Friday, April 14, 2006

Oddities & Ends

You want a single metaphor for the Phillies topsy-turvy season thus far?

If anyone had told you Ryan Howard would have one home run and three infield singles through the first nine games would you have believed him?

Thanks to his newfound speed, Howard is hitting .355 through last night’s game. Apart from the infield hits, the most noticeable thing about Howard’s season to date is that he is hitting virtually everything on the ground and to the right side. So, the good news is he is pulling the ball, but the “bad” news is he is getting zero elevation, which is, after all, a big part of his game. As for those infield hits? I doubt even he is counting on too many more of them going forward.

Howard’s speed isn’t the only surprising development thus far. Aaron Rowand arrived in Philadelphia with a reputation as a guy who runs through walls if necessary and catches everything hit to his zip code, but he hasn’t impressed this viewer with his glove thus far. Indeed, he has misplayed a few balls and failed to reach at least one other that was playable. He seems to play in and rely on his speed to catch up with things over his head, but from the little I’ve seen to date he doesn’t go straight back all that impressively. Rowand also came to the Phillies with the label he had an average arm at best, but ironically his best play to date was the relay to Jimmy Rollins Wednesday when J-Roll nailed Atlanta’s Brian McCann at the plate by a country mile.

Gavin Floyd began the season as an experiment and in his first outing the results were disastrous. Unlike the past, when the Phillies management reversed fields quickly whenever a young pitcher stumbled, to their credit (or maybe because they didn’t have any other options???!!!) they handed Floyd the ball last night for his next start.

Staked to a five run lead in the opening frame, Floyd came right back and yielded single runs to the Braves in the bottom of the first inning and second innings. He was relying mostly on fastballs and the Braves were turning them around just as quickly. Just when it looked like the clinical trials would have to be halted, Floyd found his nasty breaking stuff, settled down and yielded only one more run while going six innings and striking out four for his first win of the season, only the second by a Phillies starter. Floyd’s breaking ball was so sharp the Braves were flailing away at balls at their shoe tops. The win was nice, but the recovery was nicer. Floyd’s and the Phils’ confidence in him received a tremendous boost.


Anonymous said...

In fairness to Floyd in the first inning, Howard should've had that grounder that passed beneath his glove. It was scored a hit, but I saw it as another infield error. Once he gets that curveball working consistently, watch out. He will give up some long drives because his fastball is naturally pretty high in the strike zone.

Excellent observations on Rowand and Howard. It's Brian, from the Philling Station, by the way. No work today so I can check out the work of others (B,S, & S is all I get at work)

gr said...

howard definitely should have had that ball in the first. our defense has not been good so far this season. floyd on the other hand, it going to have stretches where he gets hit and games at home where he gives up big runs. he is a career flyball pitcher. however, he can give you a decent crop of quality starts.

Pawnking said...

Floyd was fortunate that he wasn't starting tonight in Colorado. Breaking stuff isn't as effective in the high altitude. Could it be this is why he's the #4 starter and Madson is the #5? Madson's sinking stuff and changeup should be a lot more effective than the curve balls of Floyd.

Oisín/Wizlah said...

I mentioned in spring training that howard was looking (for his size) quite lean up top - so the speed isn't a complete surprise to me. Hope to watch the game tonight somewhere (any suggestions of a good bar in town for me and the wife to watch it? Or will they be closed for good friday?)

Rev. Smokin Steve said...

Gavin Floyd makes me a little nervous, and I think I will be nervous about him for a while. That's just my opinion.

There's plenty of good bars to watch the game. They should be open. When in doubt, just go to Chickie's and Pete's near the stadium.

Tom Goodman said...

I,m glad a few of you pointed out that grounder in the first. I agree Howard should have made that play. In fact, I thought he was very non-chalant about it and should have been charged with an error.

RickSchuBlues said...

Howard will be fine. He's trying to pull everything right now. When he tweaks his swing and starts hitting straight-away again, he'll start putting up the power numbers.

Too soon to judge Rowand as an outfielder, but I'll take the word of observers who've watched him for a few seasons. He isn't going to hurt the team out there.