Ryne Sandberg Says Ryan Howard’s Knee Injury Still Limiting Defense

In the top of the eighth inning on Wednesday, first baseman Ryan Howard misplayed a Logan Schafer ground ball that allowed a run to score to break a 4-4 tie. Schafer would come around to score on Ryan Braun‘s triple later in the inning as well, meaning the error was a costly one. After the game, manager Ryne Sandberg said that Howard’s knee injury — he tore his meniscus in early July last season — is still bothering him. Via CSN Philly’s Reuben Frank:

“I think he has some restrictions there,” Sandberg said Thursday, a day after Howard’s costly error in the Phils’ third straight loss. […]

“Whether he’s slightly restricted on getting full athletic position and really getting down and low where a guy would want to be, he is restricted to some extent there,” Sandberg said.

“But even last year, with a bum knee, he was fine as far as picking balls and receiving balls and actually throwing to the bases. It’s continued work and practice, and I see him improving in that area.”

If these two .gifs are any evidence, he’s right that Howard is less than 100 percent:

Howard also hasn’t done much at the plate, slashing .200/.317/.343 with one home run through nine games. He has struck out in 13 of 41 plate appearances for a 32 percent rate, between his rates in 2012 (34 percent) and 2013 (30 percent). Last season, only six qualified hitters struck out at a 30 percent rate or higher. Further, Howard has had trouble generating power on anything past the inside third of the plate, which you can see in the second (ISO) heat map posted here.

Howard has played in all nine of the Phillies’ games thus far, though there have been a couple days off in between due to the scheduling and the postponed home opener on Monday. But Sandberg should consider giving Howard a rest to see if that helps in any way, even if it’s small. The Phillies are already on thin ice when it comes to dealing with injuries to key players. Better to lose him for one or two days every two weeks than to slowly exacerbate a preexisting injury and lose him for the rest of the season in, say, July.

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28 comments

  1. Ryan

    April 11, 2014 09:12 AM

    It does look a lot better than last year but still not good…

  2. John

    April 11, 2014 09:14 AM

    Watching Ryan Howard run the bases makes small children cry. That’s tough to watch.

  3. Alex Riley

    April 11, 2014 09:21 AM

    If he’s not healthy right now, he’ll never be healthy again. He had surgery in July for a torn meniscus. That kind of injury is supposed to take 6 to 8 weeks. It’s been 6 to 8 months.

    I’m as big a fan as he has, but it’s hard to keep defending him with this kind of output.

    • Carmine Spellane

      April 11, 2014 10:38 AM

      I think Alex is right. A younger, more athletic man would have recovered by now, assuming the injury wasn’t severe enough to be career ending. Reality has to set in at some point.

  4. Tom

    April 11, 2014 09:31 AM

    Has there ever been a more iconic ending to an era than his groundout and achelies explosion against the cards?

  5. Dante

    April 11, 2014 09:42 AM

    I’m thinking Ryan Howard being Ryan Howard is the main issue with his defense.

  6. john

    April 11, 2014 10:39 AM

    Ryan Should have been traded to American lg to be a dh when Ruff is ready put ryan on the block and get what they can even if you have to take a loss You don’t have to play him because he get’s THE BIG BUCKS

    • Tom

      April 11, 2014 11:08 AM

      If RAJ trades Howard…and gets anything in return…even if he only gets 10% of his contract back…he’s the GM of the century

    • John

      April 14, 2014 02:26 PM

      Enough with Ruf. Dude is 28 years old. He’s not the answer either. If he was they wouldn’t have signed Byrd and just left him in the OF.

  7. Mark

    April 11, 2014 10:45 AM

    He’s done. The sooner they move on to somebody else at 1st base, the better. I wish it wasn’t so, I was a big fan of his, but it’s clear. Ruben made a huge mistake giving him that big contract.

  8. Thomas Belz

    April 11, 2014 11:35 AM

    He’s done…. Watching him completely fall apart offensively and defensively over the past two seasons has been brutal. Glad we still owe him $80 mill

  9. robert panko

    April 11, 2014 12:10 PM

    I THINK THAT WHEN DARIN RUFF GETS BACK TO THE BIG CLUB, HE SHOULD SHARE TIME WITH RYAN HOWARD AND STAY WITH THE BIG CLUB, WATCHING HOWARD BOTH AT BAT AND IN THE FIELD IS TOUGH TO WATCH, I THINK HIS BEST DAYS ARE BEHIND HIM, AND HE NEEDS A LITTLE MORE TIME WATCHING THE GAME.

  10. Ron Rubenstein

    April 11, 2014 12:14 PM

    Excuses, excuses, excuses. Every year it is something with Howard. He hasn’t his paycheck in four years, and Amaro has done nothing to solve this issue , and the entire Phillies roster for that matter. He has no clue how to build, or in this case rebuild a ballclub. Where is Pat Gillick when he is needed the most. As for Howard, losing a whole bunch of weight would certainly cure many of his problems. Hey Ryan, lay off the cheesesteaks and find a salad bar.

    • MikeD

      April 11, 2014 04:56 PM

      I agree with all of this except about Howard’s weight. The dude is just a basketcase full of injuries, he needs to find a team with a DH

  11. Mike

    April 11, 2014 12:22 PM

    Howard is unable to stretch very far while receiving balls from infielders. This cost them in one game where Asche threw one low. If Howard’s knee was right, he’d have been able to get low to catch the ball without it short-hopping. This is just not pretty to watch.

  12. DICK mORGAN

    April 11, 2014 12:54 PM

    AFTER RUF RETURNS, R E L E A S E HOWARD

  13. Big Dawg Eagles

    April 11, 2014 01:09 PM

    He is not going to help the team. Trade him to an American League team.

  14. tony kaye

    April 11, 2014 02:38 PM

    I keep hoping he will start to hit and help the club that way, but he seems to have trouble with both lefthanders and righthanders. They keep the ball away from him and lefthanders seem to get him with slow breaking stuff. His timing seems to be messed up.

  15. Duane

    April 11, 2014 02:59 PM

    Awwwww…………People stop crying. Ryan will be fine. I swear……everybody is so fatalistic.

    • sean

      April 11, 2014 03:58 PM

      What evidence since 2011 has there been to justify this?

      • Duane

        April 11, 2014 07:48 PM

        I can guarantee that if Ryan plays 130-150 games this year, he will have 30 HRs and 90-100 RBIs. Or at least that’s what will be needed from him to compete this year. I am not so fatalistic to assume he should just be gotten rid of because he doesn’t make you all happy by hitting 55 HRs and 140RBIs anymore. Albert Pujols wasn’t Pujols-ian the last 2 years either, but if we had him this year, would you be screaming to have him shelved as well? Prince Fielder isn’t burning it up right now either. Stop acting like the World Series is shelved already. The Season is long. And it’s a Journey. Enjoy the ride, or shut up.

  16. Jim C

    April 11, 2014 05:24 PM

    Ryan Howard is the Phillies problem because they created it. He was always going to be a streaky hitter, even if healthy. But if he had two strong legs he would still be able to drive the ball and put up some respectable numbers. He doesn’t have two strong legs because the Phillies never fully shut him down after that freak accident at 2nd base. He should not have been on the filed in the playoff series in which he effectively ended his carreer as an impact player on the last out of their season. Anyone who puts this failing on Ryan alone ignores the Phillies failure to protect their asset.

    Additionally, the Phillies were ill-advised to extend a contract for a player prematurely who wasn’t going anywhere. This is one example of the failings of the blatantly inept fron office. This team will not contend for at least five years, and contention in year # 6 presupposes the smug, arrogant and epically stupid general manager is dispatched to scout talent in Micronesia or Chad following this crash and burn season. Perhaps he can have Wheeler accompany him as pennance for what he hath wrought.

    WE again know how Cubs fans feel every summer.

  17. James Carr

    April 11, 2014 07:03 PM

    Ryan at 1st, Jimmy at SS, and Narlon in Rt field. It’s going to be a long season

  18. Salwc2k

    April 11, 2014 07:18 PM

    Just because someone makes 25mil a year, that is no reason to play them while injured. If he hurts that much that he is hurting the rest of the team then he should sit and heal like any other injured player. I think it’s time to start thinking about a new 1st-baseman and send RH to that big plate appearance in the sky (better know as the AL DH) where all the other washed up power hitters end up. I like RH but I don’t like seeing him struggle so much. It’s humiliating for any player to keep going on when they should hang them up. Thanks for the memories Ryan but now it’s time to move on to wherever your services can be appreciated (maybe a job in the private sector behind a desk).

  19. Denny Lescowitch

    April 11, 2014 10:39 PM

    The worse thing Howard ever did was hit 58 Hr.s. Since then, he forgot how to go the other way, forgot he was very close to a 300 hitter, and has struck out more than Dave Kingman did! Vast disappointment! Certainly wish we weren’t saddled with that contract. He’s not going anywhere and neither are the Phillies as long as they are forced to use him. Hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it!

  20. Pat broomell

    April 11, 2014 11:56 PM

    Howard looks done to me. He needs to be moved to 7 or 8 in the lineup. His power is gone. The shift has his number. Strikes out way to much. He needs to move up on the plate and use a lighter bat to get some speed in his swing. Other wise stick a fork in the guy! His field goal is affected by his knee. He looks spent to me.

  21. Jim

    April 12, 2014 09:53 AM

    When are they finally going to give up on this guy? What a waste of money!

  22. Mark66

    April 12, 2014 02:13 PM

    Most overpriced player in baseball today. He hurts this team in so many ways. He can’t hit anything consistently anymore. He is a defensive liability in the field. He can’t run anymore even though they and he said he was 100% at the start of the season. He and the front office lied to the fans on this one. Attendance will continue to go DOWN until the front office makes the necessary changes. And just maybe the FIRST change should be in the front office. We need someone who cares enough to make the right changes.

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