If ‘The Big Piece’ Finds Patience, Could the Phils Find the Playoffs?

Coming off a 2013 season where he swung and missed at a career-high 16.9% of pitches, Ryan Howard is displaying a better eye at the plate so far in 2014. Through 62 plate appearances (or 15 games), The Big Piece’s swinging-strike percentage is down more than 50% over the same amount of plate appearances last year. If nothing else, it’s an excellent sign for a team that, as a whole, has been undisciplined at the plate over the past 3 seasons.

Not to be confused with the similar sabermetric, whiff percentage, swinging-strike percentage doesn’t account for foul balls, foul tips or any other ball put in play by the batter. Without further ado, here are Ryan Howard’s swinging-strike percentages by game through April 17th, and how those percentages stack up to 2013.

Game 1                11.5 %          (-6.7)

Game 2                16.7 %          (-1.0)

Game 3                46.2 %         (+28.0)

Game 4                21.1 %          (+3.4)

Game 5                5.6 %          (-21.1)

Game 6                0.0 %          (-35.3)

Game 7                25.0 %         (+14.5)

Game 8                20.0 %          (+2.3)

Game 9                10.0 %         (-13.1)

Game 10              10.0 %           (0.0)

Game 11              0.0 %           (-7.7)

Game 12              5.6 %           (-4.4)

Game 13              22.2 %          (-7.8)

Game 14              10.0 %          (-6.7)

Game 15              16.7 %          (+3.4)

Without taking game situations into account, I realize there’s a chance to inadvertently skew the data. For example, maybe Howard came up with runners in scoring position in every plate appearance in that particular game last year, whereas that only occurred in one plate appearance in said game this year. Of course he would and should approach those two plate appearances differently.

My real interest in analyzing this data set was to see if there was a pattern as to how he was being pitched in 2014. Game situations aside, the attached spreadsheet will give you an idea of the type of pitcher Ryan Howard doesn’t “see” well so far.

What do you think? Which type of pitch has Ryan Howard swung and missed at the most? Was it a left-handed pitcher or a right-handed pitcher? The answer may surprise you. Click on the link below and scroll to the bottom to see if you were right.

HowardsSwingingStrikePercentage (Excel)

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