Ryan Howard Worked Out With Barry Bonds This Off-Season, But It's Not What You Think

↵Ryan Howard is already one of the best power hitters in the majors, but he can clearly use some work. After hitting over .300 in his first full season in the big leagues – a season in which he won National League MVP – Howard hasn't had another season over .288 in his career. In fact, since 2006, Howard hasn't had another season where his average at the plate cleared. .280. The power and production has always been there, averaging 49.5 home runs and 143 RBI, but he's also struck out an average of 191 times a season over that span. ↵

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↵Enter Barry Lamar Bonds. ↵

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↵Howard reached out to Bonds this off-season, asking the best left-handed power hitter in the history of the game what he suggest Howard do to be even more productive at the plate. It turns out, per a report at Philly.com, it wasn't too different from what his manager was telling him: ↵

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↵⇥"He knew he was pretty much just going to get one pitch," Howard said. "The way he approached the game and knew pitchers and knew what pitchers were going to try to do to him." ↵⇥

↵⇥Howard said that Bonds figured, "When you throw that pitch, if you miss, I'm going to get it. If not, cool, I'll take my walk." ↵⇥

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↵⇥Howard said he more completely adopted that philosophy. He also has more fully implemented Bonds' trademark stance at the plate, his erect torso, his feet inches closer to the dish - all instructions he's heard before from Thompson and manager Charlie Manuel. ↵⇥

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↵It's obvious that when Manuel – one of the best hitting coaches of the last 20 years – told Howard what to do, the slugger had the "don't tell me how to hit" attitude. But when Bonds told him what to do, he started to listen. ↵

↵Howard's adjustments aren't just about standing up straight and moving closer to the plate. He needs to be able to see pitches better, and Bonds worked with him on setting up his stance so he's able to do just that. So far this season, Howard has 12 hits in 32 plate appearances and while he already has four strikeouts on the season, he's currently far under his career pace. Perhaps most important for Howard is that in his first eight at-bats of the season against left-handed pitching, he has three hits, including a double and a home run, while just one of his outs came via the strikeout. ↵

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↵Let's put this in a little bit of perspective. Ryan Howard, entering this season, had 764 strikeouts over the last four seasons. Bonds had 1539 in his entire 22-year career. Let's reiterate that stat: Ryan Howard, one of the best lefty sluggers in the game, has nearly half the number of strikeouts in the last four years as Bonds had during his entire 22 years in the Majors. Howard can surely learn something from Bonds. ↵

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↵As for all the other stuff that has swirled around Bonds in the last decade or so, Howard seemed completely unconcerned: ↵

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↵⇥"As far as all the [controversy] or whatnot, I didn't focus on any of that," Howard said. "Him being one of my idols when I was growing up, I just liked how he carried himself when he played. He played with a swagger. Confidence. To me, when I saw him, it wasn't like, arrogant or anything. He had a flair for the game." ↵
↵Watching Howard every day, I'm not sure there's room for much more swagger at the plate. But a little more discipline sure would be awesome to watch.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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