This is Ryan Howard’s eighth full season with the Phillies and we are still pondering that simple question, “Why Doesn’t Ryan Howard just hit the ball to the left side of the infield and beat the shift?” If I had a dollar for every time I heard this question over the last eight seasons, well I still wouldn’t be making as much as Ryan Howard, but I would be pretty damn close. And it isn’t like it is a fair question, because it really is just a stupid question.
Now our Brother Site That Balls Outta Here happened to do a piece on this same topic today, but brought a bit of a different perspective. John Stolnis, who does a great job covering the Phils, did bring up the idea of Ryan Howard potentially bunting just a few times a month. That idea is interesting and could potentially work, but again it is a flawed idea because Ryan Howard simply isn’t normally in a position to do that.
To hit the ball to the opposite field, normally you wait on the ball a little bit longer than a normal pitch so it can get deep in the zone, and you can still hit it with the barrel of the bat. But to do that the ball has to be put on the outside of the plate. If not you normally pull the ball. The same is the case for Ryan Howard. If teams are going to put the shift on Howard, they are going to pitch him in, so that he hits into the shift like they want. And Ryan Howard can’t change how he is pitched. And if he is getting pitches on the inner half and purposely tries to hit it to the left side of the infield, all he is going to do is either pop the ball straight up, or look really bad as he tries to inside out a ball and ends up swinging and missing.
I do think the idea of him bunting is worth trying, but with bunts especially if Ryan Howard get a pitch on the inner half and tries to bunt it to the left side of the infield all he is going to do is end up popping the ball up. There will be occasional times where Howard does get pitches on the outer half by mistake, but I would rather see him take a swing with his tremendous opposite field power, than try bunting and end up popping it up or laying down a nice bunt but still having the catcher throw him out. I mean let’s face it, Ryan Howard isn’t exactly Rickey Henderson on the base-paths.
So the moral of the story, and with Howard’s career in general is that you will have to take the good with the bad, and enjoy the homeruns and doubles, because he is going to hit into the shift and strikeout, and as much as we wish that could change, it likely isn’t going to at this point in Howard’s career.