You do not have to be an advanced scout to know that, for reasons unknown, Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies cannot hit left-handers anymore.
That’s why the Phillies can and must sit Howard down against lefties — maybe forever. He cannot and does not hit them and it’s been that way for more than two years now. If Howard is consistent about anything, it’s about the way he sees the ball when there is a lefty on the mound. In 2012, he hit .176 against lefties. He hit the same exact number against lefties in 2013. This year, it’s been more of the same. In 52 appearances against left-handers, he has struck out 25 times.
The Phillies have resisted platooning Howard because the popular argument has been you cannot platoon a guy making $25 million a year.
Who says so?
If he’s an anchor to an already unproductive offense, which he is, then sitting him makes sense against the very people who give him the most trouble. After nearly three years of such incompetence, Howard has made the decision for the Phillies an easy one.
Manager Ryne Sandberg sat him and allowed right-handed hitter Darin Ruf to take his place at first base on Tuesday night. Ruf rewarded the move with a home run. Citing the need to get more consistency in his offense, Sandberg said it is a move he would consider making permanent.
The Phillies do not have many options right now involving Howard because, with his contract and woeful production, he is not a tradable commodity. Ruf is a power hitter who, as recently as 2012, hit 38 home runs and knocked in 104 runs in 139 games at Double-A Reading.
It’s time to give Ruf the same chance at hitting lefties that Howard has had for the better part of three years. One thing is certain, Ruf could do no worse.