Still on Ryan Howard and especially Ryan Howard against lefties. While we’re asking for stuff, I guess it would be nice if he could run the bases and was better defensively. But let’s stick with hitting lefties for now.
Howard has been so bad against lefties over the last five years that many have given up hope he’ll ever hit them again. It’s not the case, though, that Howard was never good against lefties. In four of the last five years he’s been terrible, but he had solid results against them in 2010 and was also good against lefties in 2006 and 2007.
So what would he need to do against left-handed pitching to get back on track in 2013?
Here are some of his marks against left-handed pitching for his career in all of the years in which he got at least 100 plate appearances against lefties, including his wOBA and percent of plate appearances in which he delivered singles, walks, doubles or triples and home runs:
|Year||wOBA vs L||1B%||BB%||2B or 3B%||HR%|
First the hits. Ryan Howard is a .227 career hitter against left-handed pitching. He’s had three years where he’s been good against lefties — ’06, ’07 and ’10. In 2010, he hit .264 against lefties with a BABIP of .320. 2006 was even more dramatic — he hit .279 against left-handed pitching with the help of a BABIP of .368.
2007 was the year in which he was good against lefties without the help of a monster BABIP. He hit just .225 against southpaws that year with a BABIP of .282. A quick look at the table above, though, will show that one of the things he did in 2007 against lefties that was unusual was draw walks at a very high rate. Howard walked in about 13% of his plate appearances against lefties in ’07, well above his 8.8% career average and almost three times his walk rate against lefties in 2012.
In 2006 and 2007 he was very solid against lefties, but he also hit 32 home runs against them in 471 plate appearances. That’s about 6.8% for those years combined, which is well above his career mark and seems highly unlikely to repeat given that he’s homered in about 3.6% of his plate appearances against lefties over the past four years.
Howard’s home run rate against lefties likely isn’t going back up there, but I don’t think that’s his biggest problem. His rate of doubles and triples was way down in 2012 as well, but I would not be at all surprised to see him return to his career rates of doubles and triples in 2013.
I think what we should be worried about is the singles and the walks. Howard got 106 plate appearances against lefties in 2012 and singled nine times, which is about 8.5% of his plate appearances. Coming into 2012, he had singled in about 13.7% of his chances against lefties over the past two seasons. He hit a rather pitiful .173 against lefties in 2012 — there’s close to no way he can draw enough walks or hit for enough power to be an effective hitter against lefties if he’s going to hit .173 against them.
There’s also the walks. Five walks in 106 plate appearances against lefties gives him a 4.7% walk rate against left-handed pitching. That’s a little better than half of his career walk rate of 8.8% against left-handed pitching. Like with the singles, he’s going to have an extraordinarily difficult time having success against left-handed pitching with a walk rate that low. Again, in 2012, his walk rate against lefties dropped for the third straight year.
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