Ryan Howard arrived to spring training 20 pounds lighter, possibly resulting in a quick start this spring. In 45 at bats, Howard is batting .298 with six home runs, and 16 RBI. He has struck out 13 times and walked eight times. He has a .377 on-base percentage and .711 slugging percentage.
Last year, Howard was off to a similar start during spring training, batting .319 with four home runs and nine RBI. But once the season started, he cooled.
In April, Howard hit just .168 with five home runs, striking out 37 times. His OBP was a low .298 and slugged only .347. ]In May, his numbers increased to 10 HR and he batted .238, but he struck out 40 times. He continued struggling through June batting .234 with 10 home runs and 36 strikeouts.
It took him a while, but he was finally able to get his average above the Mendoza line. His fielding also struggled as he committed 19 errors during the regular season. But this season Howard has been working with third base coach Steve Perlozzo, hoping to improve his defense.
When Howard is his best, he hits the ball the opposite way consistently; he didn’t in the first half of 2008. Howard has been hitting the ball the other way this year in spring training, which may be the difference.
If Howard can extend his spring success into the regular season, he’ll be a scarier hitter than he already is. However, since spring stats mean nothing, and we saw what happened last year, we can’t count on a quick start. But is this the year Howard gets the jump in April?