All he does is strikeout. That's what the haters say anyway. Ryan Howard has 4,054 regular season Major League at bats with the Phillies. In those 4,054 AB's Howard has struck out 1,306 times. That equates to roughly 31% of the time that Howard steps to the plate it ends in a strikeout.
It is easy to look at the strikeouts and criticize the Big Fella. It is easy to remember the end of the 2010 season and the painful end to the 2011 season. Both ending abruptly on the bat of Ryan Howard. I was at the Bank in 2011 when Howard ruptured his achilles tendon in the final at bat of the season. The silence in the ballpark was that of disgust and frustration. Fans wondered if the 6'4 242 pound slugger would ever return to form. They wondered if the bad outweighed the good.
Howard is all smiles in 2013
2012 was a season to forget both for the Phillies as a whole and for Ryan Howard. Big Smooth didn't make his season debut until July 6 going 2-4 with a double in his first game back. The struggle with which he moved made it very evident that he was not ready to return. With the Phillies offense in shambles somebody had to step up and Howard tried to force his comeback. In only 71 games Howard struggled through the worst season of his career. Hitting a measly .219 Howard struck out 99 times, 38% of his 2012 AB's.
So haters are ya happy? But with every rain storm the sunny skies are sure to follow. Amidst the sunny skies of Clearwater, Florida the storm that was a dismal 2012 season for Ryan Howard bursts through with light.
After an off season of good health and a back to full strength declaration, the Big Man is crushing the Grapefruit League like he has a disdain for fruit. It is easy to write it off as "too early to tell" but the signs are all good. In 10 Spring Training games Howard is hitting a hefty .370 with an OPS of 1.215. In 27 AB's Howard has 3 HR's, 3 doubles and 10 RBI's. His 3-run blast on Sunday showcased out-of-the ballpark power and slugger bravado. Howard is straight beastmode.
The Big Man is swinging like he has something to prove, and in fact he does. The skeptics put his career to rest after the achilles injury but Howard is breathing life back into it and into a dormant Phillies offense.
With Ryan Howard you take the bad with the good. Without his power in the middle of the lineup the Phillies offense is weak, powerless, and "don't scare nobody." The four hole is where you put and need your power. Even if (or when) he strikes out you still will get a lot of home runs and RBI's. He has to protect the 3rd hitter and inflict some fear in opposing teams. In order to be a successful offense you have to take advantage of scoring opportunities. Like it or not Ryan Howard gives you a better chance at being a prolific and dangerous lineup. Yes, even with all the strikeouts.
"He's starting to get over his soreness," Charlie Manuel said after Sunday's game. "He's starting to get strong again."
A strength the Phillies will need to rely heavily on in 2013. It is good to see the Big Fella's big smile lighting up the clubhouse. While his bat continues to light up the berm and any and all haters that get in the way.