Ryan Howard's NLCS was not pretty last year. Most of the Phillies team in the NLCS against the Giants experienced a prolonged 'slump', and when the hitter on the club responsible for driving in runs and generating runs doesn't do anything, there will be problems.
Contrary to the 2009 NLCS against the Dodgers when Ryan Howard cruised with 2 HR and 8 RBI in only 23 AB's, this past season saw Howard's contributions slip dramatically with 22 AB's producing 0 HR, and 0 RBI during the series. To top that off, Howard struck out 12 of the 22 times at the plate. Oddly enough most of the people who watched the games though Howard did alright because he had a few hits sprinkled into the series with 4 doubles and a few singles.
The fact is that the Phillies don't pay Howard to be a singles hitter. Although it makes it seem like he is a more rounded type of player. What happened this past season is not very Ryan Howard-like. Yes, he went to the All Star Game, but he didn't get voted there, he was invited there by manager Charlie Manuel. Even his home run total on the regular season dropped to 31 last year. His RBI's dropped to 108 from the 140's of the previous two seasons. What has happened to Rhino?
In the two combined World Series appearances for Ryan and the Phillies, Howard is batting .227 with 4 HR and 9 RBI. He has 44 AB's and 22 strikeouts. It's almost like he is at the crossroads for greatness at first glance, and then at second glance not so great. He has only been intentionally walked 1 time in the two World Series that he has been in, and that says a lot about the confidence that teams have in getting him out, when it matters.
The 2011 season could be a crossroads for Howard. He can strive towards becoming that Hall of Fame player, or with a mediocre season, he could be heading down the ladder of success that he enjoyed his first couple of years in the league.
Howard's conditioning seemed to be fine in the past couple of seasons, and his big payday extension last season virtually assures him that money will never be a worry in his lifetime. He'll start to earn $20 million per season for the next three years and then jump up from there. Yet, there seems to be hints that everything with the 'Big Piece' as he is called, may not be all that it could be.
Howard is not that Hall of Fame player yet. His saga in Philly continues this season and though his strikeouts dropped in total last year, so did his appearances in games. He was in 143 games last season, and that was the lowest amount of games since 2007 when he was in 144 games.
Howard's totals in the MLB so far:
|162 Game Avg.||162||599||102||167||29||3||47||138||192||.279|