8 years later, Ryan Howard still complaining about the shift
by Scott Butler 9/10/16

Ryan Howard grounds out

Ryan Howard is featured in Jon Heyman's recent article as follows:

Beyond a new job, he [Howard] has his eye on one more thing this winter, and that’s the possibility that the shift could be outlawed; he’s been as affected as any player in the game. Speaking generally, Howard says it can “take away 30, 40, 50 hits a year.” He is especially susceptible due to his utter lack of speed. “That’s definitely something that would help me out.”

That should bother you tremendously as a Phillies fan and it sure does bother me.

It is safe to say teams have been heavily employing the defensive shift, when opposing teams put three defenders on the right side of the infield when Howard is at the plate, since at least 2009 and probably earlier.

That means that for the last 8 years (and probably way longer), when Howard stepped to the plate with no runners on base, he saw three infielders to the right of second base and just one dude on the entire left side. And for at least the last 8 years, Howard has absolutely smashed one ball after another that would normally be an easy base hit, only to see it fielded like a routine grounder.

There are really only two options for someone in Howard's position. You either complain about it or you try to find a way to fix it.

Or, as Doug Glanville wrote:

"Those who adapt, stay. Those who can't figure it out are flooring the accelerator pedal to their retirement party."

Of course, there was no acceleration to Howard's retirement party. A 5 year, $125 million dollar contract assured of that. Instead, we have endured a long, torturous end to his Phillies career.

Howard has done nothing to combat the shift and instead has decided to whine about it on multiple occasions. Even now, as a player who is hitting .196 and has had a NEGATIVE WAR FOR FIVE OF THE LAST SIX SEASONS, he still chooses to complain.

Don't underestimate the importance of that last sentence.

It says that statistically, the Phillies would be better off calling up some random player from triple-A than penciling in Ryan Howard into the lineup - for five of the last six seasons. That is not my opinion - it is a statistic.

Howard has absolutely no excuse.

It is possible to beat the shift and David Ortiz offers proof. Two years after hitting .332 in 2007, Ortiz watched his batting average dip to .238 in 2009 at the age of 33. He proceeded to hit .300 or higher in four of his next seven seasons.

Ortiz does not approach those numbers without adjusting to life with the shift, and that is exactly what he did.

How did he do it? Here's Doug Glanville to explain:

He is taking inside pitches the other way -- a la Miguel Cabrera. When Cabrera is beat by a pitch, he still has a lot of barrel to get to the ball. When pitchers try to induce ground balls or force him to pull, he has an inside-out swing that gives him the ability to push the ball the other way.

Ortiz also is going the other way when the ball is away from him. When pitches are outside, he doesn't spend a lot of time trying to hook them to a shifted second baseman. He has been slashing those pitches to a vacant shortstop space with frequency.

Howard could have followed suit, but he consciously chose not to make any adjustments.

Howard hit .266 in his age-33 season and proceeded to hit .229 or lower in his next three seasons.

His refusal to adjust and insistence on complaining about it is insulting and slaps every fan in the face. It is why I will stand up and clap for Howard in his final game, but I will not give him my respect.

You will read a lot of praise for Howard and reminders of all the good times over the next few weeks from just about every writer, but you won't get any of that here. Consider that a teaser for the next piece.

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