It is no secret that Ryan Howard in recent years has been a shell of what he was from 2006-2011, where he totaled 262 home runs and 769 RBIs.
Since 2011, Howard has only 48 home runs and 194 RBIs. The drop-off in production can be directly linked to injuries, as Howard only played 151 total games between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. However, last season Howard had only 23 home runs and 95 RBIs in a healthy season where he played 153 total games.
Those numbers would be pretty good for the majority of players in MLB, but not Howard, especially with his $25 million price-tag.
Howard’s drop-off in power is likely correlated to his achilles and meniscus injuries, which makes sense. Still, Howard finished with 95 RBIs, but it could have been a lot more. In 169 at-bats with RISP, Howard only hit .249 (albeit 26 points higher than his season BA). In his career, Howard’s average with RISP is .279, exactly 30 points higher than his average in 2014.
Could his past injuries have affected his concentration at the plate in those clutch situations? Possibly. Perhaps he felt some discomfort in his legs, breaking his concentration. I don’t believe that’s the case, though.
Baseball is a mental game. If you’re not 100% into the game mentally, then your performance could very well suffer. Let’s not forget the lawsuit between Howard and members of his family over finances that was finally settled last November. That lawsuit likely stuck with Howard over the course of the 2014 season, and it could have very well been in the back of his mind during those 169 at-bats with RISP.
With the lawsuit now settled, Howard enters the 2015 season with a clear mind, and another year removed from his last injury in 2013.
A clean slate if you will.
At 35, Howard is getting up there in age, but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of having career-ressurecting season.
Anybody remember Raul Ibanez’s magical 2009 season? At 37-years-old, Ibanez hit 34 home runs for the Phillies. Even in 2013, at age 41, Ibanez hit 29 home runs and would have flirted with 100 RBIs if he were surrounded by a more offensively-talented Seattle ball-club.
Even last year at age 39, David Ortiz had 35 home runs (five more than 2013) and 104 RBIs.
Basically, Howard’s age shouldn’t be a real concern in his quest to resurrect his career.
After collecting two hits and one RBI in yesterday’s tie with the Yankees, Howard addressed the media and talked about the health of his legs.
“[My legs] feel good, they feel good. Obviously you guys have watched camp, we’ve had a pretty busy workload. For them to be able to withstand the kind of workload that we’re doing right now, it’s a good sign.”
If Howard’s legs are feeling healthy, then his power numbers should see an improvement. It’s pretty hard to hit a baseball 400 feet when your bottom-half isn’t functioning the way you’d like it to.
If Howard’s power numbers improve, then his RBIs will increase. It’s not far-fetched to think Howard will hit between 30-40 home runs this season, barring injury obviously. With a healthy body and a clear mind, Howard could return to form for the Phillies, or whatever team he’s playing for come August, in 2015.
Prediction: Probably a season similar to his 2011 campaign: 32 home runs and 112 RBIs.