Ryan Howard Says Phillies Have Played Well

No, the Phillies are not playing well, Ryan. - Rich Schultz

The hulking first baseman and his team have gotten off to a rough start, but don't tell him that.

The Phillies were swept by the Milwaukee Brewers in their home opening series of 2014, the first time they've been swept in their home-opening series since Atlanta swept them in the first three games of 2007. Thursday night's 6-2 loss featured more mediocre starting pitching, more of an average offense, more bad defense and even worse bullpen work.

Through nine games, the Phillies are 3-6. In their last four games, they've been outscored 33-13, and while the Phils did score a total of 21 runs in their series openers in Texas and Chicago, they've scored just 20 runs in their other seven games so far this year. They've also committed seven errors in their last four games, and frankly, that number should be even higher.

And now, the Phils must beat perhaps the best young pitcher in baseball on Friday night, Miami's Jose Fernandez, to avoid a 3-7 start to their 2014 season.

But please, let none of these facts dissuade you. Ryan Howard wants you to know the team is actually playing quite well.

Speaking before Thursday night's loss to Milwaukee, Howard said, for the most part, the Phillies have been playing good baseball so far this year.

"In all actuality we've actually played very well this year," Howard said Thursday afternoon. "I disagree with everybody else. Our record doesn't necessarily reflect that right now, but, you know, we've played well. We had three real bad games. So the only thing to do is go out there and try to win again."

Well, make that four really bad games now. And when the season is only nine games old, four out of nine is kind of a high percentage.

Yes, I just consulted with my graphic calculator. The Phillies have been bad in almost half of their games.

It's still early and, to be honest, no one was really expecting the Phils to be a real good team this year anyway. No one should be surprised by what they've seen over the first nine games. Of course, everyone hopes they'll turn it around, that the young arms in the bullpen will take their lumps and emerge stronger on the other side, that the offense will be more consistent, that the starters will step up, and that the defense will stop screwing up.

And while all those things could still happen (stop laughing), no, Ryan, the team has not played well.

After a decent opening week, Howard himself has not played well either. After an 0-for-2, two-walk performance at the plate last night, Howard is now 1 for his last 15 (although Howard did hit the ball well in his 0-for-5 performance in Chicago last Sunday). So far on the young season, Howard is hitting .200/.317/.343 with 1 HR and 3 RBIs. He has struck out 13 times in 41 PAs, although he has been doing a much better job drawing walks this year, (14.6% of his PAs so far).

Again, it is way too early to say Howard's season, or the Phillies', is a lost cause. Nine games is way too soon to make long-term projections of any kind. And while the Phillies have not taken advantage of a supposed "easy" early-season schedule, there are still plenty of mediocre and poor teams left to play over the next month and a half. There is still time to get well.

But let's not insult anyone's intelligence by claiming the Phils have "played very well" this year. Even though no one was at Citizens Bank Park to see it last night, it's pretty obvious the team has stumbled out of the gate.

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