitter (Ortiz, Dunn, etc.) albeit only against righties dropped in the order against lefty starters. I was saying that it probably has something to do with the fact that the majority of the pitchers in baseball are RHPs (starters and relievers). We are probably the most lefty favored pitching staff in all of baseballe and we still aren’t 50-50. Truthfully I think with a good hitting instructor (not Milt Thompson) he might be able to start going the other way like he did in 06 and early 07. I am just as frustrated as you are Dip belive me I just don’t think it will ever happen that’s all.

     
  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Frankly, this is only a concern in games where there is LHP that lasts 6 full innings or more. I don’t care who’s on the mound I want to see Howard at the plate because he gets the job done. Dipsy, there’s a new “stat” in Fangraphs, called “Clutch” I believe. Correct me if I’m wrong but Ryan Howard was No.1 in baseball in that category (for 09). That’s looking beneath the numbers… You want Howard up there swinging his bat, especially in the later innings…

     
  • Posts: 1376 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    Ryan Howard is one of those guys that will hurt you once you give up on them. He’s like a Kobe Bryant or LeBron. You’ll never get full value for him in a trade and although he’s going to want $20 mil per season, he’s another guy that puts asses in the seats and is a superstar. Hard to give up on guys like that just because of his OPS against lefties.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    If any change was ever made.. it would be Werth 4th, Howard 5th … but I just don’t see it happening .. .

    LOOGY get used once.. whenever the situation calls for it.. often in the 7th inning, and usually a closer/stopper is in for the 9th … most times those guys are RHP .. so I would much rather have Howard getting the extra at-bat regardless of who the starter is

    Also.. our lineup will be so good this year that I can’t see many starters from the other teams making it 3 times through our lineup ..

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Basically this is the perfect topic because there is no right or wrong answers….

    We all want Werth vs. LHP
    and Howard vs. RHP

    but overall I don’t know if you can definitely make an arguement for swapping them from their normal spots based on the opposing starting pitcher of each game

    I really don’t think starters will last that long against the Phillies this year.. if anyone goes 7-8 innings against us, it will be amazing

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    The problem with moving him to the 6 hole is NOT that Werth wouldn’t do a better job against lefties (because he would)… the problem is that it opens Pandoras box to a lot of things that you don’t want to see happen: Howard loses confidence and feels that the team has lost confidence in him…. Howard struggles AND walks when it comes time to leave (the same reason you don’t let your stars go to arbitration). Jayson Werth starts to feel like he is a cleanup hitter, which he’s not… he either slumps OR he leaves because he feels like he deserves to be a cleanup hitter full time (ends up in a place like San Diego, where the money is right).

     
  • Posts: 0 The Second John

    Even if this is a good idea, its a moot point because Charlie would never do it. I agree that if he is gonna move Ryan at all, it would be to the 5th spot.

     
  • Posts: 0 John K

    Wasn’t everyone asking this question last October? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

    It’s nice that he showed up early to ST to work on his fielding skills, but wouldn’t that time be better spent trying to solve lefties? Utley learned, maybe he has a few pointers….

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Utley has a short-compact swing… which makes it easier for him to adjust to pitches ….. but gives him less power

    Howard has a big, long, power-hitter swing.. which makes it tough for him to lay-off a pitch that looks good from the pitcher’s hand … but also allows him to smash the ball, and drive in runs at record-setting paces

    I’ll take Howard just the way he is, because despite some faults, overall, he’s awesome

    I’m sure he’ll improve his average against LHP too, he just needs to regain that confidence to flip the ball into LF instead of trying to always hit it hard somewhere

     
  • Posts: 95 Paul Boye

    Avatar of Paul Boye

    I worry though, Don, about what that looping swing will look like as he gets into his mid-30s and we’re paying him (presumably) $20-25M.

    He’s not exactly showing that he’ll be more Frank Thomas than David Ortiz, and if he’s striking out nearly 200 times a year while he still has a bit of youth and extra strength on his side, I shudder to think what might happen in a few years.

    I’m very worried that if Ryan Howard is re-signed for 4-5 more years at $20M+, there will be regrets and aches to move him before the third year is up. The way things are progressing, I can’t help seeing a .240/.300/.400 line in a few years. I know he’s a fan favorite and I like him too, he’s a great asset; but in the long term, I really can’t see his future production justifying a deal of that magnitude and really, that’s what contracts are for: paying for expected production, not past accomplishments.

     
  • Posts: 95 Paul Boye

    Avatar of Paul Boye

    Also if you stick Ryan Howard in the middle of Houston or San Diego’s lineup – even with the exact same number of homers – his RBI totals drop dramatically. He gets RBI because he has Victorino and Utley batting ahead of him, getting on base at nice clips.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Jayson Werth isn’t a clean-up guy…on the Phillies…but he could be on any other team where there’s no Ryan Howard-type player already.

    Dipsy…I see your argument..and understand it to a point…BUT…IT’S NOT GONNA HAPPEN…it’s probably better to not mess with it in the lon-run…and…besides…Charlie won’t do it anyway.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    What does Ryan Howard have to do with whether Jason Werth is a clean up type guy or not? Fact is, if he batted cleanup last year he would had at least a 120 RBI’s. Let’s approach this from another angle. If Charlie came out tomorrow and said he was gonna make this switch and then told us why, would you have a problem with it?

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 bfo_33

    Howard does a decent job of hitting the outside ball hard to left, even off lefties (at least well enough to stress other ptichers) – the bigger issue is the up and in fastball from lefties. The only way to punch that into left is with the Jeter inside out swing, and that is too dramatic of a change for Howard. A drag bunt here and there (just to keep the other team honest, get them out of the shift a little) would have the same impact, but wouldn’t screw up his swing.
    I’m not willing to say the East is already won, but barring multiple major injuries, offense won’t be the problem, even if Howard bats lead off and Polanco hits clean-up. It’s an interesting discussion, but the bottom line is to put guys in the role they are comfortable. Most have their “fantasy thoughts” on lineups (I have a few), but more than anything, baseball is about repetition and staying within your role. Charlie is a master at working the egos in the clubhouse, something fantasy managers don’t have to deal with.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Someone earlier suggested that Werth should bat clean-up…that he’s “earned” it. I don’t think he earned it…but I think he could do it….just not on the Phillies…because Ryan is there already.

    If Charlie came out and said he was gonna make the switch…then ok…I’ll support it…because I trust Charlie “overall” (not every single in-game decision) to make good decisions for the team and the lineup..

    BUT…as I said…it won’t happen…because Charlie probably isn’t gonna do it anyway.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    To that same measure… if you stick Houston’s or San Diego’s cleanup hitters in the same spot in our lineup, they won’t produce the same as Howard, because they aren’t as good

    There are VERY FEW guys that would produce the numbers that Ryan Howard does . . . even the guys that are close. . Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, etc … wouldn’t produce the same

    so you can’t blame Howard for who he has in front of him.. its their job to get on base, and it’s his job to knock them in …….. for the past 3 seasons, everyone in the Phillies lineup has done their job exceptionally well

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I wouldn’t have a problem with any move that Charlie made and could justify… he knows how to manage a winning baseball team . .

    Werth = at least 120 rbi’s

    or

    Howard = 141 rbi’s …

    i’ll take Howard

     
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Are we measuring players by OPS now or what? Werth’s OPS would have been higher than Howard’s, I do believe. Werth walks. Werth steals. Werth homers. And this is not an argument as to who the better hitter is, Don. Its Howard.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Now im confused..

    If we agree the better hitter, and the more productive offense threat is Ryan Howard … then you leave him in the 4th spot regardless of who the Starting Pitcher is …. because most often, the STARTING pitcher only pitches about 6 innings ..

    Werth is the better ALL AROUND player… but Howard is clearly the best “cleanup hitter” on the team

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    Dip – I trust Charlie. If he made that announcement, I would be ok with it because I trust him. I trust that prior to making the announcement, he discussed it with everyone that would be affected it and determined that everything was ok… he can do that, I can’t. All I’m saying is that a huge factor in making this type of move falls in that 5% of baseball that is not pure numbers… confidence is important. If everything went according to the numbers, Madson would make a good closer but we’ve all read that book before and it doesn’t end well. I’m not saying that what you’re suggesting doesn’t make sense but it does defy a certain baseball logic which says that you don’t mess with your cleanup hitter.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    You could make a solid argument for putting Werth at cleanup…IF you didn’t have Howard. I think you just have to accept the fact that for a few at-bats in games where the starter is la lefty….that Howard is gonna take the collar more than you might want…

    BUT…in the long run…leaving him in there is probably the best scenario..

    And…again…if Charlie were to decide otherwise…the I would have no problem with that either….because I see the logic for THAT argument as well.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    I trust Charlie but I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the decision…

    Howard is our best player in the clutch… if you put him in the 6 hole, he’ll never see a pitch late in the game. He’s our best run producer… one of the best in baseball. I think that he’s earned the right to bat cleanup… against every pitcher.

     
  • Posts: 0 Dan S

    jeff, Chase Utley will not be playing first base full time in the near future. putting him at first would be a complete waste of the best second baseman in the league. Also, Dipsy, how can you say howard is a once in the life time player, and then go on to bash him. You’re contradicting yourself.

     
  • Posts: 0 Dan S

    MOVING HOWARD TO 7?!?! utley, and werth’s numbers would free fall. They would loose so my protection in the lineup. Charlie isn’t an idiot he’s not moving Howard.

     
  • Posts: 0 George

    Anyone else notice that of the five left handed first basemen The Dipsy used as examples, Howard is second in RBIs? He must be doing a little that’s right.

    Even though I don’t believe, like so many others, that Manuel will never change his lineup, I don’t believe he will in this case. At cleanup, Howard would definitely have more opportunities to hit late in games, when a lefty may no longer be pitching. He hasn’t the speed of Werth, and speed isn’t that important at number four. (Werth’s speed/power combination would actually be good in the number three hole, but Utley rightly has that.) And with Werth behind him, even a lefty would be afraid to pitch around Howard for fear of what Werth might do.

    Lineups are, I think, trickier than just plugging in numbers. Even lefties know that if they make the tiniest mistake against Howard, the ball is in the seats; that can affect their entire approach to the rest of the team.

     
 
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