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Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Howard’

Ryan Howard and the Shift: An Analysis

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Fri, April 18, 2014 02:10 PM Comments: 4

PHOTO: AP

PHOTO: AP

The Big Piece. Ryan Howard has given us plenty of great moments over the years–from game winning monster home runs to “get me to the plate, boys”. Ruben Amaro Jr. awarded him with a monster contract that has since been proven to be one of the biggest mistakes he’s made as Phillies GM due to a tremendous drop in production from the lefty slugger. But this isn’t about the amount of money that the now run down, breaking ball chasing Howard is making. This is about a different aspect of his game that I don’t think has been analyzed deeply before.

Ryan Howard has always been a strong pull-hitter. And, much like his predecessor–Jim Thome–he gets the shift treatment each time he steps to the plate. The second baseman plays in shallow right field, the short stop plays somewhere up the middle, and the third baseman plays shortstop. The third base position does not, and will never, exist when The Big Piece is in the batters box. For this reason, Howard has gotten plenty of “ground outs” on frozen ropes that are hit directly at the second baseman in right field. On the other hand, he’s had a handful of swinging bunts to the left of the pitcher that got him a single as well. Here’s an analysis of what the shift does to Ryan Howard, and what Ryan Howard does to the shift. First, we’ll look at a couple spray charts courtesy of Brooks Baseball.

plot_hc_spray

As you can see in the image above, there is a large cluster of ground balls (marked in green) in between first and second base on the right side of the field. The dots are marked at the point at which the fielder made contact with the ball. A large portion of those dots are in the outfield, a direct result of the shift. Lets take a look at another lefty on the Phillies–Chase Utley.

plot_hc_spray (2)

He has a similar tendency to pull ground balls to the right side, but the contact with the fielder in his chart is much more condensed and closer to the natural second base position. He also has more ground balls make it through the infield to the right fielder.

Now, seeing his spray chart, Howard clearly falls victim to shift more often than not. Most of his ground balls to the right side are eaten up by the shift, and result in outs. Also, a larger portion of his line drives (red dots) to the right side are caught by the shifted fielders than Utley. But here’s another chart:

plot_hc_spray (1)

The black dots in this chart represent his outs. As expected, there is a cluster on the right side of the infield and in shallow right field. But what’s interesting, is that he has more outs in center field and left field than he does in right field. This is–you guessed it–another direct result of the shift. Opposing teams are able to cut down the amount of batted balls that even make it to the outfielders. Another area of interest is the amount of singles and doubles to the right side. He has significantly more singles to right than any other part of the field, but less doubles. Outfielders play him to pull, and are able to cut down deeply hit balls that the infielders could not get to.

This is proven by looking at some numbers on Baseball Reference. When Howard pulls the ball, he gets a hit roughly 37.8% of the time. But when he hits it up the middle, that average jumps to 41.4%. And when he hits it the other way, it’s an even 40%. His OPS, however, distinctly increases as you go from the right side (1.050) to the middle (1.237) to the left (1.408). So, while his strength is pulling the ball, opposing teams have successfully been able to counter that with the fielding alignment. And, judging by his numbers to each field, limiting the number of balls he pulls would benefit him.

So, knowing this about himself, has Howard tried to change his approach a bit to try and beat the shift? David Ortiz, another slugging lefty, was able to change up his approach a few years ago. He began to fight off outside pitches to the left side, rather than still trying to pull them. He even attempted to bunt a few times. Howard, on the other hand, has made minimal changes, if any:

plot_hc_bytime (1)

No.

Overall, there is little change since 2007 in the area where Howard hits the ball. It doesn’t look like he’s trying to drive the ball the other way any more than he did seven years ago. It’s quite understandable that Ruben Amaro Jr. isn’t paying him to hit line drive singles to left-center, but at this point in his career, can The Big Piece afford to keep driving hit after hit into the teeth of the shift? Should he change his approach? In my opinion, Howard should keep doing what got him that ludicrous contract in the first place. Changing up his approach now would do more harm than good for a guy still trying to find his old self at the plate.

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Writer’s Roundtable: What’s Surprising About the Phillies?

Posted by Pat Gallen, Mon, March 24, 2014 02:04 PM Comments: 29

Chase Utley

Chase hasn’t done much this spring. Is that worrisome? (MLB)

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Phillies Nation is asking our readers to offer suggestions for our weekly “Writer’s Roundtable” series. You can submit your question to Donald McGettigan via Twitter (@DonM409) each Sunday during the 2014 season. If your question is selected you will be the winner of a Phillies Nation Prize Pack and be entered into a drawing for a Shibe Vintage Sports Gift Card! Shibe Vintage Sports is located at 137 South 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107 (between Walnut & Chestnut).

Question: What has surprised you the most about the Phillies thus far in Spring Training?

Don McGettigan (@DonM409): The biggest surprise to me has been the lack of offense from Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard (hitting .211, .196, and .245 respectively). It’s not that I expected great numbers, or some complete rejuvenation, but I anticipated that the heart of the lineup would buy into the plea for better at bats from the coaching staff. The only chance this team has to contend is to get production from the 2-3-4 spots in the lineup, and so far the intended lineup just hasn’t shown anything worth getting excited about.

Corey Seidman (@CoreySeidman): The biggest surprise for me has been Mario Hollands, the Phillies’ towering lefty pitcher who wasn’t even protected in the Rule 5 draft, but who has a genuine shot to make the team out of camp. Hollands could be an X-factor this year because of his versatility. He could be a long reliever, a spot starter, or a LOOGY (Left-handed One Out Guy). Why not give that all-purpose role to a guy like Hollands who has a mid-90s fastball and some upside, rather than a Jeff Manship or a Sean O’Sullivan or a Shawn Camp?

Jon Nisula (@JNisula): My biggest surprise is the Jimmy Rollins saga. One of the best players in Phillies history is being treated like a villain in already one of the worst offseasons in recent history. Regardless of what side you’re on with the J-Roll thing, this is just a horrible way to go into the season.

Pat Gallen (@PatGallen_975): Actually, the most surprising part of Spring Training has been the absolute lack of any mojo or juice pertaining to the team. No one is talking about the team in a positive way. You might say that isn’t surprising given the lack of good baseball over the past two seasons, but it still surprises me.

That falls more on the players. Very few Phillies have given us anything positive to report. But what’s surprising is that normally a player or two will jump off the page at you in a given Spring Training by hitting .400, smashing eight homers, or just being a complete unknown that turns heads. Corey describes Mario Hollands as that guy, but even he has pretty much flown under the radar.

Continue reading Writer’s Roundtable: What’s Surprising About the Phillies?

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Phillies Nation TV: 2013 Season Finale

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, September 26, 2013 07:25 AM Comments: 0

Call your friends, this is the season finale of Phillies Nation!

Pat and Corey deliver year-end report cards to the entire Phillies team – lineup, bench, starting pitchers and bullpen – and give their thoughts on who will be back next season.

Eric Seidman joins the guys and offers an interesting idea to trade one the Phillies best players. He also explains why trading Ryan Howard is not an immediate possibility.

Natalie reports from the Citizens Bank Park parking lots before the final Phillies home game and asks tailgating fans their biggest disappointment of the 2013 season and also what they’re looking forward to most in 2014. The answers are all over the map.

Ryann Williams has the final round of reader questions before she heads off to vie for the title of Miss Pennsylvania this offseason. This week and every week the fan question segment is presented by the good people at BQ Basement Systems, experts at basement waterproofing.

Thanks for watching all season online and on Comcast. We always want to hear your feedback and ideas for the show, so please leave them here.

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Revisiting Our Offseason Plans

Posted by Eric Seidman, Fri, September 13, 2013 09:00 AM Comments: 9

Last November, Pat Gallen, Corey Seidman, Ian Riccaboni and I separately presented our roster plans for the 2013 Phillies. None of us truly believed the Phillies were a contender, but with our suggested acquisitions and some positive breaks, they might have a shot. With only a few weeks left in the season it seems as good a time as any to review our plans.

It’s interesting to note that the four of us agreed on an awful lot – we collectively selected 17 of the 25 roster spots. This was indicative of the few areas the Phillies could toy with. On one hand, agreement on 68% of the roster could suggest that the Phillies didn’t need to alter chunks of the roster or dole out even more lucrative deals. On the other hand, several of those 17 players were already signed to lucrative deals that could have prevented the team from properly filling the remaining spots.

Our starting rotations were identical across the board: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley. These plans were published prior to Worley’s trade to Minnesota, but, at that time, we all felt the Phillies rotation was set. They didn’t need to go out and sign a Dan Haren or Ryan Dempster. If the big three were healthy, and Kendrick continued improving, the rotation was solid.

We also agreed on Carlos Ruiz as the primary catcher with Erik Kratz backing him up. Chooch was coming off of his best season and it was a no-brainer to exercise his meager club option. Kratz, while not that solid of a defender, had hit for enough power to merit the backup role. It didn’t make sense to have one of the prospects back Ruiz up since consistent playing time is integral to their development.

Though there were question marks surrounding the infield triumvirate’s ability to remain both healthy and effective, we all agreed on Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins at their respective positions. Freddy Galvis, Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf and John Mayberry all made our teams as well, with Brown as a clear starter and Ruf getting more playing time than Galvis and Mayberry. It was also abundantly clear that Jonathan Papelbon wasn’t going anywhere, and our bullpens all included Antonio Bastardo and Jeremy Horst.

Third base, however, was the first area in which we really presented different plans.

Continue reading Revisiting Our Offseason Plans

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The Ultimate Season-Ending Phillies Polls — Part I

Posted by Pat Gallen, Wed, September 11, 2013 11:38 AM Comments: 40

(AP)

We want your opinion, it’s important to us at Phillies Nation. Just fill out the polls below, telling us what you think about several topics pertaining to the future of the Phillies. Many of these will be featured in an upcoming episode of Phillies Nation TV.

And if you leave some half-decent comments in the section below, they too could make the program. Tell us what you think!

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Will Ryne Sandberg be the Phillies Manager in 2014?

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Will Ruben Amaro be with the Phillies beyond 2014?

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Will Maikel Franco be with the Phillies at the start of 2014?

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How many games will Ryan Howard play in 2014?

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Will Jimmy Rollins be with the Phillies to start 2014?

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Will Cody Asche be the everyday 3B in 2014?

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Which free agent pitcher will be in the Phillies rotation in 2014?

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Will Kyle Kendrick be in the Phillies starting rotation in 2014?

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Do you think Jonathan Papelbon will be the Phillies closer Opening Day 2014?

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Will Darin Ruf be a starting outfielder on Opening Day 2014?

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What will Dom Brown's average be in 2014?

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  • 40 Comments
 

Trying to Untangle the 2014 Phillies Roster

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Thu, September 05, 2013 07:00 AM Comments: 62

The Phillies currently have 46 players on their 40-man roster. This in itself is not strange – with the advent of the 60-day disabled list (DL), teams can carry up to 25 active players and 15 players in the minors as reserve, with any player who is anticipated to miss 60 days or more not counting against the final 40.

The Phillies currently have six players on their 40-man who are on the 60-day: Mike Adams, Ryan Howard, Jeremy Horst, John Lannan, Jonathan Pettibone, and Michael Stutes. Adams and Howard have guaranteed contracts for 2014, while Horst and Pettibone have cheap, renewable contracts, and Lannan and Stutes are arbitration-eligible.

These six players will all count toward the Phillies 40-man sometime shortly after the World Series concludes, making the 40-man roster 46 deep. Uh oh.

Continue reading Trying to Untangle the 2014 Phillies Roster

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Reading Eagle Survey: Franco Ranked Top Phillies Prospect

Posted by Jay Floyd, Tue, August 27, 2013 08:00 AM Comments: 39

Recently, Mike Drago of The Reading Eagle conducted a survey of about ten experts, made up of writers and other media members, designed to rank the top prospects in the Philadelphia developmental system.

The participating individuals, who are all close to the Phillies minor league system, were asked to rank their personal top 15, which were tabulated to determine the paper’s published list of top prospects. Those that offered their insight for the ratings this time around included Bob Brookover, Tony Graham, Mitch Rupert, Jeff Schuler, Mike Drago himself and yours truly, PhilliesNation’s Jay Floyd.

The collection of experts found that fast rising third base prospect Maikel Franco, who represented the Phillies organization in the MLB All-Star Futures Game this year, is the club’s top minor leaguer.  Franco, who recently began playing first base is primed to make an impact with the big club in the near future and has become the Phils’ most highly touted offensive prospect since Ryan Howard was trying to break into the big leagues.

Last year’s results ranked lefty hurler Jesse Biddle at the top.  The Philadelphia native fell in this year’s rankings while others rose and some fell completely off of the list.

Here’s a review of The Reading Eagle’s Phillies prospect rankings…

1- Maikel Franco, 3B, Double-A Reading…the 21-year-old slugger notched his 30th homer and 100th RBI of the season on Monday night.  Franco, who began the season with Class A Advanced Clearwater, is one of the biggest breakout prospects in all of minor league baseball this season and plans to continue his outstanding year in the Dominican Winter League.  In 127 games this season combined at the two levels, the youngster sports an impressive .313/.352/.566 line.
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Phillies Nation’s Ayres Wins Harry Kalas Award

Posted by Pat Gallen, Fri, August 23, 2013 08:14 AM Comments: 0

Kenny in the booth at CBP.

Kenny in the booth at CBP.

We’re all extremely proud to announce one of our own has received a tremendous award.

Kenny Ayres, one of Phillies Nation’s fine contributors, was presented with the 2013 Harry Kalas Award by the Phillies broadcasters. Here is the press release.

—————–

The Philadelphia Broadcasters Foundation is pleased to announce Kenneth Ayres as the winner of the 2013 Kalas Award, given annually to a Philadelphia-area college student wanting to follow in the footsteps of the late Phillies broadcaster, Harry Kalas.

Ayres, a native of Ambler, PA, is beginning his senior year at West Chester University. He is a communication studies major with a minor in journalism, and has been extremely active in both student and commercial media while making Dean’s list in four straight semesters. He is currently completing his second summer with the Lehigh valley IronPigs broadcasting and media relations departments. He has worked on air for WBCB 1490 in Levittown, providing live sports updates and play-by-play of local American Legion baseball broadcasts. For three years he has worked for the West Chester University student station, WCUR 91.7 The Curve. Ayres lists Harry Kalas ‘ description of Ryan Howard’s third deck home run off Mike Mussina on June 20, 2006 as one of his favorite Kalas calls.

Continue reading Phillies Nation’s Ayres Wins Harry Kalas Award

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Can Dom Brown Win Home Run Crown?

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Thu, August 15, 2013 11:00 AM Comments: 10

http://l.yimg.com/iu/api/res/1.2/kCGKm60NjGSfpkwDxu9kjA--/YXBwaWQ9eXZpZGVvO2NoPTg2MDtjcj0xO2N3PTY1NztkeD0yO2R5PTE7Zmk9dWxjcm9wO2g9ODU7cT0xMDA7dz02NQ--/http://l.yimg.com/j/assets/i/us/sp/v/mlb/players_l/20130405/8644.1.jpgWhen Domonic Brown was sidelined with a concussion after a diving catch attempt on July 23, a lot of the Phillies hopes went with down with him. The Fightins went 1-10 in the stretch without Brown, being outscored 67 to 24. Brown probably would not have been able to erase the 43 run differential all by himself but may have been able to help in the five one or two run games the Phillies lost in that run.

Amazingly, Brown lost almost no ground in the NL Home Run race during his injury. With his 27th homer last night, Brown sits just two homers behind the suddenly-smoking Paul Goldschmidt (8 HR in his last 19 games) and the Pirates’ consistent power threat Pedro Alvarez for the NL crown. In a season full of disappointments, Brown’s performance has not been one of them.

If Brown can make up the two homer deficit, he would be the first Phillie since Ryan Howard in 2008 to win the National League home run title. Brown would join eight other Phillies who have won the NL Home Run crown if he could achieve the feat. Can Brown join the ranks of Mike Schmidt, Chuck Klein, and Jim Thome?

According to my projections, the winner would require about 40 homers to win it, meaning Brown would need to hit 13 in the final 42 games, or one every three games which is certainly a doable pace. Thoughts?

  • 10 Comments
 

Revisiting Amaro over Arbuckle

Posted by Pat Gallen, Wed, August 14, 2013 11:44 AM Comments: 25

Completely forgot I wrote this in November 2008, but @GTown_Dave on twitter sent it to me, reminding me of that under-the-radar move. The move was choosing Ruben Amaro over Mike Arbuckle to take over for Pat Gillick as GM of the Phillies. Amaro got the job, Arbuckle moved to Kansas City, and here we are today.

I wrote this nearly five years ago for examiner.com:

On Monday, the Philadelphia Phillies announced their new General Manager, the man who would take over for the legendary Pat Gillick.  Ruben Amaro Jr., just 43, is the new GM for the World Champion Phillies, filling in for Gillick who has won three titles in that position.

It’s a feel good story for Amaro, who in 1980 was a batboy, winning a championship with the team in quite a different capacity.  He now gets to take over for the top franchise in baseball and will have a busy first off-season ahead of him as players like Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels look for big-time raises and Pat Burrell becomes a free agent.

With the promotion of Amaro, an assistant GM for 10 seasons with the Phils, Mike Arbuckle will be leaving the team.  Arbuckle, an assistant General Manager himself, was also considered for the position before the Phillies’ decision to go with Amaro.

Arbuckle has been in baseball since 1979, when he entered the game as a scout.  In 1992 he took over as the Phillies Director of Scouting and just two years later was promoted to assistant GM.  One of the main cogs behind this championship season, Arbuckle is responsible for drafting Howard, Hamels and Burrell along with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Madson, and Brett Myers.

He is from the Kansas City area, and there are rumors around the league that he may join the Royals in some capacity. His departure would be huge, and may even be the biggest loss of the season.  This guy has been with the Phillies for nearly two decades and knows the Phillies system inside and out.  Amaro himself has been with the franchise for a while too, but he is not as seasoned as Arbuckle.

Baseball America had Arbuckle ranked as the third best GM prospect in 2003.  Five years have passed since then and Arbuckle is still an assistant, so its understandable that he wants his shot at losing the assistant moniker.

While it was great to see Amaro’s promotion, it is just as alarming to see Arbuckle leave like this.  He perhaps should have been the leading candidate, but the Phils brass chose to move along with younger blood.  Keep an eye on Arbuckle’s whereabouts during the off-season.  Just a week removed from a title, the Phillies are undergoing their first bout with in-house turmoil.

So, looking back, was it the right move to choose Amaro over Arbuckle?

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