Here is a chart of the 35 intentional walks that were issued to Howard last season, who the Phils were playing, what the situation was and my opinion about whether or not walking Howard in that situation benefited the team that did so for each walk (there’s not enough room for it, so it should pop-up in another window).
Whether or not the walk worked or not is obviously subjective. And it’s important to remember that not walking Howard intentionally clearly would have had poor outcomes in many cases as well. Howard hit 47 home runs in 648 plate appearances last season. Take away the 35 plate appearances in which he was not intentionally walked and he hit 47 bombs in 613 plate appearances or one about every 13 plate appearances. That’s about three home runs he would have hit in the 35 times he was intentionally walked if he continued to hit home runs at that rate.
Still, by my count, 11 of the 35 times Howard was walked intentionally it didn’t have a good outcome for the other team. And that’s with, as I wrote yesterday, miserable results for the hitters that came up behind Howard after he was intentionally walked.
Regardless of what followed after the intentional walk, I think most would agree that Howard was issued some intentional walks in unusual situations.
Six times he was walked intentionally in the first inning. For three of those walks there was no score in the game.
On April 2 against the Braves, with two outs and Victorino on second with the score tied at 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, righty Bob Wickman walked Howard intentionally to pitch to Utley. Utley popped to third to end the inning, so it worked. But a hit still wins the game and Utley is more likely to bring the runner home from second with two outs than Howard (although that was before Utley had hit .332 in ’07 while Howard hit .268. Worked for the Braves, but I would have pitched to Howard).
On June 4 the Giants had lefty Barry Zito on the mound. With runners on second and third and one out in the first, the lefty Zito walked the lefty Howard with two righties behind him. They didn’t get the double-play but it worked anyway — Werth flew out and Rowand followed with a ground out.
On June 12 the White Sox walked him in the fourth inning when the Phillies were already winning by five runs. It worked, too. It put men on first and second with one out for Rowand and Rowand hit into a double-play.
On July 21 the Padres walked him with two outs in ninth and the Phils up by three runs already. Righty Cla Meredith walked Howard. Rowand followed and reached on an error — the Phils would score five times before the Padres got the third out.
It’s just a ton of intentional walks for Howard. It seems like it should cost the opponent and sometimes it does help to contribute to a big inning. But often it doesn’t, especially given how poorly Phillies’ hitters fared last year.
The other thing that’s interesting to me is the difference between the number of intentional walks Howard got last year and the number that Utley got. Utley and Howard each posted a .976 OPS, but Howard was walked intentionally 35 times and Utley was walked intentionally once. Not all hitters that post a .976 OPS are the same kind of hitter and obviously nobody is going to walk Utley with Howard hitting behind him to pitch to Howard, but that is still a fantastic difference.
One issue that may contribute to all the intentional walks for Howard is all the doubles that Utley hits. Utley had 48 last season, which tied him for third in the NL. Every time he hits a double in front of Howard it means that Howard comes up with first base open. With a righty on the mound and a righty hitting behind Howard there’s always the case to be made for putting Howard on and going after the righty.
By my count, 31 of the 35 intentional walks to Howard in 2007 came with both 1) a right-handed pitcher on the mound and 2) a right-handed hitter due to hit behind Howard. So the righty pitcher puts the lefty Howard on to get to the righty behind him. One way to prevent that is putting a lefty, Utley or Jenkins, behind Howard. I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all. But I also don’t think you can put Utley-Howard-Jenkins all in a row, either, which would let a single lefty come in and deal with all three of them. I don’t think that a lineup that went Rollins-Utley-Burrell-Howard-Jenkins one through five against a righty is a terrible idea — you’d like to see Utley coming up to bat with more runners on base a little more often than he would hitting second, but the Phils don’t really have a two-hitter anyway.
Another way to go would just be to try and hit higher than .156 after he gets walked intentionally.
The Phillies pounded the Reds yesterday, winning their exhibition opener 8-1. Travis Blackley was very good as he makes his bid for the 25-man roster. He allowed one hit in three innings and picked off the only runner he allowed to reach base. Moyer threw three scoreless innings, striking out three while allowing one hit. Carrasco threw a 1-2-3 frame with the help of two nice defensive plays. Madson gave up two singles in his inning but got out of it with a double-play. Clay Condrey is presumably also fighting for a roster spot along with Blackley. He struck out two in his inning, but allowed the Reds’ lone run on a solo homer by Adam Rosales.
Dobbs stroked a three-run homer as part of a seven-run fifth for the Phils. Feliz was 2-for-2 with a double, Bruntlett 2-for-2 with a double. Helms was 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
Phils play the Pirates today.
Article about the Phillies’ payroll here.
Article about Jason Jaramillo here.
Some of the Phillies turn out to have been good at other sports as well.