Howard continues to destroy the Braves
Welcome back to Philadelphia, the home of Citizens Bank Park or what Brian McCann refers to as “a high school field.”
McCann has used the offensively-friendly confines here in Philly to account for three of his 17 homers this year. But this frustration-induced description he provided following Friday night’s loss came in response to watching Ryan Howard lunge over the plate and loop yet another homer the opposite way and over the left field wall.
Off the bat, Howard’s second-inning homer off Tommy Hanson did indeed appear to be a pop fly that would have been caught at the warning track at most other ballparks.
As for his fourth-inning, two-run shot off Kris Medlen, it initially appeared to be one that was destined to place another crack in the Liberty Bell.
There’s obviously no reason for Howard to feel ashamed about the fact that he takes advantage of his power and the dimensions of his park by routinely flipping homers over the left field wall. McCann just missed two homers while attempting to do the same during a couple of his four plate appearances last night.
Two weeks ago after watching his team hit a number of balls to the wall during a loss to the Phillies in Atlanta, Braves manager Bobby Cox said that the outcome of the game would have been different had they been playing in CBP.
While that was an arguable statement, there is less reason to argue the possibility that the Braves would be in a much better place in the National League East standings had they recently been as successful against Howard as they were while holding him homerless during his first 39 at-bats against them.
In the 11 at-bats that have followed, Howard has damage them with five homers. In fact, his fourth-inning shot off Medlen gave him four homers in a span of five at-bats against Cox’s pitchers.
Howard’s 29 career homers against the Braves are the most among all active players. David Wright ranks second with 23.
While 17 of these home runs produced by the Phillies first baseman have been hit at CBP, he’s also homered once every 11.75 at-bats at Turner Field.
How impressive is this 11.75 ratio? The only other Major Leaguer to ever produce a better career ratio against the Braves was Dave Kingman, who homered once every 11.2 at-bats against Atlanta pitchers.
Howard’s career ratio of one homer in every 9.76 at-bats against the Braves is easily the best ever produced. Willie McCovey hit an all-time best 71 homers against the Braves and did so while hitting one every 12.7 at-bats.
The next-best ratio was produced by Willie Stargell, who homered once every 13 at-bats against Braves pitchers.
So the question is, why have the Braves continued to consistently provide Howard the opportunity to beat them?
While it’s doubtful that Howard’s second-half surge will prove significant enough for him to move past Albert Pujols or Hanley Ramirez for National League MVP consideration, he has already solidified himself as the Most Destructive Force in relation to the Braves postseason hopes.
During the three wins the Phillies have tallied in four games against the Braves this month, they’ve scored 11 runs and eight of those have come courtesy of Howard’s five homers.
So why would the Braves continue to provide Howard the opportunity to beat them? The obvious answer is that the two guys hitting behind him have already combined for 56 homers – Jayson Werth (29) and Raul Ibanez (27).
But it also has something to do with the fact that Adam Dunn is the only Major Leaguer who has struck out more often than Howard dating back to the beginning of the 2005 season. And this year, the Phillies first baseman’s strikeout total has been topped by only by Arizona’s Mark Reynolds.
Unfortunately for the Braves, they haven’t been able to find the hole in Howard’s swing as often as most other teams. He has struck out once every 4.74 plate appearances in his career against Atlanta. His combined ratio against every other big league club is once every 3.43 plate appearances.
And before concluding this Howard evaluation, it should be noted that the Braves have outhomered the Philles 12-8 this year at the high school field known as CBP.
McLouth update: Nate McLouth went 0-for-2 in three plate appearances with Double-A Mississippi on Friday night. The center fielder, who is on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, will continue playing with Mississippi through Sunday and then fly to meet the Braves in Miami.
But even though he is eligible for activation on Monday, the Braves may wait to activate him on Tuesday, after the rosters have been expanded.
When the Braves activate Tim Hudson for his start on Monday, they will have to make room for him on both the 25 and 40-man rosters.
Despite the fact that he’s hitting just .141, Greg Norton won’t be the roster casualty. To make room for Hudson on the 25-man, the Braves could option Boone Logan or possibly choose to place Kenshin Kawakami on the 15-day disabled list.
It’s a little harder to project what the Braves will do to make room for Hudson on the 40-man roster. But there’s a chance the club could choose to part ways with outfielder Brian Barton, who has fallen out of favor since joining the Triple-A Gwinnett club in April.