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What's Ryan Howard's problem?

Nov 4, 2009, 10:25 AM EDT

Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Inquirer offers five possible explanations for Ryan Howard’s struggles during the World Series:

(1) He’s putting too much pressure on himself;

(2) That’s just baseball. Slumps happen;

(3) The time off between the NLCS and World Series cost him his “mojo”;

(4) The Yankees pitchers are just executing; and

(5) The Yankees have a better game plan against Howard than anyone else;

Reasons number one and three are basically unquantifiable for us in the peanut gallery. What’s the scientific definition of mojo anyway? Who besides Howard can say if he’s putting too much pressure on himself, and even if he is, might that not be a reaction to his slump as opposed to its cause?

I’m far more partial to reasons two four and five. Partially because they represent phenomena that can actually be observed in the rational universe as opposed to residing inside someone’s head, but also because all three of them go together nicely.  The Yankees have a bunch of good pitchers. They have a pretty sharp pitching coach and a manager who was a pretty spiffy defensive catcher. Slumps happen.  It’s all of a piece, really, and that’s before mentioning the fact that Howard can’t hit lefties to begin with.

Any other possibilities here? Body snatchers? El Nino? An international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids?

  1. Shely - Nov 4, 2009 at 10:53 AM

    Hey Craig:
    Even Sir Albert has a slump now and then. No one can stay hot all year and in the post season. At least no has done it yet. Do not be surprised if he breaks out tonight (or not). That is the way the game goes.

  2. Dan - Nov 4, 2009 at 11:28 AM

    If he stopped swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, way out of the strike zone, then he’ll have a better chance at hitting the ball. Then he won’t put so much pressure on himself, he’ll get his mysterious “mojo” back, and the Yankees pitching staff will have to come up with another plan to get him out. Pretty simple!!!

  3. Beanster - Nov 4, 2009 at 11:38 AM

    Hey CC – checking out the new digs and commenting here for the first time! I’d like to add:
    (6) He’s freaking David Eckstein vs. LHP’s (.298 OBP and .653 OPS in 2009) and acc. to the story he’s faced all lefties except Burnett (3K’s but 2 walks) and 1 AB vs. Rivera.
    If my math is right, that means he’s 3-for-15 with 8 K’s against lefties which is about right (Howard’s BA vs. LHP was .207 in 2009 with only 6 HR’s and 83 K’s in 222 AB’s).
    Or it could be the “mojo” thing.

  4. Jeff J. Snider - Nov 4, 2009 at 11:48 AM

    As a Dodger fan, I still have trouble getting over last year’s game four in the NLCS (although this year’s game four might help), but guess what? It’s not the home run by Matt Stairs that keeps me up at night. It’s the fact that Hong Chi Kuo, a lefty with a GREAT curveball, gave up a base hit to Ryan Howard on a fastball to start the rally. I will never understand why any lefty would throw a fastball to Ryan Howard.

  5. kkelly - Nov 4, 2009 at 11:50 AM

    Howard’s problem is his hips are opening up a little early which causes his hands to pull the bat through the hitting zone. Slowing everything down a little bit. He misses fastballs that he should be hitting and he can’t reach the offspeed away stuff in time to hit it the other way and keep it fair. If he drives his hips a little more towards the pitcher before he opens up, he will start hitting the ball hard to all fields. The Yankee pitchers are good but they are not doing anything different than other teams try to do against Howard.

  6. jonny5 - Nov 4, 2009 at 11:57 AM

    LHP, that’s his problem. The only way he’s ever done well against Lefties is when they make a mistake with where the ball placement is. Occasionally he’ll hit a well placed lefty pitch. Very occasionally.

  7. jonny5 - Nov 4, 2009 at 11:59 AM

    If he would stop with trying to hit home runs off lefty’s he’d do much better. Just get on base Ryan!!!!

  8. GlenL - Nov 4, 2009 at 12:01 PM

    Seems to me that Howard is looking for a fastball that never comes, at least not in the strike zone. He should relax, and sit on the curve. He’s always at his best when can hit to left field, instead of pulling everything. The Yankees pitchers aren’t going to show him the fastball as long as he keeps flailing at curves.

  9. Mike - Nov 4, 2009 at 12:12 PM

    You cannot possibly compare a career .279 hitter (Howard) and a career .334 hitter (Pujols). Howard has good power but that does NOT make him a good hitter.

  10. The Common Man - Nov 4, 2009 at 12:16 PM

    I think it’s either an unlikely conspiracy between the Freemasons and Anarchists or that he’s facing a lot of good left-handed pitching.

  11. Mike Z - Nov 4, 2009 at 12:37 PM

    The LHP is what has put him in a slump. He is trying to do too much at the plate swinging at inside pitches.
    He will get his chance to break out of the slump vs. a lefty tonight. He will not be looking for a fastball because even if Pettitte tries to throw 1 I doubt it will be any faster then maybe 85mph. He needs to look for the curve and put the ball in play. Pettitte is going to have a rough time locating his pitches. So Howard needs to lay off the pitches outside the zone and wait for Pettite to miss on the curve that hangs over the plate.
    I would not be shocked to see Howard put the team on his back once again tonight and carry them to game 7.

  12. BillyBeaneismyHero - Nov 4, 2009 at 1:09 PM

    What? Unquantifiable measures aren’t good enough for the intellectuals of the world? Well, I never! Perhaps it’s because Howard doesn’t have enough grit or belly fire? Maybe he’s just not hungry enough?

  13. John - Nov 4, 2009 at 1:21 PM

    This blog will be irrelevant tomorrow as Howard will come through big time tonight. PHILLIES IN SEVEN!!! MARK MY WORDS!!!

  14. MannyH - Nov 4, 2009 at 1:29 PM

    I agree with kkelly, Howard is definitely opening up his hips early and not trying to drive the ball the other way. The Yankee pitchers are well aware of this and will keep coming at him with off speed stuff low and away until he adjusts which i hope is soon.

  15. scatterbrian - Nov 4, 2009 at 1:33 PM

    I’m pretty sure it’s those Buffalo chicken subs that are sapping Howard’s mojo.

  16. Jeff - Nov 4, 2009 at 1:38 PM

    I was thinking it’s karma for all of his schilling for the Philly Cheesesteak subs at Subway. A player from Philly should never be allowed to promote such an abomination of a cheesesteak…. The ghost of Rocky…..

  17. Mike M - Nov 4, 2009 at 2:10 PM

    I agree with Dan, if he stopped swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, way out of the strike zone, only problem is did you see the plate umpires strike zone last game? Everytime a player complained about an outside pitch Fox would show the strike zome box and the ball was constantly way off the plate. Looked like the plate ump wanted to get home early, maybe before the field crew made anymore bad calls in the series?

  18. jj - Nov 4, 2009 at 2:53 PM

    Try making contact once in awhile. He is what is wrong with baseball. Swing for the fences everytime..
    40 years ago he wouldn’t make it out of triple AAA. NOBODY played in the bigs striking out 150-200 times…..these guys (Soriano) are jokes.

  19. stoney curtis - Nov 4, 2009 at 3:08 PM

    Didn’t he give the same performance in last year’s WS? Anyway, I think he’s a head case. And they choke.

  20. scatterbrian - Nov 4, 2009 at 3:24 PM

    Haha. Schilling.

  21. mick-7-1961 - Nov 4, 2009 at 3:30 PM

    Nothing’s wrong with Ryan Howard…he slumping in the series..He’s still a future Hall-of-Famer.

  22. John - Nov 4, 2009 at 4:04 PM

    Wow look at all of these experts on hitting here at CTB. Pray tell are all of you not working with a MLB organization using your knowledge to help those most in need, like Mr. Howard? BAH! PHILLIES IN SEVEN!!! MARK MY WORDS!!!

  23. Shely - Nov 4, 2009 at 4:18 PM

    John Boy! You have an appointment with my shrink tomorrow A.M. after the blowout tonight. I just set it up. Please keep the appointment, as you need serious help! Forgot the address? call early A.M. I will get the address for you. Bombers in 6.

  24. Robin - Nov 4, 2009 at 4:42 PM

    A slump? So benign? Gimme a break. Maybe it’s choking? The comments are so nice and sweet rationalizing Howard’s slump. Where’s the vitriol and nastiness? When ARod wasn’t doing so hot early on in this Series he was highly criticized. Howard doesn’t hit well against LHP? Guess he knows what he needs to work on in the off season then. What an embarrassment to strike out 12 times and tie the record for most strike outs in a WS! And he’s the NCLS MVP! The Phillies, especially Howard, don’t have the mental toughness to play a powerhouse team like this year’s Yankees. The Yankees will win another WS probably tonight!

  25. mojo - Nov 4, 2009 at 4:43 PM

    that dude has the biggest nose!!

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