This tweet says it all:
For about two weeks in the middle of June, it looked like Ryan Howard had figured it out. Between June 12-22, he raised his OPS an even 100 points from .728 to .828, but it is back down to .778 after going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his return to the Phillies’ lineup in this afternoon’s loss. He had enjoyed a two-day reprieve to “release his mind“.
Howard now has the fourth-highest strikeout rate in the National League at 30.4 percent. With a mediocre 7.4 percent walk rate, he has the 11th-worst walk-to-strikeout ratio in the league at 0.24, per FanGraphs. He has been completely ineffective against left-handed pitching, which makes you wonder when GM Ruben Amaro will swallow his pride and demote his $125 million first baseman to one half of a first base platoon.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw entered Wednesday night’s start against the Marlins without having issued a walk in his previous three starts. In fact, his last walk came on April 3 when he issued a free pass to Paul Goldschmidt with the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the first inning. All told, Kershaw was on a streak of 26 walk-less innings before he took the mound at home to take on the Marlins.
Kershaw started off Wednesday in character, striking out the side in the first inning. He issued a walk in a tough second inning, but escaped without allowing a run. Kershaw walked two more in the third and again danced out of danger. In the fourth, Kershaw walked Lewis Brinson to load the bases with no outs and — you guessed it — didn’t end up allowing a run. His errant control finally came back to bite him in the fifth when Kershaw issued back-to-back two-out walks, then served up a three-run home run to Miguel Rojas down the left field line. His night was done when he completed the inning. Five innings, three runs, five hits, six walks, seven strikeouts, 112 pitches.
The six walks Kershaw issued over five innings marked his first six-walk outing since April 7, 2010 when he issued six free passes to the Pirates in 4 2/3 innings. The only other time he walked as many was on August 3, 2009 against the Brewers in a four-plus inning outing. Kershaw hasn’t even walked five batters in an outing recently — the last time was September 23, 2012 against the Reds.