The Phils salvaged the season series against the Brewers yesterday afternoon behind the bat of Ryan Howard. Like Pat Burrell, but probably a bit less understated, Ryan is a rather impressive season. Many wondered if he would succumb to a sophomore slump or if he would continue to struggle against lefties. Neither have been an issue and after the first two months of this season, he has validated the Jim Thome trade, despite Thome’s hot start for Chicago.
If Ryan stays on the home run pace he has set thus far, he will have 56 homers by October. Five of his 17 homers this year have come against lefties whereas last season he hit only 1 out of his 22 against them. This point in the season marks a good date to offer comparisons between this year and last as the amount of at bats are similar:
2005 – 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 26 K, .148 / .175 / .246
2006 – 5 HR, 10 RBI, 2 BB, 17 K, .310 / .328 / .534
Quite the improvement. Phillies.com also likes to point out that 10 of Howard’s 12 home runs at CBP have been hit the opposite way.
The Phils yesterday were also aided by a solid start from Ryan Madson who recorded seven strikeouts while only allowing two earned runs over the course of five innings. With Cole Hamels not except back until June 7th, Madson will likely get another shot at starting. The question is then, if Madson pitches brilliantly or even more than adequately, will Charlie consider giving him his starting job back? The skipper responded, "When that time comes for us to make a decision, that’s what we’ll do. I never rule anything out. I say that because I mean it." This would of course mean demoting Cole or perhaps even Gavin Floyd to make room.
In the wider baseball world, a few publications have mentioned the Phillies. The latest release of Win Shares rankings by The Hardball Times has Bobby Abreu and Chase Utley tied for fourth in the league with 10 Win Shares a piece. Baseball Prospectus devoted an entire article to the mismanagement of the Phillies relief pitching in last week’s 16 inning loss to the Mets. One quote pretty much sums it up, "That’s simply a failure by the man in the dugout." Lastly, according to ESPN’s Game Score, Jon Lieber has pitched the fourth best game in the NL this season. His May 13th outing against Cincinnati won him the honor. He will try to replicate that performance tonight against the Nationals. He’ll have his work cut out keeping the ball in the park as Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson have been hitting the ball extremely well and plenty far.