Ryan Howard Continues Torture of St. Louis

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

When the Big Man is hitting long balls, good things usually happen.

I like "hot" Ryan Howard a whole lot better than "not" Ryan Howard.

Last night, Howard continued his solid June, going 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs in the Phils' 4-1 win in St. Louis, their fourth straight victory. For the month, Howard is hitting .281/.361/.484 with a wOBA of .364, and and ISO of .203, with 4 HRs, 13 RBIs and 10 runs scored in 17 games.

When Howard is hitting the baseball to faraway places, good things usually happen. And is there anything better than the type of cheapy, opposite field home run Howard hit last night? That was circa 2005-2009, when it seemed like he could just flick his wrists at a pitch on the outer-half of the plate and put one over the left field stands.

Of course, it's never a surprise whenever Ryan hits well in his home town, although it has been a while since he's had the opportunity to get back there.

Going into last night, in 26 career games at Busch Stadium, Howard had hit .368/.512/.695 in St. Louis, with an OPS of 1.207, 9 HRs, 35 RBIs, and a 26/26 K/BB ratio.

The only stadium in which he has a higher career OPS is Baltimore's Camden Yards (1.326), but he's only played three career games there.

If only the Cardinals were still in the NL East.

Ryan Howard hot streaks are fun. It's probably more fun to watch him get hot at the plate than any other member of the lineup, because when he goes on one of his kill-crazy rampages, he can change the course of games in a heartbeat.

It's also nice to get production out of the cleanup spot in the lineup, something that didn't happen at all last year.

Last year, the Phillies were dead last in National League OPS from the #4 spot in the lineup (.718), last in weighted on-base average, wOBA (.312), 13th of 15 NL teams in slugging percentage (.414) and tied for 10th in home runs with 22.

Now, with Howard healthy this year, the Phillies are tied for second in the National League in home runs from the cleanup spot (14), 8th in OPS (.757), 9th in wOBA (.325), and 6th in slugging (.440). Certainly not elite numbers, but a marked improvement from last year.

Of course, Howard is not a complete hitter by any stretch of the imagination, and his hot streak can just as easily be followed by weeks of frigidity. He's still among the league's worst first basemen in all offensive areas except for home runs and RBIs (NL ranks in parantheses).

2014 WAR BA OBP SLG wOBA ISO HR RBI
Howard 0.4 (10) .242 (11) .318 (10) .439 (10) .325 (10) .197 (9) 14 (T-2) 50 (2)

Still, Howard gets paid to hit those home runs, and right now, only Paul Goldschmidt has more among NL first basemen than Howard. And, with 14 HRs in 69 games, Howard is on pace for 33 homers in 162 games (although he certainly cannot start all 162).

Fortunately for Howard, the top of the lineup is getting on base in front of him, giving him plenty of RBI opportunities. And if he can keep his hot hitting going, he'll likely move up some of those leaderboards among National League first basemen.

And sorry, Cardinals fans, here's some more bad news. You still have three more games against Ryan Howard this weekend. Three more games for you to be tortured by him. Three more games to make you wish he was playing for an AL West team or something. Three more opportunities for Howard to enjoy some home cookin', and remind us all of what things were like back in the good 'ol days.

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