For several years, many have suggested that the Phillies ought to platoon first baseman Ryan Howard with a right-handed hitter who can handle lefties. In the past, John Mayberry, Jr. was one option and more recently, Darin Ruf seems tailor-made for the role.
Per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury, Howard is keeping the mindset of an everyday player, saying, “That’s negative. If I think negative, if I think I can’t hit lefties, I might as well not go out there at all.” More from Salisbury:
Howard believes a healthy left leg will allow him to be better against lefty pitching in 2014.
“Being able to now have two legs and being able to be a little more stable in the box, it will allow me to stay back a little bit longer and kind of see balls,” he said Saturday. “When my legs are going good and everything is going well I can hit lefties. It’s just a matter of being able to be stable in the box.”
Howard’s weighted on-base average (wOBA) against right- and left-handed pitching since 2006 looks like this:
The National League average wOBA for first basemen from 2006-13 has been .362, .358, .353, .360, .347, .340, .328, and .328, so Howard’s production against lefties over the last three seasons has been significantly below average. He can still hit right-handed pitching without a doubt.
Also from Salisbury, Howard says his goal for 2014 is to play in all 162 games.
The Cardinals went from winning 100 games last season to 82 entering Wednesday evening’s game, and they might not even make the playoffs. Still, the organization will bring back manager Mike Matheny for the 2017 season, Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Owner Bill DeWitt, Jr. said, “Mike’s done a really good job for us. There’s no thought that we’re going to go in any different direction.”
GM John Mozeliak also expressed his support, saying, “Mike takes a lot of heat, and I’ve defended him and I will continue to. I really feel like some of the things that we’re dealing with aren’t fair to put on the manager.”
Mozeliak continued, “I do feel like all of us are always held accountable for what we do here, so there’s nobody excluded from that. But having said that, I don’t look at him as someone that we are where we are because of that.”
Matheny has received criticism for his bullpen usage, but the Cardinals have only 15 blown saves as a team, the fourth-lowest total in baseball this season.
The Phillies’ bullpen led to yet another loss on Tuesday. Severino Gonzalez, Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez, and David Hernandez combined to allow six runs in five innings, allowing the Braves to come back and win 7-6 after falling behind 6-0 after the first two innings.
The game prior, the Phillies’ bullpen surrendered 14 runs in four innings in a 17-0 loss to the Mets. The game before that, the bullpen yielded four runs in four innings, nearly squandering the Phillies’ 10-0 lead after four innings. And last Thursday, the Phillies had taken an 8-6 lead in the top of the 11th, but Edubray Ramos served up a walk-off three-run home run to Asdrubal Cabrera. It’s been a tough month.
Manager Pete Mackanin ripped the bullpen when speaking to the media after Tuesday’s game. Via Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly:
Neris was going to close for us. I thought about using him with two outs in the eighth. But, at some point, somebody else has to do a (bleeping) job. Somebody else has to (bleeping) step up. In two games now, every reliever I brought in has given up a (bleeping) run. That’s unheard of.
The Phillies currently own the fourth-worst bullpen ERA in baseball at 4.97. Only the Rockies (5.12), Reds (5.07), and Diamondbacks (4.98) have been worse.
In fairness to the bullpen, aside from Jeanmar Gomez (who lost his job as closer earlier this month) and free agent signee David Hernandez, the bullpen is intentionally comprised of young, inexperienced pitchers as the Phillies are still rebuilding. If the Phillies were aiming for a playoff spot, it would be one thing, but the struggles are to be expected when one throws 24-year-olds into the deep end.