Howard’s Power, or Lack Thereof – Phillies Nation

Howard’s Power, or Lack Thereof

When Ryan Howard hit his eleventh homer of the season this week against the Yankees, it marked the latest point that Howard has reached that mark in any of his four previous full seasons. Now, eleven is a bit of an arbitrary number to point out, but this occurrence merely highlights the overarching concern that Ryan Howard has, well, been a bit of a power drain.

With no word on injury, Howard’s relatively low slugging in 2010 is curious. Frankly, there’s more about Howard’s game this season that puzzles me than just his power, but seeing as the long ball is the Big Man’s calling card, it deserves a bit more scrutiny. Where have the homers gone? Why aren’t there more?

Through 64 games and 279 plate appearances, Howard has 11 home runs and 23 extra-base hits, both of which are his lowest totals through 64 games played since 2004, when he played just 19 games. Were the rest of the club not exiting one of the worst offensive slumps in recent memory, this is something that probably would have already been discussed in detail.

So, what gives? Let’s start at the top, looking at Howard’s 11 dingers. HitTrackerOnline is a site that’s nice enough to track the distance of every single ball that leaves the yard during the Major League season. To the right, Howard’s long ball landing spots are plotted out by direction and distance. Howard has established a reputation of having incredible opposite-field power, and this plot shows an intriguingly even spread across the field, in confirmation that Howard’s opposite-field ability is still there. Even with a relatively small sample, a comparison of this plot to previous years yields similarities in spread.

All right, so that relieves one area of concern. Howard doesn’t appear reliant on pulling the ball out of the park. HitTracker notes that Howard’s 11 homers this year have an average “true” distance* of 408 feet. Hey, that’s farther than I can hit a golf ball with an aluminum bat, I’m sure, and actually ranks as Howard’s second-best average distance, trailing last year’s 414-foot average mark.

*HitTracker defines “true” distance as such: “if the home run flew uninterrupted all the way back to field level, the actual distance the ball traveled from home plate, in feet.”

All right, that looks well and good, too. I suppose that leaves us with one final stone to overturn: how is Howard hitting the ball? It is within that answer that we may have found the reason for Howard’s modest homer totals.

From 2006 to 2009, Howard has had some pretty consistent percentages of ball-in-play types. His splits come out to around 38.8 percent fly balls, 37.7 percent ground balls, 22.7 percent line drives and less than one percent infield flies. This year, Howard’s fly ball percent is the lowest it’s been since 2005 – though his line drive rate is his highest by a slim margin – and an alarmingly low number of those fly balls are leaving the yard.

Since his 58-homer campaign of 2006, the percentage of Howard’s flies that have left the park have declined. From39.5 percent of flies turning into homer that MVP year, to 25.4 percent last year, to just 17.5 percent in 2010, it seems we may have found our culprit.

Why would that be the case, though? I don’t know if anyone can say for sure. Some would point to the dropping amount of fastballs he gets to hit (and the reflexive bump up in sliders seen), some would say this is mere bad luck, and others may suggest more radical things like Howard’s annual weight loss have, in turn, sapped some power away. Maybe he just needs a human jinx like me to stand up and mention it. Whatever the case may be, Phils fans can only hope that the hot summer months continue to bring out the beast in Howard, as they have in the past. Third-highest on the Phils in slugging – behind Shane Victorino, no less – is not a place most of us are accustomed to seeing Ryan.



  1. WOODY

    June 18, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Howard is going to decline. His contract will prove to be the biggest albatross in Phillies history. It will literally bog down this team for the next five years. I cannot believe that Amaro did this without getting some kind of kickback from Howard’s agent as a sort of insurance policy in the event that he loses his job a GM. Already we are seeing a sharp decline in Raul Ibanez, whose contract is also absurd for a player his age. He screwed up with Moyer’s deal, as well. Polanco, who is a very good ballplayer, was signed for more than needed. It is clear to me that Amaro’s fiscal irresponsibility will hurt this team. He needs to go.
    You cannot blame the players. It is an incompetent cowboy in the front office that is to blame. No excuses for his incompetence. It should be investigated. I am not being mean here. I truly believe that this man is a total incompetent.

  2. WOODY

    June 18, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Baseball is littered with young stud hitters who were done by age 30. Hitters who have hit the long ball for several years and for some odd reason — injury, premature aging, loss of strength, eyesight decline, diabetes, etc., — have simple declined rapidly. I believe this is the case with Ryan Howard. At least he will be very, very rich.


  3. Andrew from Waldorf

    June 18, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    What do you expect from a guy who swings at every pitch in the dirt? Why would you ever pitch over the plate to him? I wouldnt. You dont have to.

    That he is grossly over paid will be something that will litter this blog for the next 5 years. Nothing we can do about it. It is what it is.

    Dont make me go on about why his being 10 million a year over paid matters. Look if the Phils had a billion dollar budget I wouldnt care. But they dont. Look up Cliff Lee to see about the budget. And that was before this albatross contract.

  4. George

    June 18, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Yeah, yeah, and bla bla bla. Maybe Ryan is just having an off year power wise, or even an off half-season. Anyone consider that?

    And yeah, yeah, Moyer’s contract was a mistake. Twelve wins last year and seven so far in less than half a season for 2010 are in no way worth the money he’s being paid. I’d much rather have Randy Wolf at $9 million, Ben Sheets at 10, or maybe even Jeff Suppan at his obscene pay than Moyer at a few million less. Those other guys are proven winners! Or how about Jayson Marquis? He’s been super pitching on the DL.

    Howard might turn out to be an albatross, although he might not, because he keeps himself in shape and shows signs of improving his overall game. Ibanez is making maybe a little more than we’d like now that we’ve all forgotten his performance last year and the fact that he’s streaky. And Polanco is obviously not going to be worth even a pittance more than Feliz, who always hit better than Placido, and could play a gold glove second base when Utley was out.

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  6. Andrew from Waldorf

    June 18, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    My problem is length. 5 years.

    But hey as a Phillies fan I hope he hits 80 homers a year for the next 5 years and is the most underpaid player in sports.

  7. therookie300

    June 18, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    I think this so called power outage is not really a concern yet. He does look a little different at the plate to me anyways. He looks like he is trying to put the ball in play more. His K rate is down a little bit. But maybe it’s just the fact that he hasn’t started to heat up yet. Heck, Prince Fielder just started mashing for the year. Everything could also be part of this team wide slump also.
    I’ll be honest this team has been hard to watch during this, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt and that goes for the Big Man as well. I think they’ll get this machine rolling again and we will get to watch some pretty exciting baseball later this year.

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  9. Phatti

    June 18, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Best reverse jinx ever

  10. philliesphan

    June 18, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    And Howard hits HRs tonight ! Great jinx !

  11. Chuck

    June 18, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    What the hell kind of article is this anyway?

    All I know is that right now, after 65 games, Ryan Howard is hitting .293 with 13 HR and 49 RBI.

    Sooooo….we’re complaining about this WHY exactly??

    I stand by something I said a few weeks back on this site….by year’s end Howard will end up with a BA of .275-.285, around 40 HR and 130-140 RBI.

  12. Bruce

    June 18, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    I agreed with you Chuck. The article is much ado about NOTHING. It’s great that Howard is trying to hit .300 and cutting down on strikeouts. At the same time, because he is successfully making more contact, he continues to drive in runs and be among league leaders in RBIs category. Besides, RBIs is more important than how many homers he hit. And to satisfy the homer hungry fans, he appears to be heating up with that awesome display of power tonight.

  13. Bret

    June 18, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    I love this site….because it shows how clueless some fans are. People like Woody are what make the world go around…..idiots are funny. Howard must go? I love it. I bet Woody couldnt name one player from the 2002 team.

  14. Aaron

    June 18, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Woody your views are jaded. Are you a NYM in disguise?

  15. Paul Boye

    June 19, 2010 at 12:14 am

    First, you’re commenting after a game in which the dude went 4-4 with two homers, a game that happened after I wrote and published this piece. Second, I even state in the article: “When Ryan Howard hit his eleventh homer of the season this week against the Yankees, it marked the latest point that Howard has reached that mark in any of his four previous full seasons.”

    There was reason to question. I don’t know why this degenerated into a contract discussion, but if you felt there wasn’t any shred of merit or cause for this article, I venture a guess that you just aren’t paying attention.

  16. Stu

    June 19, 2010 at 12:29 am

    “Maybe he just needs a human jinx like me to stand up and mention it.”

    Thanks for helping the cause. It drives me crazy to see him chase the low outside slider…but I do enjoy the 400 plus foot home runs.

  17. Chuck

    June 19, 2010 at 7:03 am

    Not paying attention??

    The fact that I point out that when it’s all said and done that Howard’s numbers will be right there….that’s not paying attention??

    SO WHAT if he didn’t reach 11 HRs fast enough for you. That means ZILCH at the end of the year.

  18. NickFromGermantown

    June 19, 2010 at 7:56 am

    For some reason, the Phillies continue to treat Howard like it’s 2006. He is changing every year and this contract has very few ways that it can become a good deal.

  19. The Dipsy

    June 19, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Hahahahaha. Bad timing Paul. I would suggest that Ryan may be trying to just hit the ball hard in a lot of spots as opposed to trying to hit a home run every single time. What good is a homer when your are down 7-1 and nobody on in the fifth inning. Maybe he realizes now that just getting on base in that situation is plenty good enough. I’m happy with the way Ryan is hitting. I do wanna see him to lay off those sliders and curves even more. Like they say in AA, of which I am proud not to be a member, “progress, not perfection”.

    The Dipsy

  20. Paul Boye

    June 19, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    What you presume Howard’s numbers to be at the end of the year has no bearing on what his numbers actually are right now, Chuck.

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  22. Tom Gride

    June 25, 2010 at 2:28 am

    I do not think that, at this moment, we have agreement on what should comprise this essential humanities core. But it is clear to me at least that the great, unique power of the humanities lies in their capacity to engage the emotions as well as the intellect, to move the heart while provoking the mind. Bearing, Bearings

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