Over the course of Beerleaguer history, no body of work has been more widely interpreted than that of Ryan Howard, who has transformed into the total player. (Getty)
Yesterday, I took lunch with old friend and Phillies blogger Tom Goodman and we naturally got to talking about the Phils. I hadn’t met up with Tom for about a year, and halfway through our fried clam roll sandwiches, it occurred to us how much Howard has changed, along with our personal interpretations of his varied skills.
Howard may never satisfy the statisticians’ thirst for OPS and his homers may only max out in the mid-30s this season, but to paint Howard’s game with such a narrow brush stroke short-changes the strides he’s taken to become a better overall performer. Impervious to the lineup-wide slump, he’s hitting .294 with only 86 strikeouts. Without depositing as many balls into the seats, and with all the hitters around him in limbo for basically the entire season, he’s been a rock. He’s among the league leaders with 65 RBIs and smart money says he'll lead the league again when the final numbers are tallied.Two years ago, fans were resigned to a one-tool, 200-strikeout hitter whose performance was defined entirely by the longball. Today, he’s regarded as a steady producer, a terrific athlete and self-made defender who has made commendable strides with the glove. He's matured into the total player.