Left Field Key to Howard’s Resurgence
At the start of June, I remarked at just how little Ryan Howard was hitting balls to the left side of the field. The slugger was trending away from what made him such a success when he won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2005 and the Most Valuable Player award in ’06. Rather than hitting a high percentage of baseballs to left field, he was pulling much more frequently, and as a result of weaker contact and defensive shifts, his production started to plummet.
From the start of the season through July 4, Howard posted a paltry .819 OPS. His production was most noticeably down against left-handed pitchers. However, in the last week, Howard has hit the ball to left field a majority of the time, and as a result, his production has spiked. Since July 23, Howard has posted a 1.220 OPS with five doubles and three home runs.
Yesterday, he even hit a double off of the left-handed Joe Beimel that helped spark a late-inning comeback against the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates. Howard’s numbers against lefties are still ugly overall, but if his recent surge is any indication, he could be ready for one of his typical second-half surges.