Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard Needs to Adjust

By Sean O'Brien
Philadelphia Phillies Ryan Howard
Matt Kartozian–USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies are fortunate that Domonic Brown has emerged offensively this season, because Ryan Howard’s plate performance hasn’t been good. The ‘Big Piece’ needs to make a few adjustments as he continues to search for his power game.

The ‘shift’ isn’t the only reason why Howard hasn’t been consistent. He clearly hasn’t been able to adapt to a major league wide strategy that has been effectively used against him for a number of years.

Last year it was easy and accurate to say that the second-greatest home run hitter in franchise history was battling through his recovery from Achilles’ tendon surgery. Even though he started the season late and only appeared in 71 games, at least there was hope that Howard was making physical progress toward a full recovery.

After 57 appearances in 2013, Howard actually looks like he might have a permanently reduced capacity on the field. While the 10-season veteran is only 33-year-old, it’s fair to wonder if the major decline in power production will persist. If so, he would be wise to adopt Mike Schmidt’s latter career approach to hitting.

While ‘Schmidty’s’ reoccurring hamstring injuries don’t compare to Achilles’ tendon surgery, the Hall of Fame third baseman recognized that pitchers were changing their approach to him in ways that went beyond his physical decline. He responded by making multiple in-box adjustments throughout the latter part of his career and remained highly productive through 1987, when he was 37-years-old.

Each middle-aged person understands that life is lessened as time marches, but adaptations often allow maximum use of available energy sources. In Howard’s case, he does have seven home runs and 30 RBI’s this season. So, it’s plausible to think that he could hit 20 home runs and knock in 75 RBI’s by game 162. But, those numbers don’t reflect the line of a legitimate slugger now do they?

Unless new information is provided, it doesn’t seem like any major physical issues are linked to Howard’s current slump. If Brown continues to produce in the five-hole, the Phillies’ formerly dynamic cleanup hitter will see a number of quality pitches this year. How he handles these opportunities will will help to set his legacy and potentially influence the length of his stay in Philadelphia.

No matter the size of his contract, a la Jim Thome circa November 2005, financial agreements can be eaten and a trade can eventually be made. 

Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanyOB, Facebook, Google+ and read his blog Insight.

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