Ryan Howard hit .173 with a .604 OPS against lefthanded pitchers in 2012. He struck out 45 times in 106 plate appearances against lefties.
It was not pretty.
Howard has shown marked improvement in this area during spring training, highlighted on Tuesday with a solo home run off Yankees lefthander Josh Spence in the seventh inning of a 4-1 Phillies win.
How well is Howard hitting lefties this spring, you ask? He's hitting lefthanders better than he's hitting righthanders, actually.
In 40 AB vs. RHP: Howard is hitting .275 (11-for-40) with 3 HR, 6 RBI. He has a .326 OBP and .876 OPS.
In 20 AB vs. LHP: Howard is hitting .400 (8-for-20) with 2 HR, 8 RBI. He has a .364 OBP and 1.164 OPS.
Howard has three walks and 10 strikouts against righthanders, zero walks and three strikeouts against lefties.
Here is what Charlie Manuel had to say about Howard's success against lefties this spring:
"He’s been staying in better, staying in the middle of the field against them, and that’s been good," Manuel said. "He’s been staying on the ball, much better, following the ball. He hasn’t been missing them by three feet."
And on the home run?
"He waited good, he stayed strong on his backside, and was able to get through the ball," Manuel said. "The ball got deep on him a little bit. But at the same time, as strong as he is, he put a good power swing on it, he hit it strong. That’s because he kept his weihgt back and got a good, strong, pivot on his backside."