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Phillies move Ryan Howard out of the cleanup spot for the first time since 2008

Apr 1, 2014, 4:16 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies Getty Images

Ryan Howard batted cleanup for the Phillies on Opening Day, going 2-for-5 with a walk (and three strikeouts) in a wild 14-10 win over the Rangers, but manager Ryne Sandberg is switching things up for Game 2 tonight.

Sandberg has moved Marlon Byrd into the cleanup spot against Rangers left-hander Martin Perez, sliding Howard down into the fifth spot.

And as Todd Zolecki of MLB.com points out, it’s the first time Howard has started anywhere but the cleanup spot for the Phillies since way back in 2008. June 29, 2008 to be exact. That day Pat Burrell hit cleanup, Howard batted fifth, and–here’s where it gets a little weird–the Phillies were also playing the Rangers in an interleague game in Texas.

More fun from that game: Jamie Moyer took the loss for the Phillies, C.J. Wilson was the Rangers’ last reliever used, Texas had Michael Young playing shortstop and Chris Davis batting seventh. Oh, and Marlon Byrd–who’s the guy batting cleanup for the Phillies tonight instead of Howard–was the Rangers’ center fielder and No. 6 hitter.

  1. happytwinsfan - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    heaven forfend, their batting order choices are being influenced by the differing match ups of individual games. the manager must be a wussy nerd.

    • Kevin Gillman - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:29 PM

      The thing is though is Ryan’s ego brusied because of it, or is he taking it in stride?

      • zengreaser - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:36 PM

        Who cares. When he starts living up to the $125M contract he has, then worry about his feelings.

        – a Phillies (and Ryan Howard) fan

      • Kevin Gillman - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:37 PM

        Oh I know, but you also know what I mean. I mean, how many of us would love to be in his shoes, or any player for that matter? Hell, I’d love to be Nick Punto…LOL

      • mmeyer3387 - Apr 5, 2014 at 12:23 AM

        I don’t have anything sarcastic to say about Howard; I wish him well. That being said, he is a good example of a player that was once very good but time and injuries have caught up to him. Furthermore, these factors have taken away enough of Howard’s skills to where he is only an average player at best. Yet, history is just repeating to where a team gives one of their best players a huge contract for to many years. Moreover, its not that a player or his team are bad but both need to realize that most player’s skills leave them as they regress with time and injuries. The fact is that most quickly start to lose their abilities when they start getting on the wrong side of 30. Don’t we see this playing out with others; A-Rod, Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, and Barry Zito. Clearly this is only a small list of players with bad contracts that are guaranteed for vast amounts of money for an unreasonable time duration for even the most talented players.

  2. macjacmccoy - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    I like it probably more than I should. At least 1 manager is doing whats best for a team instead of what’s best for a players ego. If the Phillies have a better chance of winning with Howard batting 9th then that is where he should bat. Even more, if forcing Howard to drop down a bunt to 3rd base a few times forces teams to stop drastically over shifting there infield then that is what should be done. Sabr nerds be damned. I don’t know how many times he’s been thrown out on a ball he’s hit between 2nd and 1st that would have been an easy single for any other player if not for the over shift. I dont want to hear he’s not paid so much to hit singles because he’s also not paid so much to be thrown out at 1st either.

    • Jeremy Fox - Apr 1, 2014 at 6:06 PM

      Not sure why you include the gratuitous shot at SABR nerds. SABR nerds actually are very interested in whether it’s worth it to try to bunt and beat the shift. They agree with you that it seems like it ought to be a good idea and are trying to figure out if it actually is a good idea:

      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/more-about-bunting-and-beating-the-shift/

      • macjacmccoy - Apr 1, 2014 at 8:50 PM

        That’s news to me all I ever hear from sabr people is that stealing and bunting is pointless.

      • Jeremy Fox - Apr 1, 2014 at 10:05 PM

        I think SABR types will tell you stealing is a good idea if you’ve got about a 75% chance of success. Otherwise the risk of running into an out outweighs the expected gain of a base. And I think they’ll tell you that *sacrifice* bunting is pretty much always a bad idea, except maybe by pitchers, and maybe in certain very specific situations (e.g., late in a tie game) where it can make sense to play for one run at the cost of greatly reducing your chances of scoring multiple runs. Bunting for a base hit in order to beat a defensive shift is a totally different thing than sacrifice bunting.

      • cohnjusack - Apr 2, 2014 at 7:39 AM

        That’s news to me all I ever hear from sabr people is that stealing and bunting is pointless

        Uh-huh. See, the issue is that you don’t seem to think that this is your own fault. You seem to be blaming sabermetrics for you misunderstanding it.

  3. cjb5671 - Apr 1, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    Ryan Howard will be a 25 million dollar platoon player by the all-star break. He simply can’t pickup the spin on breaking balls from lhp’s. Sad to see a guy fall so far, so fast.

    • cohnjusack - Apr 2, 2014 at 7:44 AM

      VS LHP
      2013: .178/.218/.321
      2012: .173/.226/.378
      2011: .224/.286/.347
      2010: .264/.333/.492 (hey!)
      2009: .207/.298/.356

      Dating back to 2009, Howard has been abysmal against lefties all but one year. No manager in their right mind would put a guy with a sub-300 OBP and sub .400 slugging at first base on any regular basis. But that is exactly what the Phillies are doing every time they start Howard against a lefty.

      • yahmule - Apr 2, 2014 at 11:30 AM

        And he bristles at the mere suggestion of a platoon.

  4. @thekid9ball - Apr 1, 2014 at 6:45 PM

    Reblogged this on The Fantasy Forensic.

  5. chaseutley - Apr 1, 2014 at 6:52 PM

    Ryan Howard is batting 5th. Jimmy Rollins 2nd. Cliff Lee can’t pitch. Dogs and cats…. living together. Mass hysteria!

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