Ryan Howard has not hit well since Spring Training. So far this season he is batting .218 with 2 home runs and 20 strikeouts – although he maintains a .413 on-base percentage due to his league-leading 19 walks. Still, he is on pace for an astonishing 216 strikeouts on the season. This would break Jim Thome’s Phillies record of 182 Ks set in 2003, the last year of the Vet. Of course, just because A-Rod is "on pace" for a hundred million home runs this season, doesn’t mean players can’t turn it around.
The 27-year old Howard has experienced only one April in the major leagues. Last year he just five home runs in the season’s opening month, but then exploded for 13 in May. Similarly, the aforementioned Jim Thome also was a notoriously slow starter. Maybe that’s something you just have to live with when dealing with power hitters: strikeouts and slow starts. If it is though, it’s something the Phillies can no longer afford. Slow starts as individuals lead to slow starts as a team and slow starts as a team lead to golfing in October.
Fortunately, Jimmy Rollins has stepped up his game and provided power from the lead-off position. His seven homers rank tops in the NL and he is making a strong case for player of the month. Chase Utley has finally begun to turn the corner after his own slow start as seen in last night’s offensive display. As the team collected 11 runs on 20 hits (every starter had a hit) in Charlie Manuel’s 400th win, Ryan Howard struggled with three strikeouts. Hopefully the winning and RBIs will continue in the upcoming series against the Nationals; meanwhile Ryan Howard will be presented with good opportunity to break out of his funk. Tonight in South Philly, Jamie Moyer (2-1) takes to the hill against the Nats’ Jason Bergmann (0-1) on schedule magnet night. Go Phils!