Ryan Howard is clearly one of the strongest power hitters in the major leagues today. He reached the 200-homer level faster than anyone in the history of the game (the old record was held by Ralph Kiner). BUT - Ryan can do better! With home runs, NO - but as an all-around hitter, YES. Ryan strikes out a lot, as do most power hitters, but his particular weakness seems to be pitches that are low and outside, especially with left-handed pitchers on the mound.
By this time, I would have thought that Charley Manuel would have worked enough with Ryan Howard to help improve his approach at the plate. Charley has helped many batters in his career, and Ryan Howard is no dummy. But Ryan Howard's batting average has been declining. After hitting .313 in 2006, he dropped to .268 in 2007 and then dropped again to .251 in 2008. It's heading in the wrong direction. So, if Charley hasn't already done this, I urge the following course of action: Set up special batting practice sessions for Ryan Howard using only left-handers against him. The Phillies have a more than ample supply of left-handed pitchers on their roster (such as Cliff Lee, J. A. Happ, Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, J. C. Romero, Scott Ayre, etc.). Have these pitchers throw a lot of low and outside pitches to Ryan Howard. Videotape these sessions and review them with Ryan each day. Help him to get a better feel for identifying sliders versus fast balls from these left handers. Get his vision checked, too. Make sure he is seeing 20-20. It's hard to pick up the rotation on a ball thrown by a major league pitcher and the hitter only has a brief moment to decide whether to swing or take the pitch.
Let's consider what happened to Ralph Kiner: after reaching a batting average of over .300 three times in his first six seasons, Kiner's average declined a lot in the next four seasons, reaching a low point of .243 in 1955 when he was released by the Cleveland Indians. Ralph Kiner's career was over at the relatively young age of 32! He never played major league ball again! Obviously he did not succeed in making adjustments to his hitting style, and the pitchers had success in exploiting his weaknesses.
I don't want Ryan Howard to become the next Ralph Kiner. I'd rather that he emulate someone like Ted Williams or Henry Aaron. As they aged, they made slight adjustments to their batting syles and actually became hitting experts. I'd like to see Ryan Howard play ball into his forties, not be washed up at age 32!
Come on, Phillies! Charley Manual and Milt Thompson know a lot about hitting techniques. Let's have some special workouts with Ryan Howard and hopefully he will become even more valuable to the team. He can be a .300 hitter again with some adjustments.