Saturday night, there was an odd moment in the Dodgers-Phillies game. In the ninth inning, Ryan Howard was called upon to pinch hit against righty reliever Ronald Belisario. But Don Mattingly countered with a lefty reliever ... and Charlie Manuel lifted Howard for a righty-hitting pinch hitter, Kevin Frandsen. He grounded out to end the inning, and the Phillies lost in the bottom of the ninth.
And oh, about pinch hitting for richly paid slugger Ryan Howard? From the Associated Press gamer:
"It was a real tough decision for me to call him back — real hard," Manuel said. "But I just didn’t feel good about sending him up against a lefty. That was one of the biggest reasons why I didn’t leave him up there. Believe me, I have all the respect in the world for him. But we just needed a single to give us two runs, and I thought Frandsen was more apt to make contact. And he’s got good numbers against lefties."
Howard is batting just .173 against left-handers, so he didn’t play against Chris Capuano Friday night — or Saturday against Hyun-Jin Ryu. That made Cliff Lee’s job even more difficult.
Huh? That made Cliff Lee's job even more difficult how, exactly? Cliff Lee's job isn't to win baseball games, it's to pitch effectively. He did that. But even if you assume that his job is to win, his job is easier if Ryan Howard's not in the lineup against left-handed pitchers. It's not just this season, either. We have a wealth of evidence telling us, point blank, that Ryan Howard simply cannot hit left-handed pitchers. Over these last three seasons, Ryan Howard's got a .255 on-base percentage and .343 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers. You might as well play your right-handed-hitting utility infielder against lefties; at least he'll probably save you some runs with his glove.
If nothing else, let's give Charlie Manuel some credit for acknowledging the obvious, and actually doing his best to win baseball games. It's probably not going to help the Phillies much, but at least the world makes a little more sense. Kevin Frandsen, John Mayberry, Ricky Jordan, Deron Johnson ... It doesn't really matter, as just about any right-handed hitter will do.
For more about the Phillies and their rapidly lowering playoff chances, please visit SB Nation's The Good Phight.