The Strangest Ryan Howard Development Yet

11 years into Ryan Howard‘s tenure as a major league ballplayer in Philadelphia, we sometimes think we’ve heard it all with him — the highs and the lows. Home run streaks, home run droughts; dominance and struggles against certain pitchers; success and failure against teams or in specific ballparks.

But with nearly 1,300 career games played and nearly 5,500 plate appearances taken, we have stumbled onto something new with the Phillies first baseman: he has a very noticeable reverse platoon split.

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Cole Hamels Is on His Way to Phillies Immortality

Cole Hamels has been bandied about in trade rumors, despite having signed a six-year, $144 million contract extension with the Phillies nearly two years ago to this date. The Phillies’ future is looking bleak, and their other trade chips aren’t expected to bring in a franchise-altering haul. Hamels, on the other hand, could bring that kind of a return to help set the team up for a return to prominence several years from now.

Hamels limited the Braves to one run over seven innings on Saturday night, continuing what has been a great season for the 30-year-old lefty. Since the start of June, Hamels has posted a 1.81 ERA with a 71/23 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 innings across 10 starts. On the season overall, he’s sitting on a 2.83 ERA, which is only slightly below his FIP and XFIP, showing that his results are more or less lining up with his performance. While the shoulder tendinitis that caused him to miss the first few weeks of the season, as well as his slow start, caused some worry, Hamels has shown he is still the same dominant pitcher he has been since the start of the 2010 season. It’s easy to see why he would draw significant trade interest.

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Looking Ahead to Domonic Brown’s Second Half

Back on June 13, I put up a quick poll to get a feel for what fans expected of Domonic Brown in terms of weighted on-base average (wOBA) going forward. I had a bit of an ulterior motive because I expected that the responses would skew negative (though less negative than that of the general Phillies fan population).

After closing the poll results, here’s how they look (out of 306 responses):

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Kyle Kendrick Has Had Some First-Inning Issues

Jayson Werth‘s three-run home run in the first inning off of Kyle Kendrick in Sunday’s first-half finale was about the most predictable thing that could have happened. Kendrick entered the game having allowed 21 earned runs in 18 first innings. At the end of the first ion Sunday, his opening frame ERA was an ugly 11.37. Kendrick blanked the Nationals over the next four innings, then allowed one more run in the sixth before leaving with two outs. Mario Hollands later allowed one of Kendrick’s inherited runners to score, giving Kendrick a line of five earned runs allowed in 5 2/3 innings.

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Reports of Jonathan Papelbon’s Demise Greatly Exaggerated?

Early in the season, I wrote several blog posts discussing Jonathan Papelbon‘s waning velocity and tumbling strikeout rate, but all the right-hander has done over the first half of the season is pitch lights out. Despite missing out on a nomination to the National League All-Star team, Papelbon has been among the game’s best closers. Following last night’s save, a 1-2-3 inning against the Milwaukee Brewers, Papelbon is now 21-for-23 in save opportunities with a 1.27 ERA.

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Ryan Howard Isn’t Providing Many Fireworks

Billy Hamilton. Jose Reyes. Alcides Escobar. Dee Gordon. Erick Aybar. These are a few of the names that have slugging percentages similar to or better than first baseman Ryan Howard. Howard hasn’t homered since June 19, two weeks ago.

At .401, Howard is one more poor game away from watching his slugging percentage dip below .400. Excluding the early April small sample, Howard’s season low for slugging percentage occurred on May 25, when it fell to .397. If the season were to end today, his slugging percentage would easily qualify as the worst of his career.

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Phillies Bullpen Much Improved Lately

On Monday against the Atlanta Braves, Jonathan Papelbon blew his second save and reliever Justin De Fratus was inches away from allowing the game-winning run in the tenth inning. It’s a story we’ve seen countless times throughout the 2014 season, but it did not repeat itself — JDF was able to get an infield pop-up and a strikeout to wriggle out of the damage. The Phillies would go on to score five in the 13th inning and win by a 6-1 margin.

In that 13-inning affair, five Phillies relievers combined for six scoreless innings. It continued a trend of excellent Phillies relief pitching, at least since the month of June began. Entering Wednesday afternoon’s series finale at Turner Field, the bullpen had combined for a 2.79 ERA in 42 innings this month, the eighth-best mark among all 30 bullpens. It’s a sea change from the first two months. While there is a ton of variance in 10- and 20-inning samples for relievers, no one could argue that they were pitching anything but terribly as a unit.

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The Phillies’ Base Running Has Been Disastrous

John Mayberry, Jr. went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a three-run home run in Thursday afternoon’s series finale against the San Diego Padres. All in all, a pretty good day for him in what has been quite a productive season. Mayberry’s performance at the plate, particularly the home run which came in the seventh inning and bolstered the Phillies’ lead to 7-2, erased two base running blunders in which he was thrown out at home plate.

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Quick Domonic Brown Poll

Domonic Brown currently has a .252 weighted on-base average, which now ranks as the third-worst among 167 qualified hitters in baseball. Jedd Gyorko is way down at .215, Brad Miller can be found at .248, and Zack Cozart has eked ahead of Brown at .253. The MLB average for non-pitchers is .318, and the MLB avaerage for left fielders is .319. For those not familiar with wOBA, check out this FanGraphs glossary article.

As for stats most people may be more familiar with: Brown’s .213 batting average is the 13th-worst, his .263 on-base percentage is seventh-worst, and his .312 slugging percentage is in a virtual tie with three other players for sixth-worst.

I’m curious to see the breakdown of fans’ expectations for Brown going forward. Cast your vote below.

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