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Howard set for huge year

A quick beginning should be the first indicator of a "monster" season for Ryan Howard.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - One thing I have always been a strong believer in is that "spring training doesn't relate to the regular season in any way" and so you never watch what players do in February - except for injuries.

Why if a player hits a homer off a soon-to-be AA pitcher, will that tell me he can hit Johan Santana in the season opener? In my mind it doesn't. Or that Derek Lowe striking out seven batters in his last outing means he will suddenly become a strikeout pitcher this spring? Again, I don't think so, he's a sinker ball pitcher.

But I'm about to make an exception.

I've watched Ryan Howard this spring and he has been hitting the ball a long way. In fact he has a major-league leading seven homers down in Florida, but more importantly he's been hitting them the opposite way. Living in Philadelphia, all Phillies fans know that when Howard is hitting home runs out to left field, he's in a groove.

What makes this interesting is that for his career, Howard is a very slow starter. His career batting average for March/April is .230, May .251, June .264, July .299, August .283 and September .317, so a quick beginning would be the first indicator of a "monster" season.

In 2006 when Howard went on to hit 58 HRs, knock in 149 runs and hit .313, he got off to a fast start by hitting .306 in March/April. He also hit 11 HRs and knocked in 23 runs during an 85 at-bat spring training in which he batted .341.

When he didn't start the season well (2007 .221 in March/April and 2008 .172) his final batting average was below .270 and he hit less than 50 HRs. Not coincidentally, he hit just two and four homers in those spring training seasons and knocked in just nine runs. He also went to the plate less than 60 times, possibly an indication that he didn't get enough work in Florida to be ready when the season started.

Well, Manager Charlie Manuel seems to have gotten the message, because Howard has already gotten 55 at-bats this spring with still a week to go. This could be the start of another Howard "MVP-type" season and I for one, want to get in on the fun, so I'm going to bid pretty high for the Phillies first baseman in my auction draft.

Ryan Howard Spring Training vs. Regular Season
YearST ABST HRST RBIRS HRRS RBIRS AVE
2006851123581490.313
20075929471360.268
20084749481460.251
2009 thru 3/2655717??????????

ST = Spring Training
RS = Regular Season


Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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