Slow start for both Howard & the Phillies

It’s small sample, but Ryan Howard is batting just .167 (4 for 24) without a single extra base hit in the first six games of the season. (Matt Smith/AP)

It’s only been six games, but there are plenty of the Phillies flaws that have been exposed.

The fact that the bullpen has inherited 11 baserunners and 10 have scored, is fairly alarming, no matter how early it is,.

Cole Hamels hasn’t pitched like an ace and nobody knows what to expect from Roy Halladay. On the positive pitching side, Cliff Lee was dominating in a 2-0 win over Atlanta and John Lannan gave the Phillies a quality starter (7 innings, three earned runs).

While many expect Hamels to improve and one has to figure the bullpen can’t get much worse, the one key with the Phillies in the first week has been the absence of Ryan Howard.


Cole Hamels has a 10.97 ERA. Should the Phillies be concerned?

We know it’s small sample, but he is batting just .167 (4 for 24) without a single extra base hit. His OPS is .397. Howard has struck out eight times, or once in every three at bats.

There was so much optimism about Howard, who was healthy in the spring and it showed. He hit .322 with 12 extra base hits, including seven home runs, 16 RBIs, and a .971 OPS.

With Howard and Chase Utley healthy, one could see why the offense is expected to be vastly improved.  Utley has been doing his part (.391, 7 RBIs, 1.119 OPS).

Meanwhile Howard has been struggling to find his groove. When asked about Howard, manager Charlie Manuel didn’t show any outward concern.

“I think a lot of guys come out and play two to three games and if they don’t have a home run or too many hits, all of a sudden you start trying too hard,” Manuel said. “He put a good at bat in the ninth inning and will be fine.”

With the Phillies trailing 9-7 and down to their last out in Sunday’s 9-8 loss to Kansas City, Howard extended the game with a single up the middle.

Again, small sample but Howard is 0 for 8 against lefthanders with five strikeouts this season.

He is capable of carrying the team on his back for extended stretches, but just as capable of getting into a deep funk.

Right now he hasn’t found his groove and the Phillies early struggles have coincided with those of their cleanup hitter.