By Andrew Porter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Is Ryan Howard an American League player now?
“Yeah, I think he is,” Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa candidly told Howard Eskin Friday on the 94WIP Morning Show. “I mean, in all fairness to him [Howard], when a big guy like that does something to his Achilles and then you’re out on the field for nine innings and you’re making plays, you’re going to your right, going to your left, that takes a wear and tear on your body. I mean, if you look at just numbers, I would be shocked if an American League wouldn’t say you know what, ‘I’ll take 25 [home runs] and 100 [runs batted in] and he’ll be my DH [designed hitter].’
Howard, the former NL MVP and World Series champion, played in 153 games in 2014 hitting .223 and striking out an MLB-high 190 times. At 34-years-old, the five-time All-Star first baseman is clearly not the same player he once was. However, Howard is still owed about $60 million over the next two seasons.
“But again, I think personally, it would help him just to get off his feet and not being able to have to stand out there for nine innings every night,” Bowa continued. “But there’s also talk that this is really going to be—last year was his first full year since that [Achilles] injury [he suffered in 2011] and he thinks he’s gonna get stronger and better, so again, we’re going to have to wait and see. But I think an America League team—I think he can help an American League team.”
On top of Howard’s MLB-high 190 strikeouts, the player who batted behind Howard for the Phillies—right-fielder Marlon Byrd—had 185 strikeouts of his own, second most in all of baseball. That’s 375 strikeouts in 1,160 at-bats between Howard and Byrd. The Phillies’ clean-up and five-hole hitters struck out a combined 32.3% of the time.
“No. You can’t do that,” Bowa said. “When I talk about being successful, I don’t mean playing .500. I’m talking about, if you want to go to the playoffs and eventually go to the World Series, it’s very difficult to have two guys hitting back-to-back striking out 400 times—about 400, close to 400 times. And not only that, we had a couple other guys striking out a couple hundred times. You can’t be successful not putting the ball in play. I mean, you’re talking about two guys, literally, close to 400 times nothing bad could happen. You’re not making the opposition catch a ball. You’re not making anybody make a play. You’re not being able to advance runners.”
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