This is The Dip, a column penned by our regular commenter, The Dipsy.
Contrary to popular opinion, I happen to be a big Phillies fan. But, perhaps my type of fandom flies in the face of the traditional method of rooting and team support; in that tend to criticize, loudly and resolutely, the very team that I have pledged my undying love to. Today I return to one of my cause célèbre, that being the absolute necessity that Ryan Howard be dropped to sixth in the batting order against left-handed pitching. The fact that this has not been tried already, never mind discussed, just boggles my mind.
Below is a sampling, and I seriously only went through half the teams, of how NL first basemen fared against left handed pitching last year:
Fielder – 13/47/.292
Dunn – 7/28/.268
Helton – 1/28/.311
Votto – 7/27/.329
Howard – 6/33/.207
Joey Votto? .207! And all those mentioned above are lefties. Quite simply, Ryan’s numbers against lefties have progressively gotten worse each year to the point where his spot in the order is now the place where baserunners go to die when a left handed pitcher is on the mound.
Look, Ryan is a stud. A once-in-a-generation power hitter – an institution maybe. But the fact remains that while he is lethal against righties, he is horrible against southpaws. The disparity of performance is so marked that the whisper “he’s great but he has trouble with lefties” is one bad month away from morphing into the dreaded “can’t hit lefties” (because he can’t) moniker, and that’s hard to shake. Anyone with two eyes and watches games knows that Ryan has the plate discipline of a six-year old at a piñata party. Consequently, he sees a steady diet of head high fastballs and off speed slop that breaks five feet off the plate. So that’s what he swings at. Frankly, now that I think about it, I’m tired of analyzing the “whys”.
Just make the move. No excuses. “Ooohhh, you’ll take away his aggressiveness”. “Oooooh, who’ll drive in all those runs?”. “But, we’re paying him 20 million dollars”. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Baloney. Drop him to sixth. Let Jason and Raul hit 4-5. Jason kills lefties and Raul hits them. It will be a better lineup. We will score more runs. So, why not do it? I haven’t the faintest idea. All one needs is the courage to change.