After a pre-season speech in which he promised he was going to hit left-handed pitching, first baseman Ryan Howard has been struggling to hit balls pitched by any hand.
In 123 plate appearances as the left-handed portion of a platoon, Howard has had some issues, hitting .174/.244/.413 with a wRC+ of 67. He does lead the team with eight home runs, but has just 12 runs scored and 17 RBIs to along with them.
His .174 batting average is second-worst in Major League baseball, tied with Chris Coghlan and just ahead of Yan Gomes and his .167 batting average. His on-base percentage is seventh-worst and his fWAR of -0.5 is sixth-worst.
None of this seemed to matter at the beginning of the season because the Phillies really didn't have any other options at first base. Howard and Darin Ruf were going to form a platoon because they weren't blocking any youngsters down on the farm.
But that was before Tommy Joseph decided to lead the International League in several offensive categories and earned himself a call-up to the Phillies at the expense of Ruf, who is now in Lehigh.
Joseph got the start in his first game on Friday in the series opener against the Cincinnati Reds, but did not start either game over the weekend. Why? Because the Reds were throwing a right-handed starting pitcher in those two games and darn it if the Phils didn't say this was going to be a true platoon, you know?
But given Howard's struggles, the fact that he's 36 and Joseph is a mere 24 years old (25 in July), it no longer makes sense for Howard to be given the lion's share of the playing time.
If the Phils truly are rebuilding, it's time to sit Ryan Howard and let Joseph start the majority of baseball games, no matter the hand from which the pitched ball is coming.
Starting Joseph in about 80% of the team's games moving forward makes sense for two big reasons.
First, this season is all about finding which young players are going to be able to help this team as it becomes competitive once again. If the idea is to identify a core that can help the team make a playoff run as early as next year, then Joseph has to see the majority of the playing time.
Second, the team is actually winning some games right now and, frankly, Howard is hurting the cause. While The Big Piece has come through with a couple clutch homers this season, they have been too few and far between to count on that continuing.
And hey, who's to say Joseph can't do the same thing?
I understand not wanting to embarrass Howard and marginalize one of the truly good guys the team has ever had. And if Howard were more productive, I could see the team continuing to use him. But given the shortage of left-handed starters in baseball nowadays, a straight-up platoon means Joseph just isn't going to see the field all that much.
Even though Ruf looked dreadful at the plate when he did play, he was never given an opportunity to start more than three games in a row this season. It's not easy to get into a groove when your playing time has all the consistency and fluidity of a student driver learning how to drive stick.
No one wants Joseph to fall into the same kind of rut, and the only way to make sure that doesn't happen is to allow him to play most of the time.
There is simply no way to justify Howard starting three-quarters of the time anymore. It's important to see what Joseph brings to the table now, and the only way to do that is to, you know, actually let him play baseball.
It's time to sit Ryan Howard in favor of Tommy Joseph.
It's what this season was supposed to be about.