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Ryan Howard should embrace his platoon role

In his final season with the Phillies, Ryan Howard will almost certainly be platooning with Darin Ruf, and it really shouldn't even need to be discussed.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

People who know and interact with Ryan Howard never have anything bad to say about the guy.

He's generally viewed as one of the more ego-less superstars in baseball. He spends time with the fans, is well-liked by pretty much everyone, and for a long time there, was one of the franchise's greatest power hitters ever.

But the calendar has turned to 2016 and this will be Howard's last year. He's not anywhere close to the player he was even in 2011, and by the end of last year, Howard was in a full-time platoon with Darin Ruf.

It was time. Howard's performance against left-handers was the worst in baseball among players with at least 100 plate appearances against them, a paltry .418 OPS with a wRC+ of... wait for it... 9. League average is 100.

So yes, it was time for Howard to sit against most left-handers. However, in a piece out this week by The Inquirer's Matt Gelb, it appears as though manager Pete Mackanin is going to have to have another difficult conversation with Howard about his playing time in 2016.

"It's going to be a difficult situation. But decisions have to be made. And I have to do what I think is best for the organization and the team."

Mackanin said he still wasn't sure exactly how playing time would be split between Howard and Ruf, but...

"I'm going to make that decision in the spring," Mackanin said. "But I'm going to have a discussion with Ryan. I'm going to tell him, 'If you want to face lefties, you have to hit them better. If you don't hit them better, I'm going to platoon.' That's basically what we're looking at. It's gotten to that point."

Yes. Yes it has.

And when you factor in that Ruf's OPS against lefties last year was 1.107, tied with Nelson Cruz for the best in baseball, it's a no-brainer.

But really, this is something Howard has to know will be coming. He has to know that his manager cannot continue to run him out there against the vast majority of left-handed pitchers anymore.

Granted, an athlete is often times the last to admit that his skills are fading, but this isn't something that has popped up out of nowhere. Take a look at his splits against left-handed pitching over the last few years.

2014 .230 .323 .447 .770
2013 .173 .218 .321 .539
2012 .173 .226 .378 .604
2011 .224 .286 .347 .634
2010 .264 .333 .492 .826
2009 .207 .298 .356 .653
2008 .224 .294 .451 .746

As you can see, Howard has never been outstanding against left-handers, but was at one time passable. But aside from his weird 2014, in which he actually had reverse splits, hitting right-handers better than lefties, he's been a liability against southpaws.

So Pete, if you need any help, simply flash this piece on a tablet and let him look it over.

Because it's not like Howard can't still be a productive player, if used correctly. Last year he hit .256/.304/.499 with an OPS of .802 against right-handed pitching. That will certainly play in a platoon with Ruf.

And frankly, it's in Howard's own best interests to sit against left-handers. He's only going to get criticized and booed whenever he strikes out or hits a weak ground ball to the first baseman after lefties.

Mackanin understands that, with so many young players in the fold, you need to produce in order to get in the lineup. If Howard doesn't hit against lefties, he won't play.

Hopefully, the Phils' first baseman will be cool with that, too.